Have you ever had a manager who has a last minute request, “I need this now!” The more extreme version of this is, “I need this yesterday.” Usually, this is a new last-minute request, and this can be very disruptive and annoying to employees, and a sure sign that the manager is “managing from a deficit.”
Now, I’m not talking about jobs where there is a last-minute nature to the job. A firefighter’s job, is, by definition, a “last-minute” kind of job. The firefighter’s boss will no doubt say, “We need to do this right away!” But there is a lot of preparation that firefighters engage in – with the aid and coordination of their bosses — that goes into meeting the demands of that “last minute” request known as a fire.
I’m talking about a boss who interrupts your job to request something new, and it is needed soon. And this request is made with urgency, perhaps with some yelling involved. These are requests that are metaphoric fires, not actual fires.
So if you are someone on a team that seems to have a lot of “fires”, then read on.
Let’s take a look at some of the sources of these last minute requests (a.k.a., fires):
1. Is the request primarily to assure the manager looks better to his manager?
A common source of this kind of last minute request is to provide assistance to the manager in helping him report up to his manager what is going on, most likely the request of the manager above her. So, ironically, the request keeps rolling downhill. If you have an organization with more than three levels, you have at least three “sources” for needs for updates. If the upper management team does this consistently, such last-minute requests can start to appear to be the norm. For example, let’s say that the upper management decides to schedule an “all team meeting” and wants all of managers in the group need to present to the team. And it’s going to happen next week. Last minute request spawned!
So the team needs to stop what they are doing and instead create a report on what they are doing. When this happens, the manager is asking the team to take the “hit” and not the manager. The manager should have the option to say to his manager, “This would disrupt my team in achieving its goals, which have already been prioritized” and provide the level of reporting already agreed upon. The request can be made to add it to future reports, as part of the core team deliverables. The manager can choose to make an exception and start the “metaphorical” fire, but should also note this as an opportunity to renegotiate what reporting –and the timing of it– the upper management needs. Read more
A lot of things go wrong in business and at work. One thing that shouldn’t go wrong is the manager being the one who is surprised when things go bad. In fact, it is the specific job of the manager NOT to be the one who is surprised when things go wrong.
Have you ever had a manager who yells, “What happened?” “How could that have happened!” Then the manager gets mad at whoever could be responsible, or perhaps mad at the messenger, “I can’t believe you did this!” “What kind of incompetent crap is going on here?” “Go fix it and don’t come back until it is!” “How come this project line item has status of red?!!”
Ah, these are symptoms of a manager who acts surprised when something goes bad. So much to say on this topic! I’ll start with this: It’s the manager’s job NOT to be surprised.
The manager is supposedly the one with the greatest visibility of the work environment and output, who understands the best who is on the team, and what the team ought to be working on. The manager is the one who should know the approximate quality of the team output and what aspects of it can be better.
It is the manager’s role to know the risks of the work activity and where it could go bad. When a bad event from one of these risks manifests — whether it was a known risk or an unknown risk — it is still the manager’s job to know that this kind of stuff does happen.
When the manager is surprised by events, this is a clear indicator that the manager is managing from a deficit. In my discussion of managing from a deficit in previous articles, the manager attempts to take short cuts to managing, thereby announcing to the team that he is no manager. He is, instead, someone who was given the role of the manager, but is not performing the role of the manager.
Many managers want things to just get done. Or they want their employees to just resolve the issue. Or they want their employees to just answer the question. Or they want their employees to just stop doing something they don’t like.
However, this could be more of a symptom of the manager’s poor behaviors and less a symptom of the employees’ inability to perform. In all of these examples, the usage of the word “just” implies a need to take a short-cut to better performance. It’s also an indicator that the manager is “managing from a deficit.”
It’s a great marker – the word “just.” Check yourself each time you use it. Let’s look at some sample situations:
–The manager receives a report and says, “Just give me the high level summary.”
–The manager sees people unable to come to a recommendation and says, “Just figure it out and get back to me.”
–The manager sees in the metrics that errors are up and says, “Just do what it takes to stop making these errors.”
In these examples, the manager is making a request to get something resolved – without making any effort to resolve it. What great management! Wouldn’t it be great to have this skill?
The Manager by Design blog advocates for a new field called Management Design. The idea is that the creation of great and effective Managers in organizations should not occur by accident, but by design. Currently, the creation of great managers falls under diverse, mostly organic methods, which create mixed results at best. This is the latest of a series that explores the existing designs that create managers in organizations. Today’s design: Make the loudest person the manager.
“Loud” in this context can mean many different things:
–The person with the most booming voice
–The person who is quick to raise his or her voice
–The person who speaks up the most
–The person who makes the most dramatic flourishes
–The person who enjoys public speaking the most
–The person who shouts others down
The main benefit of this “design” is that you get ready-built confidence and appearance of authority. It also is intuitive that the person who is loudest seems to have the most “natural leadership ability” and can “command the room” the best. This is great design if this is what your conception of what a manager is – someone who stands before others, commanding and billowing orders. It’s a common notion that has rung true through the years. The opposite of this seems very hazardous: A “technocrat” who is “meek” and doesn’t know how to lead. Thus it is a popular design: Promote the loudest and the others will follow.
But there are some problems with this design. Read more
Many managers yell at their employees. Some managers feel the need to shout at the employees to get them to start working work or work harder. Perhaps you’ve heard managers repeat, “Just get it done!” Here are some similar behaviors: Managers getting angry, barking, being impatient, and announcing their worry or panic over a situation.
This means that the manager is losing (or has lost) effectiveness at being a manager. It is a reflection that the team isn’t behind the manager, and that the manager keeps returning to the same, ineffective methods for getting the team to perform (yelling, admonition).
If you are a manager doing this, you are “managing from a deficit.” You are behind the game, and you are losing. What you are doing isn’t working, and you are not getting the results or performance you need from your team. You need to turn this around, but there are no shortcuts. In fact, that’s what got you into this hole in the first place. Read more