Over the years most of us have come to imagine managers, CEO’s and directors as something close to perfect and untouchable. The reality is most of these are as much employees as any other person in any other position just that they are at a higher level that usually comes with a more unique and attractive set of privileges plus higher salaries. The job adverts that sometimes list near impossible qualifications can be often times misleading as they tempt many to think of managers as having some kind of demi-god status. I mean, if you can have all that perfect experience, training and fit the job advert perfectly then you certainly must be a breed above the rest, right? Wrong!
A close look into the underperformance and eventual collapse of promising businesses and corporations can often be tracked straight to the leadership of the organization, the managers, directors, and the CEO. You could throw in the boards too. Ask the average ordinary employee why they haven’t addressed a certain problem yet and they will usually explain that they have tried several times to bring it to the attention of their supervisors but nothing is done, they don’t get feedback, and the issues are sometimes downplayed or underestimated by the mangers and directors until of course things go south and the damage the company suffers becomes more obvious.
Now, while you try to find what may be hurting your business, I suggest the best place to start is your leadership team, after all there is the Chinese saying that the fish rots from the head. What could this mean? Well, considering a business most problems occur either because someone in leadership was lax and let it slip or that he or she actually okayed it. Whatever the case, whatever happens is assumed to be under the ‘watchful’ eye of management and resultant negative consequences reflect back to a problem in management that needs to be addressed. Now let’s dig in already.
- The Lazy-All Credit Guy
A leader is in charge of a team. It can be a department or smaller unit but the main word here is ‘team’. If you notice that your manager tends to be busy with long lunches, and other excuses to ‘appear’ busy but somehow manages to get the operational and reports to you in time yet tends to read the reports verbatim during meetings as if he or she doesn’t know what’s in there then your manager might be the lazy type. This type misuses their position to delegate every little task to their team members who do the work and submit it back to their supervisor who in turns comes into the meeting and does not show gratitude for team support by acknowledging the input from his subordinates but makes it appear like he accomplished it all on his own. So, there you have it, this is one lazy manager that your business will not be hurt much if you let him go or demote him. Also, he has failed to be an effective leader and work with his team, meaning that the team can possibly function much better without him. Remember that this is something his subordinates may be afraid to disclose to you but if they could they would tell you it demotivates them a lot. Now you don’t want to risk losing resourceful and efficient employees over a lazy manager.
- All Suits And No Work
We all know that supervisor that will go to the extreme just to put on a ‘corporate’ look all the time, the expensive business suits, the quality cologne, the sophisticated office accessories, the car, name it. However, this impression of ‘corporate’ rarely if ever translates into the quality of the work they do. They are like renting an expensive office suite when you have no chance of business survival, meaning that the look might be good but when it comes to business, you need practical people, you need results, you need people that are coming ready to work, you need people that are ready to pull up their sleeves and dig in the mud if the work requires them too. You can sit this person down and talk to them. You can demote them but it will hurt their ego so much they would rather leave. Since they love to play ‘Boss’, how about they do it somewhere else because you in the meantime have a business to run and there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
- Grand Degrees And No Skills
In one company, a group of new staff where introduced with wonderful qualifications from prestigious universities round the world. Their pay was rumoured to be grand, their allowances and privileges were over the top. Compare to them, the old staff appeared every inch under qualified and undertrained. Unfortunately, as it later turned out, the old staff were in certain aspects better skilled, better experienced and better qualified than the new crew. The old staff were paid nothing close to what these new staff were earning. However, placing them on the same teams started to show over time that the old staff were more professional, more hardworking, more productive and even more dedicated. The new staff soon displayed unethical tendencies, dishonesty, fraud and were after all not really worth the hype. Attending the best university, having a history of working for popular brands and impressive CVs are not what do the work. If your managers are all ‘grand degrees’ and nothing practical to show for it in terms of productivity, resourcefulness and efficiency then fire them.
- The One-Man Band- The I-Know-It All
Even when you are highly experienced, versatile and a workaholic, you are part of a team that needs to work as one for the sake of the company. If you have a manager who constantly wants to do everything by himself; a manager who thinks that his team is not qualified to help; a manager who thinks that major assignments should be entirely handled by him in the hope that he would get to solely enjoy the results should it be successful; a manager who does not seek nor appreciate the input of his team; then by all means let him go.
