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Five ways to stop being such a lousy manager

Five ways to stop being such a lousy manager

Poor leadership behaviour can cascade down levels of an organisation, which is why several CEOs have been unceremoniously dumped over recent months.

Just last week, the head of $US6 billion US catering company Centreplate,Desmond Hague, was forced to resign after a video emerged of him mistreating a doberman.

The influence of American Apparel founder, Dov Chaney, is still dogging the retailer three months after he was suspended as CEO for unacceptable behaviour with female employees.

Last week, the company’s advertisements were banned for “sexualising school-age girls”.

Meanwhile, many organisations are in strife because their managers are not up to the job.

Principal at the Gallup Organisation, Allan Watkinson, says only one person in 10 has what it takes to be a great manager. Two out of 10 ­can get to a reasonable standard with some coaching ­and support.

Some of the other 70 per cent of managers probably shouldn’t be allowed near other people in a management role, Watkinson told a breakfast ­meeting recently.

A great manager will motivate every employee, will have the assertiveness to push through resistance, create a ­culture of accountability, build ­relationships and make decisions based on productivity, not politics. Gallup research shows that bad management starts early in the rising career of a lousy boss.

“There is a lack of manager DNA and it evolves into the wrong mindset,” he says. “These people get the wrong impression of what a manager is and what motivates people.

“The problem may start with the organisation promoting the wrong person.” Instead of elevating their best “individual contributor” – such as their best salesperson – they should use human resources tools to help identify the best “management material” ­Watkinson says.

Talented individual contributors can be rewarded in other ways. There is no reason they cannot be paid more than their managers, Watkinson says.

Poor managers may also not realise that their day job is to manage people.

Some also have a superiority complex: “A lot of managers think they are more important than their people”.

Watkinson says too many managers make the mistake of trying to fix people’s weaknesses, rather than enhancing their strengths.

“People don’t change that much after about the age of 16,” Watkinson says.

People who focus on their strengths are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life. They are also six times more likely to be successful in their jobs.

As a manager, it is more effective to spend your time developing people who already are talented at their job than it is to spend the same time and effort on remedial coaching.

“If you have too many direct reports [more than 10 or 11], our advice from the research is you focus on your best.

“You are going to have to play ­favourites and that is quite ­controversial for a lot of managers.

“Life is not fair and we are talking about performance here.

“You are going to get more performance out of focusing on and investing in people who already are your best,” he says, referring to a study of speed ­readers, which shows coaching had dramatically more powerful results for those who were already above average.

Watkinson suggests five ways to be a better manager:

1. Make time for your people, focus on their needs as human beings;

2. Focus on helping them play to their strengths;

3. Trust your people and manage to outcomes, not tasks;

4. Realise that their success is your success;

5. Be proactive with your organisation to ensure you are not set up to fail.


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