At Least 10 Managers You Don’t Want to Meet On Your Journey

Businessman Being Hit with Boxing GloveNote from Art: here’s a fresh follow-on to some earlier posts on the habits of lousy leaders and managers based on input from participants in my management programs and forums. It seems we don’t run out of content for this thread!

Related: At Least 20 Things to Stop Doing as a Leader and At Least 10 More Things to Stop Doing if You are the Boss. Reader participation has pushed those numbers considerably higher.

At Least 10 Managers You Don’t Want to Meet Along the Way

1. The Manager with the “My Way or the Highway” attitude. Most of your employees would like to see you on the highway. They might not swerve.

2. The Royal Boss who expects team members to bow to his every utterance and serve every whim without questions. If given a vote it’s off with his head!

3. The Puppet Master. When their lips move you can hear his voice. There’s the senior manager who holds a meeting to prep (read: script) his team on what they can and cannot say during the upcoming company meeting.

4. Meet Machine Gun Sally. She shoots first when things go wrong and doesn’t bother to ask questions. Stay out of her sight!

5. Here’s Rodger the Decision Dodger: he never met a decision he didn’t want to avoid, lest he be held accountable for something.

6. Don’t Give a Boost to Caryn the Climber. Watch out, because her attitude is:  “I will step on the carcasses of those who work for me on my way to the top, and for some of you, I might dig my heel in a bit harder.”

7. Tim’s desk is always spotless. It turns out, empty desk, empty mind.

8. Paul the Player has a distinct hiring profile. I wonder why HR hasn’t figured this out?!

9. Jerry and Janet the Jekyl and Hyde Managers. You never know which one is going to show up (not Jerry or Janet) and watch out for sudden mood swings…they can be harmful to your career.

10. Larry the Logger. He truly cannot see the forest for the trees. Don’t expect big picture stuff from this flannel shirted myopic manager.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

With all of the truly horrific examples I hear about in my programs, one might think that being a good boss is a hard thing to do. It’s not. A dose of humility and a heaping helping of respect for others and you’re off to a good start. However, if you happen to run across one of the above managers or their many cousins, take some good notes on what not to do!

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

Leadership and Management Lessons from Chris

A Horse's RearLiving in Illinois, I typically don’t throw stones at other states for the misfires of their politicians. After all, serving as Governor in Illinois is one of the most likely positions to insure some quality time behind bars. However, the Chris Christie bridge scandal offers a few too many leadership and management lessons to pass up without a few observations. (I’ve got no candidate or party in this fight…just interested in the lessons we can draw upon here. )

At Least 7 Leadership and Management Lessons from the Bridge Scandal:

1. If you’re in charge, you are responsible. End of story.

2. “I didn’t know” just sounds weak in any circumstances. Even if it’s true.

3. Taking accountability by firing your Chief of Staff and then running the bus over her repeatedly in the national press doesn’t feel like taking accountability.

4. Every team takes cues on standards of behavior from the boss. You set the values, and apparently, it was deemed acceptable behavior to use political power to punish even minor enemies while putting the interests and even lives of your customers in danger.

5. Your reputation as an effective, hardline manager is shot right in the rear as soon as you have to spend hours back-pedaling on how people you trusted lied to you and you didn’t know.

6. As a manager, if you’re too stupid to select people who won’t put your entire career at risk in the name of some misguided show of force, you deserve all the grief you get.

7. What type of an employee is deluded into thinking he/she can operate with impunity, particularly when their boss is an elected official and a potential presidential candidate? See also the points on behaviors, talent selection, management and accountability.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

I’ll end where I started. If you are in charge, you are responsible. End of story.

From the Archives: 5 Priceless Lessons from Amundsen and Scott

Roald AmundsenNote from Art: given the polar-like weather many of us are “enjoying” this week, I thought it was fitting to revisit my earlier Amundsen and Scott post.  These lessons never grow cold!

In preparation for an upcoming presentation, I’ve become a bit obsessed with studying the 1910 expeditions and race between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott to 90-degrees South (the South Pole).  The lessons for leaders and managers practically leap off the pages of this classic example of coping with risk, uncertainty and volatility.

This “Heroic Era” of polar exploration was capped off (really bad pun!) by Amundsen and Scott, in what turned into an adventure where Amundsen beat Scott to the pole and safely returned, crew intact. Sadly, Scott and his crew ultimately perished during their attempted return.

