Good Example

Even the worst manager is a good example of a bad example.

Once I worked for a manager who was so arbitrary and capricious I never knew what to expect next. I could rail against – what I perceived – as her list of deficiencies but that would be venting. In the end she taught me a valuable lesson: even the worst of us is a good example of what not to do when we manage people.

Things Not to Do

  • Play Favorites

Few things are as obvious and as damaging as preferential treatment. Managers should adjust interaction based on performance not personality. This is so basic I hesitate to write it. But the anals of mismanagement are full of examples of bosses treating others based on personal like or affinity for same. How do you think ass-kissing ever developed into a skill?

  • Lack Focus

Your team wants to work hard. To be productive and to learn how to pick things up and put them down at the drop of a hat to show you how flexible and responsive they are. But if you are so out of control you have no sense of priority from one day to the next, they won't be flexible, they'll be fractured. Pick a target. Any target. Stick with it. Please.

  • Waste Time

You're the boss, you set the tone. If you're routinely late to meetings, don't have agendas, are unprepared or simply revisit old ground again and again very soon your people realize time is not that important. To you. But the truth is its incredibly important, especially for the younger worker. Waste my time when I'm in my 20s and I'll be at a competitive disadvantage versus my peers. Time counts.

  • Dilute the Message

We count on bosses to share the news, results and direction of the firm: do your team a favor and don't editorialize. Just give people what you've gotten from your hierarchy so they know as must as they're entitled to. Clearly you can't share everything, but when the message is so watered down people have no idea what it means, you've wasted time. This is not good. See previous bullet.

  • Be Self-centered

You're leading the team so that means people will learn some things about you. But keep it in perspective. They don't work for you, they work for the organization. Share what you need, not all that you can. And please god, once in a while, ask about your people. One on one. Its just not all about you.

Of course there are other managerial sins like sleeping with the help, embezzlement and illicit drug use. The list goes on.

But these transgressions are widely know (and almost as widely accepted) and the truth is its not the big stuff that will usually get you. Careers often derail due to the accumulation of small debris, much like unscraped barnacles on a sailing sloop.

The little things count. If you want to call yourself a manager act like one. And if you aren't sure what to do, you can start with this small list of what not to do.

Its a good example.



7 thoughts on “Good Example

  1. With some managers one is reminded where the name comes from: not from “excel” or “sparkle” or “stand out”, but from “manage” as in “Oh, I barely manage….”. Humbling.

  2. You’re so right, Christopher, that we learn from both good and bad examples. We discover how much we’ve learned when it’s our turn to take the lead. Then, I hope we keep learning…from our own mistakes. Another great post.

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