Author: Robert E. Wood “Managers in Disguise-Leaders in Disgust”
Managers in disguise are bad enough, throw some micromanaging on top, and you have something akin to Ringling Brothers for business. I can hear the circus music in my head right now. A business owner with this combination of incompetence is truly toxic and unfit to lead anyone, but here we are, day in and day out, required to stomach their sophomoric decision-making process until we find a better opportunity to be successful.
At this point, you’re probably expecting me to offer a solution to this problem and rightly so, it’s what I do right. Here we go, offer them a copy of my leadership book Managers in Disguise-Leaders in Disgust and GET OUT ASAP. How’s that for simplicity? It’s the least you can do for the teammates you’re leaving behind. You deserve better than this. Your ethics, values, self-respect, etc., etc. will slowly erode under this type of culture and oh, don’t let me forget to mention how hard a culture like this is on your family life. Studies show, eighty percent of employees who quit a bad manager, says it was the best thing they ever did and wished they had done it sooner.
There’s no leadership in organizations which are led by Managers in Disguise, there’s just chaos, misery, a high turnover rate and a lawsuit waiting to happen. The boss is the puppet master with that weird laugh, pulling your strings just to be pulling them while turning the motivated into the unmotivated just because they can. There’s no ethics or values present in this atmosphere either, that would require too much work. If you choose to stay in this toxic environment, your ethics, values, self-respect and any other trait bestowed on you by your parents or GOD will be tested. Managers in Disguise aren’t ethical; their philosophy is profits before values. Profits struggle in this environment; values being second to profits are why values in this organization don’t exist.
Do yourself a favor and really investigate your next opportunity before accepting a position. Do your homework and get some information from social media or the Better Business Bureau (BBB.) An interview should be a two-way street, ask to talk to some of their employees of your choosing. A good organization will allow you this request which shows confidence on their part. Ask about the effectiveness of their leadership and succession training programs.
A leader hires employees who can do what they can’t and then gets out of their way and lets them accomplish the goals set forth by him or her. A business owner cannot do the work of two people by themselves effectively; this is why we hire more people. A leader understands, everyone is not incompetent, and he/she is not the only one who can do the work, this is why a leader is constantly teaching and delegating, which creates more leaders and followers.
On the other hand, a micromanager’s ego says, everyone but he/she is incompetent, and he/she is the only one smart enough to perform any task properly. No one measures up to his/her standards, and therefore the micro-managing begins. The only thing we can do for the micro-manager is monetizing what they could have if they would just change their ways. Businesses which are operated by the micro-managing Manager in Disguise have been known to be profitable, but the profits realized are nothing compared to those of a business in the same market with the same opportunities but is led by a leader.
Managers in Disguise refuse to acknowledge the approximate twenty-five to thirty percent of the indirect costs associated with the dysfunction he/she perpetuates and/or is willing to put up with. Lack of leadership fosters a lack of passion, safety, creativity, productivity, respect and the list goes on and on. So for the Manager in Disguise, who by some miracle is reading this, learn to let go and trust your employees to do the work they were hired to do and hire a leader to do what you can’t. The twenty-five to thirty percent Return on Investment (ROI) should be more than enough to justify your letting go. Stepping aside is not stepping down; it’s just the right thing to do in your case. Your business will reward you for it.
If you are doing it right, leadership is uncomfortable. Not in a weird, creepy way, but in an “I have to do things I don’t want to do kind of way.” These “things” are different for everyone, but every leader has things they have to do that make them uncomfortable. I think if we are honest with ourselves we mostly uncomfortable with the same few things. We all know that getting outside of what makes us comfortable is vital for a leader but being honest about this and talking about these times will make it easier to step outside that comfort zone. The few things I get uncomfortable with or at least give me some level of anxiety are below.
Making decisions. I have no issues making a decision. I rarely, if ever, get analysis paralysis, or make premature decisions. I think I’m an above average at critical thinking. But even with high self-confidence, I still get uncomfortable making decisions. I want to make the right one, I know I will make mistakes, but what kind of mistake will I make and what cost will that mistake incur? Will it hurt the people that work for me? Will my decision set my organization back to a place that was even before I made the decision? Time will be lost, but will that lost time be worth it? The big thing with making decisions is to realize that you will make a mistake, you will screw it up from time to time. But as long as you recognize these moments early and learn from them, the lost time is not wasted. It is time well spent because you learned and will apply it the next time you face that situation.