I have Jim Collins to thank for this latest management segue, as he draws upon this same race and the comparison and contrast between Amundsen and Scott in his book with Morten T. Hansen, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck-Why Some Thrive Despite them All. (Note: While Collins hooked me, see my suggestions at the end of the post for much deeper reading on the topic.)

The level of preparation that Amundsen and team put into their polar expedition was both monumental and commendable.  All students of project management and management and leadership in general should study this case.  The comparison and contrast between Amundsen’s approach and Scott’s is fascinating and highly relevant to leading initiatives and organizations in today’s turbulent workplace environment.

For the rest of us, here are a few lessons gleaned from my just-started study of this fascinating event.

At Least 5 Key Lessons Gained from Studying Amundsen and Scott:

1. The Conventional Wisdom Isn’t Always Right.  Amundsen’s selection of a previously uncharted path to 90-degrees South was contrary to all of the conventional wisdom of the time.  Long voiced concerns about the stability of the ice in the area kept prior expeditions from considering Amundsen’s starting point. His own painstaking review of the various logs of prior explorers suggested that the geology hadn’t changed much in decades. He decided to take this risk in return for a straighter, shorter (albeit completely unknown) line to his destination. While his choice introduced an element of risk, he viewed the payoff for success as worth it.

How often do you let the conventional wisdom dictate your approach to a complex problem?

2. Focus Means Focus. Amundsen was solely focused on reaching the South Pole. Everything he did…the months of preparation, the customization of his tools…and everything he had done earlier in his life, including, living with the Inuit, led to his preparation for success in the harsh polar environment. Scott had a mixed agenda of exploration and science, and the complexity of doing both contributed in part to his challenges.

It’s always tempting to tag on goals that seem complementary. Beware the dilution and distraction effect. Most of the time we’re best served by clarifying and then laser-focusing on the mission at hand.

 3. Luck Happens-It’s What You Do with It that Counts. In Amundsen’s words: “I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”

Scott’s journal was filled with descriptions of bad luck. In reality, the two expeditions faced much of the same lousy weather luck. One succeeded while the other failed. What we do with our luck…good or bad is completely within our control.

 4. Tailor the Tools to the Mission. While Scott and his crew spent the winter months wiling away their time with lectures (to each other) and reading, Amundsen’s team maintained 8-hour days customizing every single piece of equipment to improve their odds of surviving anything. Both expeditions used the same sledges, but Amundsen’s were modified to reduce the weight considerably. Amundsen redesigned his skis and ski bindings, his crates, his critical paraffin containers and everything else with the idea of safety, security, light-weight, ease of use from set-up to stowing all the driving goal. And he took tips from the Inuit on clothing, opting for a style and material that promoted air circulation and helped managed sweating and heat retention/loss.

Too often we expect our technology tools and generic practices to yield great results. Take a page from Amundsen and tailor your tools to the mission in front of you.

 5. Nobility is Nice, but Practicality Wins. Scott and his crew viewed it as noble to man-haul their sledges and gears. Yes, man-haul. Amundsen knew from his time with the Inuit that dogs were superior haulers and that the issue of calories would eventually determine survival or death. Scott grossly miscalculated the calorie burn from man-hauling, and that combined with poor food depot planning (location, contents, fuel) contributed to his team’s demise. It is reported that Amundsen’s team actually gained weight during their successful return trip.

Pride and nobility goeth before the fall. Don’t get caught up in the nobility of your tactics, when there may well be a better, less-elegant approach to save the project, your job or in Scott’s case, his life.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

All of us live and work in a world filled with chaos and turbulence. Our customers feel it, our suppliers know it and our competitors are coping with it as well.

As Collins and Hansen suggest in Great by Choice: “It’s what you do before the storm comes that most determines how well you’ll do when the storm comes. Those who fail to plan and prepare for instability, disruption, and chaos in advance tend to suffer more when their environments shift from stability to turbulence.”

While, “Be like Amundsen” doesn’t have that commercial jingle sound to it, we will all be better off if we incorporate this explorer’s constancy of purpose and unrelenting focus into our personal and professional endeavors.

More Professional Development Reads from Art Petty:book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! Register here

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

Order one or both books for your team. Contact Art.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

 

Leadership Caffeine—Ten Annoying Habits that Irk Your Employees

image of a coffee cupLast week, I spent some time in a post offering guidance on strengthening your performance as an employee. This week, our focus returns to the individual at the top of the food chain. If this happens to be you, your team will thank you for spending a few minutes perusing the list below and kindly stomping these bad habits out of existence.

