Why Good Leaders Fail…

2011/12/26

The internet and even book shelves are filled with numerous articles on the traits of bad managers, and some traits of good managers too. It might sound a bit ironic, but all my time spent on reading and searching has proven this – there are more bad managerial traits than there are the good ones available in any format.

But there are those that fall in-between, ones that were good managers, got excellent results for the business through people, created a thriving environment for everybody to grow, ensured individual motivators are leveraged to achieve key results, and in the process let a few of them grow, and if possible, even over grow themselves. I know these kind of idealistic phrases are generally associated with angels and some religious representations that cannot take a human form, but I have come across a few people (very few though!!!) who are capable of this. But the moment you put them in another environment or organization, they start to break down. All parts of the phrase above reflect the exact opposite now. They miserably fail in meeting the expectations of their direct reports and managers. They lose touch with reality and sometimes it also affects the lives of people around.

So why do such managers fail in one environment, while been wildly successful in another? These are some reasons that I have come across in my experience. Please do feel free to add your thoughts too.

  • The value systems are entirely different – Weather they move from a mature to an immature value system or vice versa, there is a natural tendency to under-perform. And if they move from a non-political (trust me, there are such for-profit organizations) to a highly political environment, it becomes a turmoil.
  • Parameters for trust are entirely different – If you read my posts even irregularly, you would have guessed it by now. I’m a stickler for trust. Some of my friends even call me an old-school person. Either way, I’ve been in situations where trust means different things for different people. In fact, I’ve been in situations where trust does not hold any meaning at all. So, if what we mean by trust is entirely different, between team members, peers and our supervisors, then this is a sure-fire recipe for failure.
  • The new manager is not as mature as you – This is again a sure-fire recipe for total disaster. You have gained experience the hard way, making terrible mistakes, embarrassing yourself, doing a few right things – basically the hard way. But your new manager is, hmm, political and raw. And then the conflict of interests starts. Either way, please remember, you are never going to win a battle with such a boss. Either work around them, or just work in a different place.
  • The manager is not able to establish credibility with the new team – This is entirely up to the manager. If the manager had been working with a team for a few years, then it is more like a known devil situation. But, direct and indirect reports don’t look at new manager as an unknown angel. The sooner the manager establishes credibility, the better. This is best done by exactly defining goals, guidelines to reach them and what will happen if those goals are not met or met. This will ensure people really don’t care about the person and concentrate on results. Not being popular is much better than making people chase shadows to be liked by a few people.
  • The Manger is probably too “good” – A lot of manager fall into this trap – in fact I’ve been there too when I started out as a first line manager almost 8 years back. They take management as a popularity contest and fail on their basic responsibilities – defining goals that directly impact the business, and helping the team achieve them too. This urge for being popular becomes all the more imperative when the manager takes charge of a new team.

So what do you think? Why do leaders fail sometimes, while being wildly successful elsewhere?

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How can you motivate your manager

2010/02/11

We come across numerous articles on how to motivate team members and most of them typically revolve around some of the points listed below:

  • Working with a responsive boss
  • High levels of trust displayed by the direct supervisor
  • Having a proper reward systems in place
  • Interesting and challenging responsibilities
  • Working in a good work environment
  • Being paid on par with the other players in the industry
  • Etc…

A lot of people management training also focuses on many key parameters including some listed above. But at the other side of the spectrum, the manager is a human being too, who needs motivation to perform better and help the team perform better. I guess we all pretty much agree that any human relationship must be a mutually beneficial and conductive engagement, and in my opinion, a supervisor-subordinate relationship is (and should be) no different. As much as it is the responsibility of the manager to motivate team members, there are a few things we can also do to motivate our managers. These are not impossible things to do, but doing these would only keep us in the good books of the manager – without compromising our values that is.

Being a can-do team member – Agreed, it is the responsibility of manager to build a can-do team, but certain times, people are so judgmental that even honest intentions are taken otherwise. If we are approached by our manager for some “challenging assignment”, please understand that he/she has picked us among the lot because we have shown behavioral traits to overcome challenges. There is no reason to cringe additional responsibility, rather we can be proud of the fact that we are the chosen one. Its better to discuss and work around challenges, than being defensive. Honestly, do you believe your manager would respond to you positively if you don’t?

Trusting your manager – Like it or not, believe it or not, your manager has more challenges than you can imagine. Expecting our manager to disclose all information before starting off anything is not feasible. Yes, trust is a mutual thing, but once we see traits of trust in our manager, is it not our responsibility to respond appropriately? Do you expect the manager to unconditionally trust you without reciprocation?

Understanding the reward system and working with it – It is generally not uncommon to crib about the reward system when we see a peer being rewarded and not us. If there is a proper reward system in place, it is better to understand the parameters and work towards them. If we can’t figure it, just ASK!!! It is not right to brand a system/decision biased without understanding it properly.

Taking Initiatives – Responsibility is generally given to people who display traits of handling the the unknown. The best to way to do it is by taking initiatives – I mean “initiating” things on our own and seeing it to completion. Just completing the assigned responsibilities is not the ticket to promotions or bigger things – it just ensures our paycheck.

Not being the negative force of the team – We all want to work in a good, professional work environment. But isn’t the environment is made of & by people who are part of it? What have we done to make the environment better for our part? At least, what have we done to ensure we don’t make it worser? Being a cribber, pretender, back stabber, the greedy goon, the office bully are the best ways to ensure we get noticed for all the wrong reasons. Work life balance is one of the most discussed topics these days, but sometimes I get the feeling that having a good work life balance is all about having the ability to dump work to attend to personal things – please correct me if I’m wrong.

Not expecting unrealistic and undeserved salary hikes – We all need money to survive, but honestly, is that the only reason we work for? If yes, be rest assured that we cannot find peace even if we work for a peace mission. If no, ponder over (and give feedback) on the points suggested above.

This is just a suggestive list and I’m hoping for comments from everyone for a better understanding. And if you feel you perfectly fit the bill and still not getting your due, then the best advice you can get is to dump your current job and move on.

Note: I have a manager too!!


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