Tough conversations (confrontation). Talking to your boss about their toxic behavior, telling a coworker they smell bad and need to shower, telling someone you like that they are doing a lousy job, or firing them. These are all very uncomfortable situations, and they never get better. The hardest for me is to tell your peer or your supervisor that they are making a mistake or doing something that is causing a problem. It is especially tricky when you know they will react poorly to your input. The best way to handle this is to provide many examples and do your best to be gentle. Taking criticism is hard but getting into a match of who makes the most mistakes will not help the situation. Give them an opportunity to respond to the criticism, but don’t get involved in a back and forth about who does what. If they want to talk about your behavior, tell them that you are more than willing to discuss it after you have resolved the current issue. Being calm and reasonable is usually the best way to deal with the confrontation.
Pressure to perform. Let’s face it; performance is why you get paid. A leader is responsible for tasks that they are not actually going to do. You have to ensure people do well and to do that you must make sure the processes are there to support high-quality work. This, above all, is uncomfortable. How do you get people to perform at a high level? How do you get them to want to do the tedious work and do it every day? Everywhere and every job is different, but listening to your people is the first step, having high standards, feeding confidence to your people and holding them accountable is a great start. Work hard and be deliberate in your actions and you will do great.
What is it with some managers? Why do they hate fun? Anytime they hear about a quick basketball game, game of cards, or anything that doesn’t contribute directly to the result the employees are hired for; they freak out. Have they forgotten where they came from? Have they lost perspective about how mundane work can get?
Now, I’m sure many of you are thinking, “I don’t let my people waste time.” What I say is, I believe some time spent messing around and having fun is a good use of time. Of course, many professions do not fit in with this theory, a surgeon probably doesn’t have time to stop a play a quick game of hearts, but we all know of those work environments where it is possible.
The key to this is good leadership. But more than just good leadership, we have to evaluate the reasons these managers see only a waste of time. They are not concerned about morale; they are not concerned for their people’s lives; they seem only to be concerned with completing work. But not just work getting done but being done perfectly. These managers find it so easy to tear apart anything. Have a problem employee take a few steps in a positive direction? Nope, they will remind you of the times they made mistakes. Even when they do good, there are usually times when they have made mistakes and these managers will remember.
It becomes such a pain for other managers to fight against the “fun-less” managers that we do avoid the fight far more often than we would probably admit. There is plenty of evidence to support the position that happy employees do better and more work. And fun at work is one way to make employees happy. Fun at work is not the priority. High-quality performance, efficient processes, discipline, accountability are all much more important than fun at work. But when these things are happening, when you have a good work environment, it’s time to throw the football or break out the jump rope and have fun.
Unfortunately, I have not figured out a great way to change these managers. Most of the time, they will continue to be a negative influence on the organization’s people until they either quit or retire. They can be great operationally and still hurt the organization because they are poor leaders. My tactic is to be relentless with progress. I never stop my message and consistently come up with ways to try to push them in the direction of fun. Little by little without them even realizing, they will change. Small steps, which are barely even perceptible, will make a huge difference over time. Yes, this is hard, but in the end, it is worth it to your people.
When I was a kid growing up in Southern Utah almost everyone I knew had a fireplace or a wood burning stove of some kind. Almost without exception, sitting next to the wonderful heat producing factory was a kit of tools. In this kit contained a mini shovel, broom and what we called a poker! The shovel was used to remove the ashes from the fireplace, the broom for cleaning the around the fireplace after you inevitably spilled ash and charred wood on the floor. My favorite, the poker, was used to stoke the fire, move burning logs around so you could place additional pieces in the fire.
As managers and leaders in organizations, regardless of size, we have to always be mindful that we are leading people who have specific talents, skills, and abilities. Each of your employees is different! They have different drivers, biases, abilities, etc. and leaders need to take the time and get to know their team members. Who are the extroverts, introverts, the career driven, the content, the charismatic and the list goes on.
Talent management is vital to achieving the goals and overall mission of that organization. We are not the same and cannot all achieve the same level of performance at each task as everyone else. For instance, the shy, introverted, data analyst is not the best person to give a facility tour of your new freight distribution center to prospective clients. You have to pick a different tool for that job. If you have an underperforming branch and need a quick turn-around, who do you send? A poker! Not a broom or a shovel, you need someone to move things around, shake things up and stoke the fire. Who is your poker? When your organization suffers from loss, whether a tragic personal loss or your poker pushed the team and they still did not meet the goal, what leader do you send?
Very few companies are operating at this level of leadership and management. It requires deliberate thought and deliberate action to specific situations. We are tools. I am a specific tool for specific jobs. I know my limits and will not let personal pride hinder my team from accomplishing our goals and the overall mission of my organization. I will call in other leaders/tools to deal with specific situations when I am beyond my limits.
