Do We Need To Rethink How We Hire Managers?

I can still hear the advice that was given to me years ago loud and clear, “You want to be a manager if you want to move up in the world”.  Being a manager is what most of us see as the first step in climbing the proverbial corporate ladder.  Depending what organization you work for and what industry you work in, being a manager is the prerequisite to director and vice president and so forth.   But what actually makes a good manager, and how do you evaluate that?

Not everyone is cut out for management
Not everyone is cut out for management

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic suggests that “The Best Managers are Boring Managers”.  In his article on Harvard Business Review, Thomas writes that “it is time for organizations to understand that their best potential managers are not the people who stand out; they are not the people who self-promote and take credit for others’ achievements, or have mastered the art of politics and upward career management. They may lack charisma and have no remarkable vision for the future, yet they are probably the best people to help execute the company vision and ensure that staff stays engaged and productive”.  Could this be true?  Well if you think about it, a manager is successful as long as his or her team can come through for them.  So it would make sense if a manager’s top priority would be to motivate the team to work at their best.  In order to do that, a good manager would want to put the needs of their team before any of their own.  Ego would be have to left at the door. 

If a good manager is one that is on the constant look out for his or her team, then one suggestion would be for the team to have a voice in managerial promotion and evaluation.  That was the suggestion by Tariq Ahmad in his post, “Should organizations ‘Promote Down’ instead of ‘Promote Up?’”.  Tariq writes that, “while a person who wants to be promoted wants to impress upper management (and may have all the requisites necessary to succeed at the next level), the colleagues and direct reports of those people might not like working with them or don’t speak highly of them, which could be an indicator of what type of future manager/director/VP this person might (or might not) be”.  It’s definitely and interesting point, especially considering that “Bad Managers Are the No. 1 Reason People Leave Their Jobs”, according to PayScale.

So what does it all add up to?  Well it goes to show that not everyone is cut out for management, and that’s ok.  Companies need to give employees other ways to move up the corporate ladder without necessarily getting into management, or management of people anyway. 

How is management handled where you are, and do you feel that the process needs to change?

Can Leadership Be Taught?

I’ve had a recent love hate relationship with Twitter. There are times that I go and check my feed and I just don’t see anything that I want to respond to, and at others times the conversation drags me in and I can spend hours chatting. The latter happened recently when I was online one night and happened to see the #SocialLeader chat in my feed. The official topic was “The Threat and Promise of Autonomous Teams” and leadership was a focus of some of the questions the host asked. A comment was made saying that some leadership skills couldn’t be taught, and I didn’t quite agree with that.

Can leadership be learned? Photo Credit: Svilen Milev /
Can leadership be learned? Photo Credit: Svilen Milev /

First let’s define what attributes a good leader should have. And since I don’t expect you to take my word for it, here’s what Peter Economy lists in his article on, The 9 Traits That Define Great Leadership: Awareness, Decisiveness, Empathy, Accountability, Confidence, Honesty, Focus, and Inspiration. If those are the traits of a good leader, the question is are we born with or without those traits, or can they be acquired or learned? Can leadership be taught?

I do believe that some people are born natural leaders. Some people just happen to have it in them to lead and they can lead well. They don’t get nervous in the spotlight, they make good decisions quickly, and motivating others seemingly comes easy to them. If you happen to be one that has these gifts naturally, you’re at an advantage. If you don’t happen to be one of these people, are you just out of luck?

There’s a difference between learning a skill and being comfortable using it. If public speaking doesn’t come naturally it’s still something that you can practice and learn to be good at, but that doesn’t mean it makes it much easier to get in front of a crowd and talk. Case in point, I was recently watching The Next Food Network Star, and one contestant clearly was not comfortable in front of the camera. Towards the end of the season, he was able to learn how to relax and embrace being on camera. But it didn’t make it any easier for him, and I’ll bet that if you asked him that he would tell you the same. It is a skill that he didn’t naturally have, but had to acquire.

Just because people seem to be born with some leadership traits doesn’t automatically make them good leaders. There are plenty of people that love to take command and throw their voice around and act with confidence, but can’t get anyone to follow them.

Ultimately I do think that you can learn to be a leader, and that it’s not either you have it or you don’t. What are your thoughts?

A Glimpse Of Real Leadership

A Glimpse Of Real Leadership
Is your leader worth following? Photo credit © VinothChandar
There are plenty of blogs and articles devoted to leadership, and it kind of makes me wonder if there is a shortage of really good leaders. A short while ago I had the honor of experiencing an example of what real leadership is, and I’ll never forget it.

The experience wasn’t some grand presentation or speech, or award winning plan or huge sale. It wasn’t some martyr syndrome act of perceived sacrifice either. Instead it was a simple text message to ask if I was ok. That’s it. No grandiose chest thumping self-promotion, just a quiet, simple text message. In fact the only spotlight it will ever receive is due to this blog post. It was an ego-free, kind act of unselfishness.

This person that I had the pleasure of working with understood the value of relationships and the value of people, when it came to building a team. This person also understood the power of motivation and knew how to motivate others. And that was through transparency and a dedication to building genuine relationships. Whenever I spoke to this person, I never got the sense that they were looking past me or uninterested in the conversation. This person understood that a leader is nothing without a team to back them up. I’d work for this person again in a heartbeat.

Do you have any personal examples of real leadership to share? I’d love to hear them.

Are You An “Un-motivational Expert” In The Workplace?

