Five signs of bad management
During a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, movie director Brad Silberling explained that conflict is essential to good comedy. "You want to put the wrong people into the wrong situation and watch the fireworks," he said. While Silberling was describing the context of his movie, "Land of the Lost," he also could be describing the reality of bad management: the wrong person in the wrong job.
And how do you know what qualifies as bad management? Here are the tell-tale signs:
Failure to decide. Managers who cannot make clear, thoughtful decisions cannot lead purposeful teams. Lack of decisiveness not only hinders efficiency, it erodes morale. No one likes to work with a boss who cannot decide, or worse, decides one thing one day only to reverse it the next day.
Inconsistency. Co-workers learn to ask each other, "Is he in a good mood today?" Putting up with a boss who swings from one mood to another, and then back again, can be trying. Such mood swings are not clinical in nature; they result when a manager is insecure about his own abilities and therefore lives in fear of disapproval from above. A bad manager vents his mood on his direct reports.
Sameness. Call it the revenge of the clones: Bad managers often hire people just like them. It may be a matter of gender or ethnicity or may simply involve choosing people with a personality or style similar to their own. The resulting lack of diversity hurts problem solving. People with different backgrounds look at issues and problems from different perspectives; managed well, these differences can produce new approaches that result in better ways of doing things.
Favoritism. The boss who plays favorites is one who typically is very insecure in her own abilities. Why? Because those she favors are often folks who rarely disagree with her and never challenge her thinking. When the boss is always right, something is definitely wrong.
Absent without responsibility. When things go wrong, bad managers are nowhere to be found. Long years of experience have tuned their antennae to danger and so when things seem tense, they disappear. This leaves underlings to bear the brunt of the failure. Such lack of accountability is not reserved for the middle ranks; we have seen far too many senior executives insist on bonus compensation even as their organizations lost billions.
The economic crisis we are experiencing highlights poor management, as there is less room for error. Now is the time for superior managers to step forward and help pilot their companies to better times. But it is not easy to get rid of bad managers. Too often they have been put into their positions by equally poor managers who either do not understand the consequences of their inferior underlings or are incapable of putting such managers out to pasture because it would reflect badly on their own hiring decisions. That's why bad management is so insidious; incompetence breeds incompetence until the entire organization is affected.
One solution for those trapped in organizations led by bad managers is to ask for, even insist on, more leadership for the middle. This means senior leaders need to delegate more authority to those below them, and that those in the middle need to step up when called to action. Sometimes called "leading up," this strategy releases the talents and skills of individuals by giving them increasing levels of responsibility.
Grooming leaders from the middle ranks creates new opportunities for people to demonstrate their abilities and influence their organizations. Leadership from the middle is not simply a nice-to-have perk; it's essential for organizations who want to position themselves for future challenges.
Leaders do not intentionally drive their companies into insolvency; they simply fail to make good decisions at the right time. Part of that good decision-making involves recognizing managerial incompetence and taking measures to correct it before it becomes epidemic and puts the company into a nose-dive. And if your boss won't do it, you might have to find ways to do it yourself.
October 19, 2009; 12:10 PM ET |
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