Be aware that some of your brooms want to be pokers and vice versa. This is dealt with during feedback and in my experience will cause conflict, which is good. If you go back to your conflict-resolution training, avoidance, in this case, is not an option. A broom can never be a poker!
The next time you see some ashes try to pick them up with the poker! You will see my point…
I’ll leave you with this;
What tools are sitting next to your fireplace?
-Do you need more options?
Are you aware of the tools you have available to deal with all the situations in your company?
Unfortunately, unlike purchasing a Fireplace Took Kit online for about $100, developing your supervisors and managers to look for the right person to attack specific concerns will not be that simple, but well worth your time to invest in.
In November of last year (2017), I wrote an article about my team that articulated the trouble we were in. Poor performance all around. I also determined the course of action was to simplify the tasks and build a solid foundation. We had quite a bit of turnover which caused chaos within the team. Now, a few months later I want to revisit my team.
The decision to simplify was the right one. I called a meeting with the team and wanted to discuss how we could simplify the tasks and still meet the operational mandates of the organization. But before I could call the meeting, one of my most honest (and forthcoming) supervisors came by to talk. He was frustrated; with me, with the job, with almost everything. The bottom line was he was losing faith in me. Admittedly, I was initially upset and frustrated that he couldn’t see my vision and was losing trust, but after some self-reflection, there was no way he could see things from my perspective, with all the turmoil going on in our division. He was doing me a great favor by talking to me. He was warning me about the storm that was coming. A storm I could feel but wanted to believe I could prevent with my sheer willpower and leadership skills. What I realize now is that the storm is essential.
With this new information, I still called the meeting, but instead of my original plan, I decided to have a very candid discussion about their frustrations and wanted to make sure they had a chance to vent. Listening to them complain about the things I was and was not doing is difficult! But I know myself and understand my strengths are not in sitting back and letting the team complain without interjection. I challenged their thoughts and beliefs. I wanted them to know I heard them, but most of their frustration was due to miscommunication and misunderstandings, which we addressed and agreed to work on.
Now we are moving forward. I scheduled and held the meeting two weeks later to address simplifying the work and getting more organized. And my team feels better because they have a voice and it has been heard. At the meeting, we discussed, among other topics, daily tasks that are not accomplished and I reinforced our commitment to accountability. The simplified tasks and functions have worked like a charm. The mistakes are down, and morale is higher than it has been over the past year. This is all due to higher quality work and clear expectations of performance.
Since we have reestablished our foundation and are performing well, we have begun to get back to more advanced training. We have developed several new items to train on to push the employees beyond their comfort zone. The entire division is doing phenomenal and consistently improving. They complain a bit, but without pressure, there is no growth.
Everyone has covered the story of the Technical Sergeant at Nellis Air Force Base that went off on a racist fueled rant about her black subordinates. This is a popular story, and the official response from the base was to not only look at the individual but to take a more in-depth look into the base and its subcultures to see if this type of thinking is common. I don’t know the typical behavior on Nellis, so we are going to look at the lessons a leader can learn from her behavior.
A good leader can look past the things that most racists, sexists, and bigots cannot. The young women the Sergeant referenced could very well have bad attitudes, and they may not be behaving per the core values the Air Force champions. A good leader will realize that it is not because they are black; there are other reasons for it.
The first thing we must address is ourselves. So, is this attitude she experienced caused by her? Perhaps her approach is off. Maybe she is projecting her personal biases on others and anticipating a disrespectful behavior. If a leader takes this approach, you are sure to get that reaction. Judging by the video, it does not seem like she is taking a soft or empathetic approach with her subordinates. Nobody likes to be treated like they are less than others. Even when they know they are subordinates in the organizational structure, they don’t like to be treated like minions. A positive and understanding approach is most likely to garner the best results.
Perhaps it is the subordinates. In this sentence, I do not mean to say “black women” are a problem. What I do mean is, people will gather based on their similarities; negative attitudes bring people together like moths to a streetlight. And once they have come together they start to build an internal group culture that has nothing to do with race or sex, and everything to do with leadership. They continue to reinforce each other’s poor attitudes and behavior until they believe they are doing the right thing. It takes someone with a very developed set of leadership skills to help them see the truth in their actions. This was clearly not the case in this issue.
The video was bad, but the fact that she believes this is an issue with black women is much worse. What kind of culture can she be capable of creating as a leader if she harbors such small-minded beliefs? The Air Force will be wise to understand how it failed to equip her with the leadership skills necessary to deal with conflict and how she could harbor these types of hidden biases even after seeing the value of diversity in our military. If they take the time to study her behavior, we can then begin to eradicate it from the Air Force.
