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?


When Am I a Successful Manager?

2011/03/28

Being a manager means so many things to so many people. And unfortunately, success for a manager is also defined in so many different ways that it’s a rare chance two people will always give the same answer if ever asked. These are something’s I see as success indicators for a manager, but then, these are my opinions and experiences, and could be right, wrong or even left. Looking forward for thoughts, comments and of course, criticism too.

Success for a manager can probably be seen in two ways, success in terms of business results and success in terms of team’s performance. When it comes to team’s performance:

  • Success is not about low turn around rates always. More than low turn around rates, success for a manager is also about where and how people from the team are placed once they move out. A team member sticking to a particular team or manager may not only be a result of his/her preference, but also the fact that the manager has not enabled the people he/she is responsible for enough to actually be successful beyond the particular job function. This is dicey for both the team and the manager. It could well be because the manager actually does not think beyond the current role for both the team and himself/herself.
  • Being popular need not mean being successful. This is probably the most clichéd quote, so I’m probably not going to explain this further. That being said, being unpopular with the team and popular with executives is not a sign of success either. A truly successful manager is popular with both the team and the management – and not for antics, but for results.
  • Another key success trait for a manager is when each and every reportee of him/her knows exactly what is expected of them. This could again sound clichéd, but more than knowing what is expected, I also feel it is important for a manager to share exactly what each of the performance standards mean and how a person will be rated during the dreaded performance cycles. I feel every reportee should know what each performance parameter means to the manager, what is the scale of rating, and what each point in the scale means.
  • Also important is the knowledge of what it takes to move to the next level. This sets a level playing field, and also shows that the manager is truly interested in the success of his/her people not just in the current job roles, but also larger ones.

Success from business results stand point of view is actually pretty simple. Whatever you do, please meet customer expectations!!! Sounds simple right? But this is probably the toughest thing for any manager to do. There is so much talk about “customer delight” in the Indian IT industry in particular, but honestly, customers would be more than happy if we just meet their expectations I guess. This was the success mantra of Flipkart.com, and boy have they grown!!! Reflecting on the instances when we were customers, I’m sure we will agree that we will be more than happy if Chinese food smelt and tasted like Chinese food, and being exquisite etc will only be over and above satisfying that primary need.

What do you think? These are just a set of thoughts I could think of, and would definitely add more when I think of them.


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