Is Your Business Suffering From Also-ran Management?

I work with businesses to inject new thinking into their environments and help make them more dynamic.  One of the most common problems I come across is bland management.

I’ve worked in and with a lot of organisations and I’ve seen managers come and go.  Over the years I’ve been watching and learning.  Some are great, some are toxic, but the majority seem to fit into that no-mans-land of ‘also-ran’.

The great ones inspire, involve and grow their people, the toxic ones blame, control and shrink their people and the also-rans blandly conform to the same practices that they’ve seen their predecessors use.

What tends to happen is that the great managers get elevated to places where the masses don’t get access to them, which is a shame.  Toxic managers are eventually found out and their damage is limited.

My biggest worry is the also-rans.  They’re everywhere.  Senior management often know they’re not great, but they don’t quite know why and they actually quite like them.  The result is that thousands of bland managers are squashing innovation and motivation and are preventing businesses from being dynamic and standing out.  It also means that a huge number of staff don’t particularly enjoy their job and that’s the bit that drives me the most.

Also-ran managers get by.  They either stay in the same role for years or they move around, spreading their general blandness like magnolia paint in the back of the decorators van.

Is your business relying on also-ran managers, who are just about keeping things ticking over?

I’m tempted to refer to them as Bob or Sue but my name’s Tracey so I tend to stay away from pigeon-holing people by their names… I think I’ll stick to ‘also-ran’.

These are the common beliefs and behaviours of also-ran managers:

  • They believe that you need clear and consistent controls in place to get your staff to do the right thing
  • They rely on trainers to inspire staff and deliver quality
  • They believe that hierarchy is important, but like to think they have an ‘open door’ policy
  • They love their metrics but don’t often use them to drive change
  • They get slightly irked when other departments interfere
  • Their staff quite like them.  They believe they’re ‘firm but fair’
  • They don’t know how to measure someones effectiveness if there isn’t a score attached
  • They’re big fans of 360 degree feedback for their managers and team leaders.  They think it’s important for them to know what everyone else thinks of them
  • They avoid talking to their people about what they think of their behaviours and approaches and like to stick to facts and figures
  • Their staff objectives focus heavily on the stats.  If they do include extra objectives, they are to ‘review’ or ‘discuss’ something
  • Personal Development Reviews are this annoying thing that they have to do once or twice a year to keep HR happy.  Their staff often dread them
  • They think staff development is about how they score and how many training courses they’ve attended
  • They love customer satisfaction questionnaire scores, as long as they stay consistent and don’t go down more than 2%
  • They’re a bit annoyed that their staff don’t put anything in the staff suggestions box

Recognise any of these?

If you want a great leader, these are the sort of things they’ll be doing:

  • They’ll ensure everyone believes in a clear set of values and personally live up to them
  • They trust their staff and give them autonomy
  • They constantly seek feedback and ideas from their staff and then act on them
  • They invest their own time in the development of their people, standing back and letting go of the power
  • They constantly watch the way people behave; management, staff and customers alike, then use the learnings to improve
  • They continually develop themselves and their environment, through research and new technologies
  • They work collaboratively with other departments to achieve common goals
  • They don’t bother collecting any data that doesn’t drive change
  • They’re passionate about how objectives develop and improve
  • They’re clear about desired outcomes – of meetings, of discussions, of calls, of projects and initiatives…. and then communicate them to make them happen
  • They’re open with staff about their behaviours and actions, but from a developmental perspective, not a disciplinary one
  • Taking risks, sticking their neck out, not always conforming to recognised norms is their norm

Don’t settle for also-ran managers.  If you do you won’t flourish.  But this doesn’t mean that you have to remove them – Develop them, inspire them, mentor them.  Give them the right environment and then they, along with the people they manage will love you for it.

If you don’t know how, I can help.

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