I don’t believe anyone considers our government is the proper model to structure our organizations after. But there are valuable lessons in the failures of our government and the continued political grandstanding that rips the branches of our government to shreds. I’m currently awaiting news to see if I’ll be paid, but with the help of some DoD leaders and other great organizations like USAA, we will be taking care of. To say we need change is grossly understated. But, I digress, here are some lesson you can watch out for in your organization.
Allegiances to Subordinate Teams
A massive problem with our government is the loyalty to their party and not to the good of the most significant and more important team. In this case, the house and senate are loyal to their political party and are looking to push their agenda even at the cost of the people. This is made clear by the 95% vote of “yea” by Republicans and a 5% vote of “yea” by Democrats for a recent proposal to keep the government open. Clearly, the allegiances are to their party…
Each department or section in the organization can’t only be concerned for their own success. Different departments will naturally lobby for what they need, and all organizations have a finite level of resources, but each department should know and be aware of the needs of the others. They should be equally concerned about their success. When the marketing department dominates resources and prevents the HR department from having all the tools they need to be successful, the organization will fail. What do you need great marketing for if you have a failing HR department?
Our legislative branch of the government has no direction. Each major and minor political party have fractured the legislative branch to the point that I’m shocked they can get anything done. The problem with this divisive organization is they lack a unified and overall direction.
A successful organization brings each department together to create synergy. They are not just the sum of the parts; they are more than that. The prevailing direction brings the departments together, they are no longer selfish but work out problems together. Manager’s ambitions do not outweigh their appetite for reasonable, calculated risk.
This is probably the most significant reason for the failures of our government. They have competing priorities. The Democrats are looking to push the Democrat’s agenda, and the Republicans will push their agenda. These agendas come at the cost of the legislative branch as a whole. Don’t get me wrong; there needs to be debate, their needs to be conflict, negotiation, and compromise. But this is not it. Their priorities are to their party, not to the country or its people.
In your organization, you must ensure the organizational priorities are aligned. Each department should work with the others to make the team prosper. There must be a willingness to sacrifice your department to ensure another department is successful.
Does it take too long to complete your processes? Do your supervisors fail to follow the procedures? Do you feel like you have a never-ending list of problems to address? Many managers face these issues and believe they have no choice but to work the problems as they occur and try to keep their heads above water.
One would probably guess this article is about time-management or strategic planning, but this article is really about finding full spectrum solutions for your organization. This is also not about root causes. Root causes are essential and are a part of full spectrum solutions, but the critical difference is that a root cause does not always affect other processes, but a full spectrum solution does. These solutions will enable and eventually empower your people to solve the other issues that arise, leaving you time to dedicate to more strategic issues.
We all get caught up in the most recent issue. The most recent problem is the “most important” issue because it is fresh. A good manager will not automatically react to every problem as if it must be fixed right away. A good manager will know there are many problems and just because this problem happened now, does not mean it is the more important problem to direct the focus. This is reactive problem-solving. It is not always a bad approach, but it is not usually the best.
How does one identify a full spectrum solution? Mostly by what will happen if the solution is found and implemented. For example, if there is a problem with a report not being completed correctly, but you have already provided training, and they just don’t seem to get it. The initial solution would be to hold more training and perhaps start writing people up for accountability purposes. But a full spectrum solution that will help with this problem would be to invest in the supervisors and help develop them into problem solvers. This solution takes much more time and will require patience from the manager and their boss.
Another issue we must face is the expectation for instant results. Most solutions take time, and nothing will ever be perfect. So, guard against working only for short-term and immediate results. This is called making a band-aid fix. The problem with this kind of fix is the actual issue is never addressed. A band-aid is placed on it for short-term success but the issue will continue to come back.
Here are a few places that are typically associated with full spectrum solutions:
Supervisory development (leadership & management)
Look for solutions that will have 2nd and 3rd order of effects
Start-ups are well known in the world, however, what are they precisely? We can describe them as small organizations which are just starting their journey. Most of them don’t have their particular investment. However, they are financed by people who have. Due to that, we can often see a start-up without a genuine item, which means it is only beginning to develop.
The main issue with start-ups is that they need to start from the scratch. They have made a study, they have tried the market and they trust that their product or service has its place under the sun. The only word we have to focus on the last sentence is “trust”. It is the most important feeling in every person connected to the start-up.
Looking for the best people for the job
Upon taking the first step, developers need to start with looking for the best individuals for the group. Before that, they design the office and they get lost in it. The majority of them adore the possibility of a perfect office loaded with cool things which will help them bring the best people for the business. And that is a mistake. If you hire a person who came to you just because you have a cool office, then a “foosball table” will definitely kill your start-up.
