The Problematic Manager

Part 1 of 5 in the People Leave series

You can tell if a manager is effective by observing their team’s performance and cohesion. An effective manager knows their team members’ strengths and challenges relative to their jobs.  They can anticipate when to guide and how much guidance to provide. They understand that a team’s cohesion will depend on allowing people to do what they do best.  They know who is happy, who isn’t (and why). They communicate clearly about a path forward, providing their team members a vision for the future. 

In Gallup’s  2015 State of the American Manager report*, one out of every two professionals surveyed said they had quit a job at some point in their career to “get away” from their boss. But problematic managers aren’t always the villains. Some common situations I see are:

  • A top performer is rewarded with a promotion and finds that their natural talents aren’t a match for key requirements of the new job
  • The new manager is given more responsibility without the resources and support they need to do their job well
  • The new manager wants to make a good impression and won’t admit to being challenged

What you can do:

  • Take the time to evaluate the fit of the manager – if they’re not a good fit, how can you provide support to grow the skills needed for top performance?
  • Is the manager feeling overwhelmed?  What additional support and resources can you offer to help them succeed?
  • Have weekly or bi-weekly one on one meetings with the manager and focus on opening the lines of communication with them to identify areas where you can offer support and coaching.  Are you speaking their language?

*Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report can be viewed here.

Magic Happens When Talent and Jobs Align

I’m fascinated by the subtle things that people do in their jobs that make them uniquely talented at what they do.  I’m not talking about education or training. I’m talking about something special, a unique talent that makes an individual shine brighter.   In “First, Break All the Rules” by Markus Buckingham & Curt Coffman, there’s a great example of this.

Gallup was asked by a large entertainment company to help them find more housekeepers like their best. They assembled eight of this company’s best housekeepers. They asked them: “How do you know if a room is clean?” They said that the last thing they did before leaving a room was to lie on the guest’s bed and turn on the ceiling fan.  

Why? “Because,” they explained, “that is the first thing that a guest will do after a long day out. They will walk into the room, flop down on the bed and turn on the fan. If dust comes off the top of the fan, then no matter how sparkling clean the rest of the room is, the guest might think it’s as dirty as the top of the fan.” These housekeepers viewed the hotel room as the guest’s world. When they cleaned the room they imagined how a guest would see it and making the room just right gave them satisfaction.

They considered themselves as front-of-house employees who set the stage for the guest. For example, if children left stuffed animals in the room, the housekeepers – with the guests’ permission – would arrange the animals to tell a story. When the family arrived after an outing they might find Pooh and Piglet sitting on pillows holding the remote control with an arm in the candy jar as if they had spent the day snacking and watching TV.

I love that!

The work I do is about identifying talent and comparing it to a job’s needs. While I can’t measure that unique subtle thing, what I know for sure is that if someone’s talents match the needs of the job, they’ll be happy doing the job and those subtle somethings will come through automatically.  When we work in a job that needs what we have to offer we feel competent and that feeling of competence sets those unique and subtle talents free.