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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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.

They Quit…but Never Leave!

He is the guy that does just enough not to get fired.  Perhaps he used to be motivated, maybe even a top performer at one point in time.  But now he just can’t be bothered.  He rarely has ideas and is usually only passionate about not changing (anything) and making sure he is not inconvenienced with the job.  Mostly, they have quit without leaving the job.  How do managers deal with these people?  What kinds of things can you do to help bring them back?  Or perhaps get them actually to leave?

Engage and inspire them.  A leader needs to understand their people.  What drives them and makes them want to work hard?  It sounds like standard advice, but to be honest, you probably don’t have the capacity to understand and engage all of your people on an individual level enough to engage and inspire them.  What you do have time for is some of them.  The focus should be on your high performers and those you feel you can move into the high performing category.  Those people like the guy described above should not be the main priority.  As the leader/manager, you should be removing obstacles from your team.  It is in this capacity that you will need to deal with the poor performers.

Accountability is key.  Opportunity is also key.  Mostly we describe opportunity as the opportunity for success, but there is an equal chance for failure at every opportunity.  When an employee has quit, we need to engage and see if we can get them back on the team and performing at a high level.  If you can’t, give them opportunities.  Then hold them accountable when they don’t perform to the standard. You have to give them a final chance to show what they can do.  This, of course, assumes that you have effectively communicated to them about their performance and what the standard is.

What if you don’t have the authority to fire?  This certainly complicates things, but only means you now have to convince the person or persons who have firing authority to take action.  This is normally pretty simple.  Document the performance along with any failures to meet standards, and before long the HR department or other supervisors/managers will have to take action.  A big point to include when dealing with this situation is that having employees like this can be detrimental to the culture of the organization, especially if these employees are charismatic and influential.

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Dependent or Empowered Followers

Dependent and empower followers is leadership at two different levels.  The beginning level is where dependent followers thrive.  That first step of leadership is creating followers that are dependent on guidance.  The dependent follower is also at the start of their management and leadership journey.  The first level leader and dependent follower complement each other, they both fulfill the needs of the other.  The first level leader needs people that need them.  They need to experiment together and grow.  Many leaders do not graduate to the next level of leadership.  Some of this is because they’re trying to move to the next level.  They are most likely not even aware they are at the beginning level of leadership and are not deliberately trying to proceed to the higher levels.

The second level of leadership is where the leader begins to realize that dependent followers can be limiting.  This second level of leadership can be evasive as well because a follower that is becoming a leader already will give the leader the illusion that they are in the second level of leadership, but it immediately disappears when this follower moves on to be their own leader.  The second level of leadership is about removing the chains that keep the follower tied to the leader by empowering them.  Cutting the chains and letting them make decisions, run operations, experiment in their own leadership capacity, and learn from mistakes.

What can stop a leader from moving to the second level?  Many things, but mostly ego and pride!  When a leader refuses to let go of power (regardless of the type of power) it traps them in the first level.  The reasons are all the same.  They aren’t ready to lead.  I can’t trust them to do the right thing.  More often than not, the problem is the leader.  They want to feel important, and when you have empowered followers, they need you less and less.  The crazy part is that is a great thing!  Having followers that can perform at a high level because you trained and mentored them should be the goal.  How much more time will you have to grow as a leader and develop better ways to improve your surroundings when you no longer have to always direct your subordinates every move?

My position in the organization is one of constant rotation.  I am constantly faced with new managers and inexperienced managers.  Or managers that have resigned themselves to be micromanagers because they have never known a leader than empowers followers.  Once they trust me and know it isn’t a trick, they flourish like never before.

 

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2 Weeks Ago…I Made a Mistake

I implemented a stupid policy.  In my defense, the intent was to help my managers better plan their days, weeks, months, etc., but it ended up just wasting time.  I had discovered the managers were not very deliberate with their time and there was confusion among the workers.  To help them, each morning I asked the lead to sit with me and go through their plan for the day.  Yes, it is micro-management, but it was designed to be so I could teach them.  Plus, I had a deliberate plan to pull back once I started to see the results I had envisioned and allow even more autonomy than before.

Making a mistake, when we do it, can be one of the hardest things to admit.  But when leaders admit to mistakes it can keep us all from making more errors in the future or at least help keep us humble.  More than anything owning up to a fault will build trust between you and your people.

