Archive for November, 2009

Micro-managers suck

There’s no way to state this delicately. Micro-managers suck. It’s one of the many drawbacks to people in positions of authority. It completely undermines any attempt at successful leadership.

Micro-managers create a stifling work environment. What’s the primary characteristic of a micro-manager? She wants to be in control of everything – down to how many paperclips were used last month by the organization and how many times someone went to the restroom and why.

This appetite for control puts colleagues in a pinch because they are frequently spending valuable time developing plans or strategies as well as compiling monthly progress reports. I wouldn’t ever argue that outcomes assessment is not necessary and a structure to guide someone in their path to achieving a task has its merit. The question is, to what degree? Micro-managers shackle their employees and colleagues with strategies and reports to the extent that it’s completely counterproductive because it wastes valuable time. And why do micro-managers request all of these plans and reports? Because they don’t know everything about everything, BUT they want you and everyone else on the team to THINK that they know everything about everything. And if they don’t, at least, have all pertinent information at their fingertips, they feel powerless.

Micro managing creates a negative environment as well for a couple of reasons. One, it proves that the boss has an insatiable need for control. Second, it demonstrates that the boss doesn’t trust the people on staff to perform the tasks at hand with the talent and skill that they brought to the position. Third, it shows a lack of recognition that most humans think and work differently than the person in the cubicle next to her. If you want a bunch of clones working for you, how do you expect to come up with creative solutions to the challenges your company faces?

Finally, the negative environment is punctuated by the regular “beat down.” By exercising this maniacal control, the micro-manager holds his employees strictly to the plans that have been developed. If the task is not carried out or accomplished in the precise manner it was recorded in “the plan,” you can count on being chastised for not completed your assigned tasks.

One of the things that I discovered from the successful female leaders featured in Final Four Leadership is that they hire good people and they trust those people to perform at a high level. They ask for input and feedback, and while they readily acknowledge that they might not always implement that input and feedback, it often informs their decision making process, and they want to hear that contribution on a consistent basis. They also bring people to their team who might not necessarily think and work the same as others on the team, but their core values are solid and the variety of thought makes a positive contribution to the team’s success.

Being a micro-manager is prohibitive to good leadership, and it prevents your colleagues from producing their best work.

Posted by on November 27th, 2009 No Comments

U.S. News Got it Wrong

Leadership does not have a political stripe, not is its success restricted or dictated by gender. But in the recent, annual publication of “America’s Best Leaders,” U.S. News & World Report has gotten it wrong. I’m going to use this publication for several forthcoming posts, because I find the U.S. News piece interesting, to say the least. In the first article in this issue, reporter Ken Walsh does a sit-down interview with Presiden Obama and the topic of discussion is crisis leadership.

The entire problem with Walsh’s article is that he relies upon opinions from David Axelrod, who’s a senior adviser and a long-time Obama friend, as well as the interview with the President himself. What’s wrong with this approach? It’s pretty simple, but of course Axelrod and Obama are going to speak glowingly about the President’s leadership qualities. They need to. They have to. But what I would’ve preferred Walsh do in this article would be to remove himself from the Oval Office when writing this story because it’s certainly tainted his piece.

If he would’ve written this story from an objective distance, he would see what many Americans now know, and many are coming to see. President Obama lacks the basic fundamentals for presidential leadership. Which goes back to a thought I had in a previous post. Mainly, that Americans have forgotten what good leaders are made of.

The three fundamental areas where the President has failed from a leadership standpoint are: trust, accountability, and authenticity. There are other leadership shortcomings in our President, but these three strike me as the most essential. Because if you don’t begin with these three, you can’t progress to higher level, despite glowing commentary from Axelrod or well-thought out rhetoric by President Obama.

The President has demonstrated that he can’t be trusted because he’s violated a number of his campaign promises. Have presidents past gone against things they’ve promised in their campaign? Absolutely. You can’t tell the people you’re going to do one thing and then either do another, or completely ignore what it was you told the people you were going to do. Second, this administration has a penchant for blaming other people for their shortcomings. I wrote about the blame game in a recent post as well, and I don’t want to rehash that entire piece. But if you can’t accept accountability for the outcomes of your actions, you can’t be an effective leader. Finally, President Obabma, like almost every politician in the world, fails the authenticity test. In other words, his persona changes based on the environment he is in. He’s a fake, and most people, regardless of intelligence or any other factor, can detect a phony from a mile away.

We’ll look at this U.S. News stuff some more.

Posted by on November 19th, 2009 No Comments

It’s Not My Fault

I’ll admit it right from the start. I’ve played the blame game. I’m not proud of it. It sets the wrong tone for my daughters and for others surrounding me. I regret it as soon as the denial leaves my mouth…but it happens anyway. More often than I’d like for it to happen.

One of the foundational principles that the successful female leaders I interviewed adhere to on a consistent basis is accountability. That is, no matter what happens, no matter the outcome, the head coach is accountable for her program, her staff and her players. Regardless of the scenario, the head coach is responsible for what happens. If a player gets into some trouble off the court, the coach steps in to try to help remedy the situation. Regardless of the fact that a coach or a boss in any business, cannot be responsible for their employees or colleagues 24/7. If the team endures a season less successful than anticipated, or less successful than the standards that are expected of that program, the coach accepts responsibility for that outcome.

When the University of Tennessee Lady Vols failed to advance to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament last year for the first time in the history of the tournament, head coach Pat Summitt didn’t blame the players, didn’t blame her colleagues, the team trainer, or the fans. She essentially said she would work to rectify the situation. Now, some would think it crazy that a college coach whose team won more than 20 games and made it to the NCAA tournament would not be satisfied with those results. But you’re talking about Tennessee, the best program in the history of women’s college athletics. When you begin your preseason practices with the goal of WINNING the national championship, anything less than that is difficult to accept for those involved in that program. Players don’t go to Tennessee to be mediocre.

Which leads to the question, why do people fail to take accountability for their department, for their program, for their own actions? It might be considered “old school” but it seems pretty simple…Do what you say you’re going to do. If you can’t, don’t blame other people or entities. Just work harder to fix what you can and perform better the next time.

One of the reasons people fail to be accountable is that we often operate out of fear. We live in a business climate that is essentially win-at-all-costs. So if you don’t win, what happens? Usually, you’re fired. Bosses that are punitive, rather than collaborative and contemplative, produce employees who fear failure and, consequently, don’t want to accept accountability when things don’t unfold as planned.

The one big problem with a punitive mindset is that it prevents your colleagues from performing to the best of their ability. If employees, colleagues, players, or children are constantly operating under a premise of fear, then they are going to play it safe. They’re not going to push the proverbial envelope, because if they do and fail, somebody’s got to take the fall. That’s hardly the recipe for encouraging initiative, innovation, and creativity. CEOs, directors, bosses, coaches, teachers, et al, who, on the other hand, do not punish when the ultimate prize is not achieved, inevitably earn a greater return.

Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw said that one of the things she absolutely loves is when her assistant coaches demonstrate accountability to one another. It fosters greater cooperation and trust between colleagues, a greater cohesion to the work effort, and, in the end it filters down to the team. McGraw said one of the things that she and her staff discuss with the players is the concept of accountability. However, she cautions that most often, people will not volunteer to be accountable. It has to be encouraged, and, in the case of McGraw and her staff, practiced and modeled.

Posted by on November 2nd, 2009 No Comments