What most developers don’t understand is the fact that new businesses are a just starting a battle for their place on the market. That is the reason you must be cautious when you are picking the people for the group. One individual might be a specialist in his field, yet that doesn’t mean he will be the best for the team and the start-up.
What this has to do with a foosball table?
In the most recent decade, Google has opened its way to the best office on the planet. That office is a mix of work and play. Individuals there can play foosball, eat as much as they prefer, sleep and do other things besides the ordinary work stuff. That makes Google a good example for organizations everywhere around the globe.
Google has the ideal workspace
Each organization wants to resemble Google, and they begin that by planning workplaces like Google. What they don’t think about is that they aren’t at a similar stage where Google is. Google can have all cool stuff, and it won’t matter because people will work hard to stay in Google. No matter how the office looks.
Start-ups can pull in wrong workers with cool office design, and that can be very bad for the business. What start-ups need are people who believe in their product or service? Those people will stay late at work if they have to, they will work for less money, and they won’t mind because they believe those people know that a little sacrifice can work a long way in the future of the company. By working hard now, they are investing in their future, and that is not so uncommon for workers who believe.
Workers who come in your organization because you have a foosball table or cool office should leave immediately because they won’t give their best and they will probably play foosball more than work. Your task is to discover persons who will work hard like you, so you can together build up an organization where a foosball table is an award and not a reason to work there. Try not to utilize a foosball table as the fascination apparatus; use it as a reward for your team. That way, the foosball table won’t stand in the way of your success.
The post is composed by Mark, who is a blogger and a wild foosball fan. He writes a blog about foosball to show to the general population that foosball is a standout amongst other game tables. He adores sharing his opinion about foosball, and he does that by being a part of the Foosball Zone. You can check out his work on this link: http://www.foosballzone.com/harvard-foosball-table/
You are a Manager/Leader of Lies and Lip service and your employees know it! Just take a look at your structure and the lines of effort that come out of that structure.
Many organizations have a structure that supports the development of professional or technical skills. Most of the time this takes place upon initially hiring an employee and is sustained by on-the-job training and measured by supervisors. They also have a Human resources department that takes care of the mundane tasks of who is where what needs to be tracked and when John will hit retirement age. They also track and take care of specific training requirements, such as who needs and has completed Human Relations training. Maybe some will have a Talent Management division who endeavor to put the right people in the right place at the right time or delve into recruitment, but after the placement or replacement is complete, it is up to work centers to deal with the employee.
Human resources? Human Capital? Human Beings! People, Your People…
How much time do you spend on your processes? How much time do you spend on production meetings, operations, how high, how far or whatever your business is? I’ll call them functional competencies.
How much time do you spend on your people? People/Human competencies. What do you measure as a leader? How would you know if your organization was successful in this area? What do you expect your first line supervisors to do as it relates to People competencies? Know their names, birthdays, personal goals and desires?
You will do what is important to you, not what you say!
In the military, many organizations have a phrase that tries to keep leaders in remembrance of this balance between the function and people. “Mission First, People Always!” or sometimes it is said in reverse. For the most part, it is a good phrase, but I have found in my experience that in most organizations there is almost zero focus on the People. I have been in fantastic organizations where we spent a lot of time on the people, and the Mission of the unit (function) excelled. I would state the phrase this way “People First to First Achieve Mission Success. A lot can be learned from this.
As Senior Managers and leaders in an organization, we have to begin to understand that our best asset is our Human resource. We should strive to create a desire within our people to want to please their first line supervisors by their duty performance. I want my people to want to work for me, not because I am the boss, but because they know I care about them and their development as people. I have a desire to help them achieve their personal goals, even if those goals take them away from my company! Leaders at each level of the organization need to spend time developing functional competencies and human competencies. In most cases, each organization has programs that pretend to get after the task of human competencies. They may even write policies, hold seminars or conduct development courses but it rarely resonates with the majority of employees. Most of them will view the Senior Manager/Leader as a blowhard that is only focused on production, money or your board of directors.
We need to measure our leaders in our organization with two sticks:
How good are they at function production?
– If they are bad at their jobs, it matters.
How good are they at people production?
– If they don’t have measurable factors here, they have no business leading/managing, anyone. Let them go! It is better to have a mediocre function producer and a high people producer than the reverse.
I will state it again: You will do what is important to you, not what you say! Your people will know it, and it will impact their performance. It will affect your bottom line.
Develop lines of effort to directly get after each member of your organization. Get to know them as people, what makes each one tick. Know their kids’ names. Give them a day off for their spouse’s birthday and consider it an investment to your bottom line. They matter and without them, your functional competencies will only get you so far.
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