You May Be a Bad Manager…

Being a bad manager may be something that you are not consciously aware of. And if you are aware of it to some degree, you are probably not willing to admit it to anyone, least of all yourself. That is because it is human nature to not want to believe you may be the problem.  This is probably because of ego, denial, compartmentalization, self-delusion, lack of perspective, and/or something similar.

However, it is a common enough phenomenon that is not just limited to bosses, but can apply to people at all levels: senior executives, managers, employees too.  And it would be easy to just label these people dysfunctional but I actually think we all suffer from this sort of myopia to some extent and from time to time.

So, even if you are convinced that you are the greatest manager and your ability to be introspective is limitless, you would be smart to ask yourself you may be a bad manager…

  • If your employees stop performing and seem miserable. Bad management trickles down and affects the entire organization and poor performance can usually be traced back to a management problem. And no matter how self-absorbed you are, you know if your employees are miserable. Do they stop talking and look guilty when you walk by? Do they invite everyone else but you for drinks after work? Bad signs.
  • If you are starting to feel the pressure. When a good senior manager thinks there may be a problem with a subordinate manager, they may inevitably turn up the heat and see what happens. So if you notice your boss turning up the pressure, it may be a sign that something is up.
  • If other managers are distancing themselves from you. As managers we can accept when our employees occasionally talk behind our back and for our enemies to loathe us, but when work friends and co-workers start to back away, that is not a good sign.
  • If you begin to loose your cool. You may be in conscious denial about being a bad boss, but on a subconscious level, you are probably aware of it. And that takes a toll on you, usually in terms of increased stress and anxiety that you start to take out on others.
  • If your decision-making becomes poor. A visible sign of poor management is poor decision-making. After all, decisions are actions, actions generate results, and results are highly visible. You need to pay attention.

As for all you employees who would rather turn a blind eye than take a cold hard look at yourself, the above may apply to you as well.  Now, I am not saying that one or two of these things automatically makes you a lousy manager.  Just be aware.  Do you agree or disagree?

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5 Stupid Things Supervisors Say That Get Their Organization Sued

Supervisors and managers even those with the best of intentions can say some of the worst possible things. In some cases, the things said are out of concern but some are out of a desire to “remind people they are the boss.” Whatever the reason, some things are best left unsaid.  Below is a compilation of some of the things I have heard and believe me when I say can and have gotten an organization sued.

  1.  I think you suffer from depression and may want to see somebody.  I do not think it takes me to say that comments like this may have been done with the best of intentions, but they can have disastrous repercussions. This is because questions about medical conditions and disabilities put you on record as “regarding” the employee as having a disability. And that can lead to ADA and other compliance dilemmas.  In these situations, focus on the job requirements and how a person is failing to meet them. Do not make clinical judgments. It is OK to ask “What can I do to help?
  2. You are going to take 12 weeks off to “bond with your baby”? I don’t think so.  There are rules regarding leave such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, workers’ compensation laws, and depending on where you live, state regulations. Remember managers and supervisors you are not alone – talk to HR.
  3. Thanks for the 2 weeks’ notice. Why don’t we just make today your last day because you are fired!!!  Nice job because you have just turned a voluntary resignation with little potential for a lawsuit into a termination with every likelihood of legal action. If you must have a terminated employee leave immediately, pay the 2 weeks anyway.
  4. Are you married?  Do you have children? Oh, what a lovely accent-where are you from?  Questions that are not job related are out of bounds and always suggest a discriminatory motive.  The employee can sue, charging discrimination, and you will have to explain why you asked the question especially if you did not hire them.
  5. You are fired, and I do not have to give you any explanation because you are “at will.”  In some states and instances, this statement is probably true. But, as they say, just because you can do it does not mean you should do it. When you give no reason, you leave the door open for discrimination lawsuits. “You fired me because I am (insert legally protected category such as race, sex, age).” Leaning on your “at-will” defense in court will leave you vulnerable.  Also should you fire an “at-will” employee, do not give a false reason such as “It’s because of performance.”   It may sound good until you are in court defending years of “good” performance and “sorry, we eliminated your job” sounds good until a plaintiff lawyer asks you why you filled the same job the next week. Once the court concludes that you lied, discrimination will be the logical conclusion. 

If you have asked these questions, quit and be thankful that you may have dodged a legal bullet.  Learn from your mistakes and consult HR should you have questions.  Your comments are appreciated and welcomed.

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Leadership Ying Yang: Confidence and Humility

This weekend as I was walking through a store a Yin Yang symbol caught my eye.  In Chinese philosophy, the concept of Yin Yang is used to describe how opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent, with one unable to exist without the other. Dark and light; hot and cold; passive and active are all demonstrations of Yin Yang. 

In leadership, Yin Yang principals can be seen throughout but what I want to focus on is confidence and humility.  Specifically, how great leaders have both with the best leaders having a perfect balance of both. 