I’m sure many of you have drilled holes in my plan and have already guessed what the result was.  But for those who have not, it did not go well.  The managers did not plan better, they did not organize their people better, and it did not help them implement actions to better align them with the organizational vision I have established. What my decision did do was force the manager to prepare for the meeting with me instead of making sure their supervisors were given proper directions.  They were spending too much time worrying about how favorable I would judge their plans, and their focus shifted to pleasing me instead of focusing on their people and the organization’s operational needs.

Once I realized the decision did not have the desired effect, I put a stop to it.  And here is the important part.  Instead of telling the managers I saw what I needed to see and they had improved, that they were now organized like I wanted them to be and my idea (like all my ideas) was brilliant, and it worked just like I expected it would, I told them the truth.  Although the idea was an attempt to improve performance and my intentions were good.  The effects of this policy were mostly negative, and even the positive effects were small and insignificant.  In this case, the juice was not worth the squeeze.

Instead of forcing the managers to come to me and be scrutinized about their plans, I go to them.  I observe their operations more and engage them in discussions that are as non-threatening as I can make them.  The intent is still to teach and make things better.  There are drawbacks to this approach, but the manager’s people appreciate a leader that takes an interest in their daily lives and the managers know I’m right there if they need clarification or guidance.  I still get to hear about their plans and how their plans support the organizational vision, but we are much more agile because we have these conversations in real-time.  Everyone has a preference for how they lead, but admitting to mistakes is great.  Your people will not lose confidence in you over a few mistakes.  But if you are making many mistakes they will, and rightfully so.

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6 Steps to Keep Employees

There are many ways to keep employees around.  The key to employee retention is to create an environment that any reasonable employee will enjoy being a part of.  Not every job is glamorous, and many times people do not enjoy what they do.  Creating a happy working environment and having great managers by following the below steps will make things much better!

  1. Track your retention levels

There is no way to effectively manage the retention level in your organization if you do not track it.  The most common goal for employee retention is around 90%, but the reality is every field and organization is different.  The caliber of your staff that are leaving and the critical positions they are vacating might be crippling to your organization even if the number is higher than 90%.  Additionally, a little turnover is a good thing; fresh ideas, fresh perspective, fresh attitude, and the motivation of a new employee can be a great boost to the team!

  1. Culture

Culture is what you make of it.  You can deliberately determine culture, or you can let the culture grow on its own developing into whatever it happens to become.  Most managers do not take an active role in culture, and that is why many organizations have a poor or negative culture.  The first step to changing the culture is to decide what culture you want.  Write it down!  Print it on paper and tape it to your desk or in another area that is visible and read it often.  These parts of the culture you write down will need to guide your decision making.  If you are making policy and decisions, you should ask if your decisions and policies are in line with the culture you are trying to create.  If not, you need to change the decisions or the cultural goals.

  1. Invest in your Employees

Investing in your employees is usually seen as providing them education or training that helps the organization.  And if you can align a person’s wishes or passion and your organization’s goals, then you have the winning formula.  But in many cases, you will have a box packer that wants to be a nurse.  Or a concrete finisher that seeks to be a CPA.  So, in this case giving them training in the field they are currently in, will only get you a marginal improvement.  If you can make it happen, the best thing to do would be to provide aid for your box packer to go to nursing school.  Or give them a week of paid time-off so they can spend some time with a real nurse to see if it is something they want to do.  If you can help your employees realize their dreams, good things will always come back to the organization.  And it is the best thing to do.  Who knows, maybe you can bring him/her back after nursing school to create an on-site nurse position/department.

  1. Recognition

Recognition is one of the easiest things to do, but one of the most neglected.  A formal recognition program is mandatory.  If your company does not have one, then create one.  But outside of the formal program, you need to pay attention to the opportunities presented to recognize high-quality performers.  Add a reminder to your phone on a weekly basis to get out from behind your computer or whatever you are doing and find people doing good things.  Leaders seek out opportunities to thank their people and encourage positive behavior.

  1. Feedback

This is another thing that is easy but often neglected.  Informal feedback is super easy and very powerful.  Formal feedback can be detached and robotic if not done properly.  The key is to have clear examples of the behavior the person displays and use these models to eliminate negative behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors.

  1. Quality evaluations that strengthen the all of the above initiatives

Lastly, build or rework the evaluation system of your organization.  Take the time to review what your evaluations value.  What message do they send? They need to incorporate the new culture, initiatives and measure the performance of your people against the critical standards.

 

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