Ten Annoying Habits that Genuinely Irk Your Employees:

1. Finding the problem in EVERYTHING. Criticizing constantly isn’t coaching. One tactic builds and the other bullies. Which one do you use?

2. NEVER providing positive praise. When it’s earned, you need to give it. No one cares that you don’t thrive on the occasional positive reinforcement, most other people do. And no, it’s not just because they’re needy.

3. STRUGGLING to make a decision…any decision. Yes, there’s risk in every decision, but frankly, you’re holding your team hostage while you spend most of the time of your life trying to make up your mind.

4. LEADING round-the-table status meetings. OK, this is my pet peeve, but I’m still looking for more than two people on the planet who like these interminable and potentially fatal meetings. If you’re going to hold one, make it worth everyone’s time. Live, round-the-table status updates don’t promote communication, they cure insomnia and promote exploration of alternative employment or careers.

5. FAILING to pay attention to the work of the people who are working for you. We know you’re busy. Just once in awhile, gin up some genuine curiosity and interest in what your team members are doing. It’s a great way to show respect. Showing respect is a great way to gain respect.

6. CHANGING direction, but forgetting to tell us you changed your mind. It’s the boss’s prerogative to change her mind, but if you’re that boss, make certain to tell someone you changed your mind (and why), or, you’ll leave the team hopelessly confused.

7. MAKING your team members walk on eggshells around you. If people have to walk on eggshells around you, something is wrong. It’s a guarantee that no one will shoot straight on the big issues, or, bother to tell you when you have no clothes.

8. DELIVERING dump-truck feedback. Your employees know this by the sound of the dump-truck backing up and the smell of the manure about to be heaped upon them in the annual performance review. Quit saving up constructive feedback for delivery at a future date. Like fish and houseguests after more than a few days, the big blob of old feedback stinks!

9. APPLYING DOUBLE STANDARDS for star and poor performers at the expense of everyone else. Yeah, everyone’s watching and they all see your double standards in action. Don’t preach accountability unless you’re practicing it fairly and evenly with everyone, including yourself.

10. HOLDING EVERYONE HOSTAGE in a perpetual state of crisis. At about the third consecutive crisis in the month, everyone’s figured out that it’s a method you use to motivate. Newsflash, it doesn’t work.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Read the above list carefully. Now, cut it out. All of it. Now.

More Professional Development Reads from Art Petty:book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! Register here

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leader’s on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

Leadership Caffeine: A Note for the Boss Who Talks Too Much

image of a coffee cupIf aliens were to secretly visit our planet to observe our advanced leadership and management techniques, they might reasonably conclude that the “right to talk” in most situations, was reserved for the individual in charge.

Play leadership anthropologist in your own organization and chances are you’ll find a good number of these en-titled characters who are compelled to consume every possible molecule of oxygen and every moment of air-time to share their self-defined pearls of wisdom and precious nuggets of managerial and inspirational gold.

Much like that last sentence, the word count of these overly talkative leaders quickly spirals out of control similar to the runaway reaction in a Lithium-Ion battery (sorry Boeing) leaving people desperate to pull the escape hatch and sprint or slide for better air.

If you happen to work for someone who clearly consumes verbal diuretics and suffers an excessive outflow of spoken waste, consider “sharing” the guidance below. While I would never advocate sending this from your co-worker’s computer, unless you really don’t like her, consider printing it, clipping the letter below and casually taping it to the boss’s computer screen. Wear gloves.

A Letter to Our Overly Talkative Boss:

Dear Boss,

You talk too much, say too little and you don’t listen at all

Just for today, please shut-up and listen harder to what we have to say. You might hear some good ideas.

Quit trying to prove that you’re smarter than everyone in the room. It’s not a contest. You’re in charge. We get it.

Ask us questions instead of barking commands. You would be surprised at our thoughtfulness on supporting this business.

Ask us our opinions. Yes, we all have them, but given your communication style, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard our views on problems or opportunities.  And by the way, asking our opinions is a sign of respect.

Show us that you’re interested in our opinions and ideas by asking more questions.

Recognize that my pause before answering your question doesn’t require you to fill it with the words you want to hear from me. I’m collecting my thoughts.

Use your ears and mouth in direct proportion. (That’s 2:1).

Sincerely,

Your Speech and Oxygen Deprived Team Members.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Seriously, shut-up and listen. Ask questions and listen. And then do something with what you heard. You’ll love the results.

More Professional Development Reads from Art Petty:book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! Register here

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leader’s on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.