- The Insecure
At one company an IT supervisor was asked to show a subordinate how to do something. Weeks later when the subordinate was asked to fix something, the response was ‘I don’t know how to do it’. The IT supervisor had most probably acted out job insecurity fearing that teaching a subordinate how to do something would in some way make her irrelevant or lose her job. I like the illustration of candles lighting other candles and the lesson that by one candle lighting another, the first candle does not in any way lose its flame but that now both candles can shine more brightly and together create more light. If teaching others made us irrelevant then schools would not exist, but how many teachers have gone ‘extinct’ just because they taught students in the subjects they did? A good business grows on constant, back and forth learning, mentoring, teaching. If your managers do not value the need to mentor their subordinates then they are useless to your business and to the team and you have no need for them.
- The Yes Man
That manager who never says-no-should be shown the door. Sometimes senior leadership may create an unhealthy culture where the boss is not questioned, advised, and the like, thus making everyone around him or her to be forced into ‘agreeing’ to everything without offering constructive feedback, criticism, different perspectives. Other times, however, some managers think that saying ‘yes’ to their boss helps guarantee them favours and job security. A yes-man does not help you lead better, a yes-man or yes-woman stunts your growth and ability as a leader and may cripple the efforts of the team plus the business in general. You want back and forth intelligent conversation and discussion that helps to better shape and better inform your decisions. If your manager is crippling you by being a yes-man or a yes-woman then it is time they leave.
- The Pretender Team-Player (Layoffs)
Employees (read subordinates) work so hard and rarely get appreciated. If you have been in a meeting when a decision to downsize or layoff was discussed then you will understand. Out of fear to lose their jobs the managers submit names of people on their teams that they think should be laid off. A manager shamelessly suggests random names of people that have actually made them who they are and offers these to be laid off. Later, when they have to communicate the unfortunate decision to their employees they are clever not to say it was them who suggested the names, instead they play ungrateful hypocrite then and blame it on the top bosses. I don’t honestly remember a time when a manager during such times, stood his ground and defended the effectiveness and invaluable assets his or her team where to him or her and to the organization. So, if your managers play the ungrateful, cowardly, hypocrites during a ‘layoff’ meeting then fire them. Alternatively, you could call an emergency meeting and pretend that the board is suggesting laying off and that each manager should submit a list of staff names on their teams who should leave and their reasons why. You will be quite surprised what you find.
- The Non-Grower
There is always that supervisor who has no time to develop his team and instead constantly asks top leadership to either fire his staff or hire ‘better’ staff. Years back when playing on the school volley ball team, one of my coaches, Johnny, taught us that you do not complain that you were served a bad ball, instead you make use of whatever comes and make good out of it. A leader often does not choose their team, sometimes teams are kind of ‘inherited’ from a former manager or department and you just have to rise to the occasion and show your best leadership qualities by turning them into the ideal team you want to work with. It is the manager’s job to help his team ‘grow’ in skill, knowledge, confidence, and more. They can observe skill gaps in their teams, determine learning areas and propose to HR to acquire training for the team. If your managers are non-growers then you are better off replacing them with new managers who can mentor, train and improve employees.
- The Complainer-No Solutions
Most of us love feedback, good and constructive feedback. There are people who have mastered the art of complaining, being negative and shooting down the ideas and contributions of others. The problem with this type is that all they know how to do is shoot down. They do not seem to know any options of how the problem can be solved or how things can be done differently and better. They just whine and complain but offer no useful alternatives and suggestions. You know what to do if these are the type of managers you have.
- Always Right—It’s Not My Fault
We all make mistakes and leaders are bound to make wrong judgment every now and then. If the team makes a mistake, it becomes incumbent upon the leader to find out the specificities of what happened, and own up to the mistakes of his or her team while making sure it does not repeat itself in the near future. Now, you get suspicious when all the soldiers die in battle but the commander-in-chief who claims to have been at the front line comes home without a single scratch. A manager is responsible for the actions and mistakes of his or her team. He must do everything he can with his team to minimize regrettable and avoidable mistakes. However, when it can’t be helped, the manager should find a way to protect his team, address the issue anyway, and own up to whatever went wrong. If your manager is the kind that always wants to be the saint then you don’t have a leader and that person should be replaced.
By now, if you have been keen, you may have noticed that all this has to do with leadership but more importantly with team leadership, team spirit, and team work. You need this to be effective as a leader, for your employees to be effective and for your business to grow. Your managers should be able to demonstrate these qualities. They can be taught, mentored, trained and they should return the favour.