What is wrong with Management today? 

March 1, 2007
All is not well in the corporate world. Contrary to some opinions, people do not just job-hop for the fun of it or because they are irresponsible. Stress is up and morale is down.

All is not well in the corporate world.  Contrary to some opinions, people do not just job-hop for the fun of it or because they are irresponsible.  Stress is up and morale is down.

If you follow the trail backwards, it often leads right to Management's door.  Here are some common mistakes made by management and alternative courses of action they could be taking.

1.  Management base solutions to problems on educated guesses or assumptions that can make matters worse rather than better.  They share a mistaken belief that because they are in a position of management, they know 'better'.

Action:  Management should have proper information systems in place that will tell them exactly where the problems are.  The staff involved should be included in brainstorming sessions when searching for solutions.  The frontline troops know more about what is going on, what works and what doesn't work at this level than management does, sitting as they often are in relative isolation.

2.  Managers dump unrealistic workloads on their workers and hand over tasks that people are not equipped to handle.  They hand over the work without empowering the employee to "handle" it, and then blame the employee when it doesn't work out.

Action: Managers need to learn to delegate properly.  The reason for delegating work is to lighten the Manager's workload and also to educate/train those under him to help them grow.  Work delegated should always be appropriate to the ability of the employee to whom it is given.  If the manager has authority to do X with a project, if that project is delegated, the person receiving it must also have the authority to do X in order to accomplish the task.  The employee must be given the training and tools in order to do any job properly.

3.  Management is not clear with instructions.  People are doing work for which they have no idea of its importance or relevance and even where it fits into the larger picture.  As a result, tasks are tackled blindly with hit and miss results, delays, and extra stress.

Action:  Managers need to ensure employees understand not only what they are doing but why they are doing it.  This enables employees to also find better and more efficient ways of achieving goals.  Managers need to work with their people, helping them to set realistic goals and measure the progress made towards accomplishment. 

4.  Managers can be highly critical, quick to spot flaws and point them out, and seem to focus on what is not working.  This makes people feel worthless, that nothing they do is right, that they can never please their Boss, and hence, their morale suffers as does their productivity.

Action:  Managers should focus on what is working and build from there.  As for what is not working, they should not assume that only they hold the answers.  Brainstorming with all involved in a task or project shows respect to employees, who very often have a better grip on the situation than the Manager and can produce innovative ideas and solutions.  Managers also need to support their staff, with praise and words of encouragement.  Accomplishment should be rewarded.

5.  Bad Managers do not trust their employees, they may show no respect, and may seem to thrive in their perceived power role.  They can be rude to employees, showing disregard for their feelings and the only feedback given is negative.  They are intimidating and arrogant. They have never heard of work/life balance.  They give too many difficult tasks to people either not suited to or not trained for it and set unrealistic deadlines.

Action:  Bad Managers can be trained out of their bad habits and it is up to senior management to train their managers accordingly.  Management meetings should be held to address these issues - with no blame apportioned - just encouragement to adopt healthier methods of interacting with staff and achieving departmental goals. In fact, managers need to be trained not to manage people, but rather, to coach them to be their best. 

6.  The Manager has no idea what he is doing.  He may have transferred from a different department/industry and be out of his depth in his new role.  Whenever employees ask for advice, he may fob them off with excuses or tell them to sort it out themselves - which is not quite the empowerment they are looking for.  Empowerment without guidelines and guidance is foolish.

Action:  A Manager should be familiar with all the roles in his department and be able to step in to help any employee at any time.  If saving face is important, a manager can always approach this learning phase by telling each employee that he wants a more thorough understanding of their job in order to be more helpful and be able to discuss their role more knowledgeably.  The employee will appreciate this interest and should be encouraged to take the opportunity to suggest alternative ways of doing things.  A healthy rapport and mutual trust can be established in this way between employees and a new Manager.

7.  Some managers are dictators and look over their employee's shoulders every step of the way.  Of course, this Manager thinks he can do it better and that his way is the only right way to do it. He refuses to listen to other ideas and suggestions.

