Tough, fair, frank, straight-forward, reliable: All words that would, in my opinion, be descriptions of the type of manager you would be glad to have as a boss or working for you. Drive-by, seagull, and pain in the anatomy are not descriptions that readily come to mind as award-winning titles to be given to top managers and business leaders. Unfortunately, all too often, those in authority positions do take one of those prizes.
The Drive-By Manager
You know the drive-by manager: he/she shoots from the hip, is quick on the draw for a response while short on facts and information, and collateral damage is just part of doing business. Oh, and someone else is always responsible for the clean up and the damage control.
Shtuff happens, and it falls where it may—and it falls frequently on the passersby: employees, clients, vendors and even casual observers. This classic management style is the quintessential manager when it comes to making shtuff happen. It just seems to happen spontaneously wherever he/she goes, and it goes on and on and gains momentum as it rolls downhill. It gathers speed, mass and bodies as it approaches all those who try to stop shtuff from happening and achieve real progress and results.
The Anatomical Pain
Then there is the final and ultimate category of dysfunctional management: the anatomical pain. These strike throughout the organization, causing headaches, neck aches, backaches and aches in other anatomical regions. They are the source and motivation for drive-bys and seagulls. They are the managers who, through position and experience and yes, often political or personal relationships, have risen to the penultimate position in the organization where they do because they can. That is their way is the way because they are a bit like the “I think, therefore I am.” They can decree because they are “manager”!
Reality Check on Management
Yes these descriptions and labels are given with “tongue in cheek” and with good-natured laughter, but with the grain of salt and truth that comes from reality. You have undoubtedly experienced (or will experience) managers who resemble these descriptions. These people may be very nice and well intentioned; they may also be very skilled, educated and talented. But if they are getting in the way of the organization’s success, the team’s morale, the ability of the project to meet deliverables, and are just becoming the constraint on getting things done, then something needs to be done.
All too often organizations are willing to accommodate, placate, work around, or otherwise tread water and let time slip away trying to outwait, outlast, or let the manager “outgrow” the stage. In some instances, these are self-awareness and development issues; in others they are not. It is important as team members, organizations and peers/colleagues to be engaged in the process of performance and accountability for how managers (and leaders) fulfill their roles. Managers who undermine or constrain the organization by their conduct are a problem. The larger problem exists when the organization and the rest of the leadership and management team do not take action to intervene and correct the issues. One manager behaving badly or failing to manage is an issue. The organization failing to step in and address that issue compounds the problem and sends a signal to the rest of the employees about what is acceptable.
Look for Stars, Squeaky Wheels, and Square Pegs
Ultimately, the business needs to look to star performers and those concerned with getting things done. Some times those people may be the squeaky wheels. They may also be the square peg in a world of round holes in your organization. The standouts may not always be easy to manage. But before you cast them aside, consider that they may just have a different perspective on your organization and a new approach that is worth taking a look at—instead of the same shtuff you’ve been getting.
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Written by Lea A. Strickland