The Yin Yang symbols made me think of a manager that approached me to discuss what a tough year he is going through and how he is just feeling beaten up.  He was stating how he “has lost his passion for the work, is not connecting with customers, employees and his attitude has changed from wanting to do the best to just getting by.”  It does not take long talking to him to realize that his confidence has taken a beating.  And my assumption is that he probably had good balance to start with because he seemed sincere, authentic, and thoughtful.  But without the confidence, he appeared tired and depressed.  It was taking a heavy toll on his personal and professional life.  

Like Yin Yang, the pendulum can swing the other way where sometimes we can become too full of ourselves and overconfidence charges ahead.  We have all met people who start to “believe their own press releases” and think they deserve all the credit for their success.  Forgetting how their success was from standing on the shoulders of their colleagues, teams and mentors as well as the leaders who came before them.  

So leaders I ask this questions – how is your balance of confidence and humility?  With confidence, you are able to make decisions, take risks, move ahead, deal with setbacks, and tip the balance in your favor.  With humility you are able to open up to learning, see where you can improve, learn from your mistakes, appreciate others and keep perspective on success. The trick for leaders is to find that delicate balance of true self confidence and genuine humility by understanding the significant value and influence that you, as a leader, have in an organization.

Given all that has happened in business and/or organizations, it is not surprising that many leaders have fallen out of balance.   An improving economy will not cure balance.  It comes from a reliance on inner strength.  It is a confidence that is not egotistical or self-serving but grounded in a genuine desire to make a powerful, constructive difference. You have to remember that you do not have all the answers, and even if you did, you should not act like you do.  Nobody likes to work for someone who projects that kind of arrogance.    Getting the balance right, finding the yin and yang of confidence and humility will only make you a better leader.  How will you or how have you balanced these two traits in your life?  

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The Art of Influential Leadership

Leadership is not simple and not something that only a few at the top have the privilege to engage in; any person at any level of an organization can assume such a role.  When you have decided to not wait to be told what to do, but do what needs to done; when you think outside the norm and influence others with your vision of how something should be done; when you engage in forward thinking and think possibilities and not barriers; you are engaging in leadership, specifically influential leadership. 

Leadership has been defined as the art and practice of achieving desired results through others. Influential leaders are defined as leaders that rely on influence as opposed to coercion.   These leaders create followers who want to follow as opposed to followers who believe they have to follow.   Here are some other characteristics of influential leadership.

  • Influential leaders demonstrate a certain passion that rallies, motivates, inspires, and influences people. 
  • Influential leaders have an enthusiasm that drives people to accomplish unbelievable things. 
  • Influential leaders produce an energy whereby individuals caught up in their influence take action, bond and connect with others, enroll and participate, and simply produce. 
  • Influential leaders value integrity by consistently being honest, forthright, and ethical by doing what they say and saying what they do.  They walk their talk.  Followers need to be able to trust the leader, and without trust, influence is impossible.
  • Influential leaders believe in humility by acknowledging that they do not know everything and are open to learn from others.
  • Influential leaders hold and highly value service.  They want to be of value to others, contribute to the benefit of others, from their employees, their organizations, their industry, their family, or their peers.
  • Influential leaders understand the art of listening and engaging in dialogue.   They understand the power of good communication.
  • Influential leaders practice reflection by taking the time to become fully aware of their own mental processes such as thoughts, feelings, and reactions to various situations.
  • Influential leaders recognize the skill of modeling and the importance of setting an example for others through their own behavior.
  • Influential leaders practice use of self as a barometer to assess what is going on inside themselves and around them in order to respond to their environment.  They have figured out what makes themselves tick.

Becoming an influential leader requires conviction, practice, patience and dedication.  Do you agree?  What type of leader do you have within?

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Managers: You Must Not Ignore Employee Complaints

Trust me when I say that managing complaints is not at the top of any manager’s list of favorites things to do.  Especially ongoing complaints which can wear down even the best manager.  What you should keep in mind is that the issues might not always seem important to you, but they are important to the person who complained.

Ignoring complaints will not make them disappear, and it could negatively affect the productivity and morale of an employee or the entire team.  Being from HR, I have witnessed this firsthand as a complaint was chalked up to being just a whining employee or someone who just likes to complain. The outcome became a disgruntled employee and a manager who longer engages the employee.  Further, it has now created an uncomfortable situation for the rest of the people in the office who are enduring the negative atmosphere. 

When it comes to managing complaints, leaders need to keep an open mind. Knowing how to listen to and resolve complaints is a critical skill for every supervisor, manager and team leader to possess.

