Do Not Overlook This Sign of Leadership Failure


“I may have to remove Walter (the western regional manager),” a CEO said to his human resources (HR) manager after his annual tour of their four regions.

“Really?” replied the HR manager.  “He’s only been there a year and his region is doing pretty well, not great but better than two others.”

“I know but after I explained the changes in our benefits plan to the employees, I did not get a single question.  At all other locations, I was bombarded with questions after my presentation.”

The CEO further explained that lack of employee response suggested that Walter might be a bully leader, and he asked the HR manager to investigate.

After spending several days in the western region, the HR manager reported that employees were indeed afraid of Walter.  Several highly productive employees had recently quit.  A few employees said that Walter, prior to the CEO’s visit, had threatened termination for anyone who made him look bad.  The culture was oppressive, harsh and stressful.

A couple of weeks later, the CEO called Walter to the office and terminated him.  Shortly afterwards, under new leadership, the western region’s performance improved markedly.

The lack of spontaneous and open questioning of leaders’ decisions by employees often indicates failed leadership.

 

How to Survive an Inept Boss


As Samuel described his former leader, “He just didn’t know what he is doing.  He trusted no one and tried to control everything.”

“How did you handle it?” I asked.

“I focused on doing my job well.  I did not want to give him any basis for criticizing my work.”

“Did employees complain about the leader?”

“Absolutely, constantly.  I listened but did not offer advice.

“Did you have a candid conversation with your manager about how he could improve?”

“I didn’t even try.  I knew he wouldn’t listen.”

“Did you go around your manager to talk to higher ups?”

“I did not.  I assumed they knew.  And if they didn’t know, I don’t think they would have listened to me.”

“Why didn’t you quit?”

“I liked my job.  I liked the company and I had bills to pay.”

The employee further explained that he would often help others with their work challenges, and many started coming to him with their questions.  In spite of their frustrations, the team performed fairly well.

Efforts by employees to “fix” an inept leader’s faults rarely work.  While quitting is always an option, a better initial strategy may be to continue performing well and help others.

Coaching Tone May Make A Difference


Elsie admitted that she had a tendency to procrastinate and get distracted. Her manager said, “Elsie, I expect you to verify all invoices, complete payments on time and enter data into the computer accurately.  Otherwise, there could be consequences.”

Elsie improved for about four weeks, then she drifted into carelessness—making mistakes and missing deadlines.

The manager said, “I like Elise but I get frustrated because I have to spend too much time micromanaging her.”

Eventually, Elise’s manager was transferred. Her new manager commented, “After observing Elsie’s performance for a couple of weeks, I sat down with her and in a friendly way worked out checklists and deadlines for completing her tasks.  At least weekly, I reviewed with Elsie her work.

The manager “thanked” Elsie for even her slightest improvements and patiently noted mistakes.  Elsie quickly apologized and immediately corrected the errors.

After about four months, Elsie’s performance, while not perfect, became much more reliable.  “Eventually,” her manager said, “I got acceptable performance from Elsie by asking her to give me weekly updates on her metrics.”

Elsie said, “My first manager made me very nervous.  I knew he didn’t like me, but I really like my current manager.  I don’t want to disappoint her.”

 

 

How to Communicate with a Difficult Boss


“My vice-president is hard to work with,” a manager said to me.

“Do others feel the same way?” I asked.

“Yes, there is general frustration.”

“Exactly, what does the vice president do that causes stress?”

“His meetings last way too long and we still do not agree on what we need to do. He sometimes gives different messages to our staff members than to us.  When someone brings up an issue, he listens.  Then he joins others in identifying why it is an issue, but we do not identify a solution.”

When experiencing noisome relations with someone (including your boss), it is necessary to communicate honestly with the person.  But communication with another about a troubling behavior is akin to walking on tacks.

Pick one, and only one, issue and avoid any mention of what you think the boss may be doing wrong.  Rather, begin with something like, “I think we may be missing some opportunities here.  During our meetings, how about I list the options being discussed?  At some point, I can summarize the ideas and see if we can get support for one of them.”

Don’t expect an immediate miracle turnaround.  Be patient, stay the course, and look for small improvements.

 

Why Good Employees Quit


“In thirteen years, I’ve worked for two companies,” Albertson said.  “Managers tell me that I’m a conscientious employee, and I’ve had very good performance reviews in all of my jobs.”

“Why did you leave the first company?” I asked.

“I was there six years.  I liked the work and I had opportunities for advancement.  I got a new manager in my third year and our relationship was shoddy.  He was a good person but always hovered over my work and was quick to second-guess any initiative I might take.”

Albertson continued to explain that his manager had very little experience in the tasks that he performed and tended to micromanage.  Albertson described his manager as a negative person and was not always clear about what he expected.

Eventually, Albertson left for a job in another company at lower pay.  Albertson has remained with the second company for seven years.  He likes the work and has been promoted.  Albertson says his current manager cares about him and is very clear about expectations.

Gallup polls show that seventy-five percent of employees who voluntarily leave their company do so because of poor relationships with bosses.  Employees join companies but they leave bosses.