Are you sapping all of the energy out of your employees? Photo © Cristiano Betta
Are you sapping all of the energy out of your employees? Photo © Cristiano Betta
In this day and age, jobs are more than just a paycheck. Employees want to be challenged and motivated by the jobs they hold. Motivating employees can be tough; each person is unique and can respond to different motivational tactics differently. But sometimes we can demotivate our employees without realizing it. In no particular order, here are some things you can do to demotivate your employees.

Don’t give them any goals
You might think that the daily responsibilities that each employee has is enough to motivate them, but I would disagree. Your workers need a goal to work towards. Goals give employees something to aim for, something to achieve. The potential success of achieving goals set for them motivates employees to do their best work.

Give them goals that are too easy
Easy goals to attain are a quick way of building up someone’s confidence and keeps people interested, initially. But after a while easy goals just encourage laziness. Eventually people will know the minimal effort they’ll need to give to attain the easy goals and they’ll be done.

Give them goals that are impossible
The complete opposite of having no goals or goals that are too easy is giving your employees goals that are impossible to attain. This might work at the start of a new job, but constant failure gets old very fast, especially when people realize that it no matter how hard they try, they’ll fail anyway.

Don’t empower them
A really quick way to demotivate those working for you is to give them no responsibility. If your employees have no decision making ability whatsoever, chances are they aren’t going to stick around for very long.

Micromanage them
Along the same lines of empowerment, or lack thereof, always watching your employees every move to make sure they’re doing things the way you want them too is another really quick way to demotivate them.

Don’t listen to their ideas
Yes, your staff was hired to do a job, but they were also hired because they brought some skill that was deemed useful to the organization. Let’s face it, managers don’t know everything, nor should they be expected to. If you consistently shoot down your employees ideas, or don’t even bother to ask for any, they’ll slowly stop contributing.

Put them where they don’t fit
As a manager, you should know what your employees’ strengths and weaknesses are. If you don’t, then you’re placed in the wrong role. Placing people in roles that they’re not suited for is a quick way for people to lose interest.

I would love to hear your feedback on this topic. I think at times we focus a lot of on what motivates others (and rightfully so) that we don’t consider the opposite which could be happening right at this moment unintentionally. What did I miss? In your experience, what other ways have you been demotivated at work?

Same Old Different Day. Sound Familiar?

Done anything new lately? © Leyram Odacrem
Done anything new lately? © Leyram Odacrem
Do you find yourself using this phrase often? Same old, different day. I do, but usually it’s when someone is asking me how I’m doing or how my day is going. It’s a great response for implying routine, applicable for things like the daily commute to work. But if this response describes your business model, then you might be in for some tough times in the future. Businesses that want to get ahead and stay ahead need to keep pushing the envelope to stay better than the competition. That doesn’t mean they need to dive into everything that’s new and up and coming, but at the very least they must explore all options. This direction, or change of direction, must come from the top. The leader of your business, big or small, must be an advocate for change and innovation.

Don’t fear the unknown
As a leader you can’t fear the unknown. You have to have a healthy respect of the unknown, but you can’t fear it. I had the privilege of coaching basketball for 10 years, and for those 10 years I found myself having to constantly change things in order to stay ahead of the competition. Some of those changes meant trying new plays, which meant more failure before success, but it was those news plays that kept our opponents off guard and guessing as to what we would do next. I also found that trying new plays was motivating for the players. Implementing new plays was risky, but I limited the risk by doing a lot of research and studying first. I was able to implement plays that best suited the skills of my players. Don’t fear the unknown, instead have a healthy respect for the unknown and do your research and then apply the best strategy. I think that you will find that if you try implement new things with a clear strategy and plan for action, your employees will be challenged and motivated.

Always be willing to learn
It is impossible to know it all. While I was coaching basketball I always said that the minute I stopped wanting to learn more about the game and how to be a better coach is the minute I should stop coaching. After being successful it’s very easy to fall into a routine and become comfortable and complacent. But being too comfortable and complacent will open the door for competition to catch you and jump ahead. So I kept learning by watching basketball and studying the methods and plays that successful college coaches used for their teams. While putting in new plays kept the team ahead of the competition, the players were motivated by my desire to always want to better the team. It is also important that you learn from those you lead. Not only will this motivate them, but they will also bring in new ideas that you have not thought of.

Sometimes you need new faces
Rotating the same people into the different positions just gives you the same ideas from different positions. Sometimes in order to get new ideas you need to find new people. Enough said.

How do you change up the “same old different day” mentality? What methods of change do you find work well?

What’s Your Value Add?

Question Mark
What have you done lately? © Eleaf

I remember having a conversation with someone (a while back) and they asked me about projects that I had worked on. After going through my roles on the various projects, I’ll never forget what was said to me:

“You use the word ‘team’ and ‘we’ a lot when describing what you did, and that’s great because I know you’re a team player, but what have YOU done?”

The question stopped me dead in my tracks. Sure I had been a “valuable” part of a team that completed multiple major and groundbreaking projects successfully, and I was always praised for my hard work and dedication, but what did I contribute? Outside of taking direction and completing task after task in a timely manner did I do anything of significance? Did I lead any of the projects in any way, or did I bring new ideas to the table and implement them? The answer was no, and I told myself that had to change.

I’m not saying that having a good work ethic and dedication to the job isn’t valuable, because it is. But to me it’s not enough to set you apart from anyone else. It doesn’t make you irreplaceable. Working hard and being dedicated to your job is something that every employee SHOULD be. Your value add is when you’re proactive about things and bring new ideas to the table.

Have you ever thought about your value add where you work? What sets you apart from those around you?