THE MICRO-MANAGING MANAGER IN DISGUISE

April 4, 2018|

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.

MANAGER IN DISGUISE?

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Leadership is Uncomfortable

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.

 

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The Death of Fun at Work

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.

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Leadership Lessons From The Fireplace

We are all Tools!

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.

The Storm

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.

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Leadership Lessons from a Racist Rant

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.

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Government Shutdown & the Organizational Leadership Lessons

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?

No Direction

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.

Competing Priorities

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.

 

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