Action:  Managers need to delegate the task then step back and allow the employee to do it.  It doesn't matter how it is done, just as long as it gets done on time and with the preferred result.  Managers do need to be available and ready if the employee needs guidance or assistance, otherwise, they should stay out of their way and let them get on with what they've been asked to do.  Regular meetings can be held to discuss the progress of projects, or weekly reports can be handed in to the manager so he knows the status.  Managers need to ask their employees for their ideas and suggestions and find ways to incorporate good ideas, and then, give credit where credit is due.

8.  Modern day managers have even less of a clue how to manage today's workforce than they did in the past.  The younger workers have totally different work ethics and belief systems than their parents.  Managing today's younger workforce with traditional management methods does not work.  They will not be 'managed'.  They do, however, respond favorably to coaching and mentoring - which is the new way to 'manage' the workforce.

Action:  Management can hire an outside Professional Coach or send their Managers and Executives to learn Coaching skills which they can bring back into their role.  Managers become "Coaches" and "Mentors" themselves - allowing employees to manage themselves effectively.

9.  An insecure or immature Manager can sabotage the career paths of those he perceives as a threat to his position or who make him feel inadequate.   Instead of utilizing the brilliant minds in his department effectively, he creates an environment in which he establishes himself as the supreme authority.  He may belittle others in an effort to make himself look smarter.  The department does not function as well as it could because talents are not being utilized.  The Manager lets his ego get in the way.

Action:  Managers need to accept that it is impossible to know everything there is to know and that there will always be those more and less smarter than themselves, and not take a particularly intelligent employee's ability as a personal affront to their own position.  Managers who help their workers with their own personal career goals are generally held in high esteem by their workers, their peers, and senior management.  Furthermore, the person thus promoted will remember who helped him get there… and it always pays to have friends in high places!  Rather than be jealous or feel 'less' because a subordinate has been promoted to a higher position, a Manager should take pride in knowing that his employee got 'there' with his help!

10.  Managers who are too "full of themselves", impressed by their own level of authority, and on an "ego trip" expect to be put on a pedestal and worshipped and become resentful when their employees fail to react accordingly.  Communication breaks down as does respect and the department becomes dysfunctional.

Action:  Managers need to remember that their main role is to oversee the smooth running of a department that achieves its goals, and that the main difference between themselves and their staff is their level of responsibility, accountability, and one hopes, their level of experience and expertise. 
In a nutshell, the most successful companies are those who train their managers to become leaders who don't 'manage' their staff, but coach and mentor them to success.

As "leader coaches", the new style "Manager" has a deep understanding of the following principles and these replace the old style methods of management:

* Connecting - developing a rapport with and compassion for employees, allowing them to feel safe.  It promotes  trust and respect.
* Hearing without Reacting - listening to employees without responding judgmentally - there is no right or wrong, good or bad.  The employee simply "is" and their actions simply "are".  It is neutral listening.
* Reflecting Back - an old and time-honored communication skill that allows a listener to tell the speaker what they heard the speaker say.  This gives the speaker the opportunity to confirm that is what they meant, or correct any misunderstanding.
* Responding - this involves understanding what an employee has said and meant, and replying in a way that relates to the employee so they are reassured they have been heard and correctly understood.
* Powerful Questions, Observations and Requests - This technique aims at helping the employee to find their truth, and assists them to step out of the reaction syndrome and look at their work from an outside perspective.
* Building the Employee - This assists employees to discover  and 'grow' the very best of themselves.  Many employees engage in defeating self-talk, suffer self doubts and have a small view of themselves.  The Leader-Coach (Manager) helps each employee recognize the greatness in themselves.  (Note: this is not using false flattery.)
* Growing the Employee - The Leader-Coach helps employees to create the structure wherein they have healthy self-confidence and can do more or contest their own beliefs and assumptions. It is the coaching skill of sensing what the employee is capable of doing or thinking and asking for it.
* Achieving Employee goals - the practical steps employees need to take to go from where they are to where they want to be - it is about helping employees plan and do.