  • Listen to your employee:  In reality, most employees do not enjoy complaining, so if they approach you with a complaint, it is likely a legitimate problem and you need to take action.  After all, one complaint may be something small, but another could be something that affects the entire organization or unit such as described above.
  • Investigate:  You need to gather the facts by interviewing.  Separate facts from over-exaggerations and assess credibility.  Also, know and recognize that you may not be able to be neutral or the right person to investigate the complaint.  It may be appropriate to have someone else take over the investigation like your boss or even human resources.  Remember, you want objective facts.
  • Take appropriate action:  If wrongdoing did take place and/or the complaint is substantiated, you will need to take appropriate action to correct.  If this requires discipline for an employee, consult human resources and/or your legal representative.  Keep in mind collective bargaining agreements that specify discipline procedure.
  • Maintain a detailed written report:  After the investigation has been completed, you will need to document the specifics of the complaints and the factors that affected its outcome and reasons why a certain action, if any, was taken. This document is proof the complaint was handled and will protect the company.
  • Follow up with the employee:  Let them know that the complaint has been resolved, if it has been. Make sure the employee knows that you are there should they feel things are not resolved and to let you know how things are going.  Employees want to know you heard them and acknowledged their concerns. 

Have you witnessed complaints being ignored and something that may have been simple blowing up?  Do you agree or disagree with this?

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Positive Leadership: Three Essential Steps

In uncertain and stressful times, I am discovering that leaders can act like NASCAR drivers that go fast-charging towards the finish line and in the process sometimes run over anyone (even their own employees) just to reach the championship box.   I know that a fast-charging leader may create success in the short run, but for sustainability it takes a positive leader with a people and process-driven approach to build a successful organization for the long haul.

Creating success is not done in a vacuum. To win in leadership, you must win with people. Running over people is not the right approach because to create true and lasting success you must nurture and invest in your people. Remember, leadership is not just about what you do, but what you can inspire, encourage and empower others to do. Instead of running over the people in your team/organization, engage with them to help you create an amazing and successful race.  Here are three (3) essential steps.

  • Demonstrate concern for your employees – The main question every employee wants answered is, “Do you care about me; can I trust you?” Employees want to know if you care about them. And if you do, they will more likely stay and work with you. Employees are more engaged at work and will work at their highest potential when their leader cares about them.
  • Create a relationship with them – Managers need to focus less on rules and invest more in their work relationships. The result will be an increase in team performance and productivity. Developing a relationship with your employees involves building trust, listening to them, making time for them, recognizing them and mentoring them.
  • Show appreciation– The main reason why people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. Leaders – It’s as easy as saying (or writing) “Thank you.”

The truth is simple: As leaders, when you care about your employees and the people you work with, they are more likely to stay and work harder, with more loyalty and greater positive attitude. In turn, they will share their positive attitude with customers, thus enhancing service and the bottom line. The greatest customer-service strategy has nothing to do with customer service, but it has everything to do with how you treat your employees.  By modeling great service, your employees will provide great service.  Do you agree or disagree?  Have you practiced positive leadership?

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When It Might Be Right to Step Down

There are several reasons that you make a decision to take on a new leadership role:  to challenge yourself, to make a difference, or to reach a career goal. However, whatever your reason, not every promotion turns out to be the best career move or worse is a good fit.  In those situations, you have to decide whether stepping down is the best solution. I understand this is not an easy decision as it can present potential career and professional repercussions. However, staying in a new leadership role that is not a good match clearly does not bode well either.

The decision to step down should be based on abilities and career goals.  Yet many managers let emotional factors such as pride, greed, or fear of not getting another promotion affect their judgment and stop them from doing the best thing for their careers and their reputation.  Here are some things to consider when deciding to step down.

  • Assess your situation:  You generally know within a few weeks into a new position if it is going to work. When you are promoted and you know it is not a perfect fit, you need to make the decision to either step down or stick with it. If you decide to step down, then you need to list all the issues and liabilities you and your company will face if you decide to step down. Review the list and discuss it with your immediate boss. Remember the goal is to keep the impact of your stepping down from negatively affecting you, your boss, or your company.
  • Stepping down does not equate to quitting.   It might just mean that you are not ready to take the job for any number of reasons:  maybe you can not put in the extra time it is going to demand; or maybe you don’t have the required skills and that it is going to become obvious.  You will need to dispel concerns and work with your boss to help them understand that your stepping down is a win-win solution for everyone. The key is to reassure the company that your intentions are good and that you have a compelling reason for why you need to step down from this particular promotion, yet still be a part of the company. Refrain from telling the company how much you hated the new position and keep the conversation positive.
  • Stepping down can be beneficial.  If done correctly, stepping down for the good of your career and the company can win you the respect of senior managers. It is impossible to be truly successful with a new position when you know you can not do the job and meet expectations.  It will cause stress for you and for your boss that will have to manage your performance especially when both of you know it will not turn out good.  While stepping down will decrease stress and responsibility, you should be aware that it will be up to you to begin to prove your worth again and work toward a goal of increasing your skills to take on new challenges. Stepping down can also provide you with the opportunity to gain a new skill base or knowledge.

 Bottom line:  Not every job opening will be right for you, but you should recognize and admit that staying in a job that is not a good match for your skills can be more harmful to your career than stepping down from such a position.  Have you ever been faced with making the decision to step down? 

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