By: Dan August | Editor and Chief | ThEnterpriser | June 13, 2014
I invited her to join me and relax a bit so as to allow us to catch up. As her one-time mentor I was eagerly looking forward to an overview of her latest efforts. I also quickly realized something was amiss. She had “the look” on her face.
You know the one I’m talking about.
After exchanging the usual pleasantries about family and friends I finally asked her how she was really doing. Taking a deep breath, she related she had just tendered her resignation after only three months under her new boss.
In that time, she watched in angst as the department staff shrunk from 12 full time employees to only 3. Highly skilled, knowledgeable people resigned one by one, all citing concerns with the department manager. Long term (mostly older) contractors were let go by the manager with no explanation or announced replacements, taking their corporate knowledge out the door with them. The remaining work was haphazardly redistributed to whomever was left with minor or low priority work given precedence over executive directed programs.
She quit with only two days notice and no job prospects.
I wish I could say this was an uncommon circumstance I have run across in my years in business and public service. Sadly, quite the opposite has presented itself far too often. Here, sitting across from me, was yet another example of the unnecessary loss and failure companies suffer due to an incompetent, unaware, self-entitled individual placed in the worst possible role - one of authority and leadership over others.
That night I reflected on the position my friend found herself in and remembered the old saying -
"People are hired by companies and quit managers"And so I asked myself - what would I look for if I had members of my staff expressing similar concerns about one of my direct reporting managers? What advice would I offer other executives in this position? The list is shorter than I first thought it would be.
Does the manager have clarity on company strategy and goals?
If the manager can’t understand and explain the goals and mission of the company, organization and department watch out. Not only does s/he not know which way they are headed - they’ll most likely take others with them and then blame the poor wretches for getting lost.
Does the manager really listen to what’s being said?
Whether in a full meeting or in a closed office if you find yourself repeating, reframing, or readdressing the same points to the manager over and over again the problem may not be you. A good validation would be witnessing others banging their head on the wall or table as you explain something for the upteemth time.
Does the manager value others’ time?
If your find yourself in a two hour standup meeting going in circles when the agenda originally called for a 15 minute catchup session there’s a problem. And no, it’s not you.
Is the manager always right?
I mean about everything - no matter the issue they have the solution in hand. The worst facet of this is a total lack or demonstrable desire to learn anything new and your ideas are not welcome. Ever.
Is the manager investing in their people?
It’s easy to tell if the manager is supporting the growth and career progression of their staff. That’s the team where people are not just focused, they are in lock step with one another and the positive results are easily witnessed.
And finally -
Do people actually go out of their way so as not to deal with the manager?
We’ve all had to deal with managers who are a bit “difficult” or “challenging”. I’m talking about the ones who others physically turn and walk away from (while the manager is still a good ways down the hall!).
Getting something actually done in business is difficult enough at times in even the best circumstances. With pressures on time, resources and funding it’s a wonder things get done at all in some cases. Too many managers call themselves leaders when they are anything but, showing little ability, empathy or humility to engender trust and confidence in their staff and others around them. They actually end up driving good people out the door and introduce a spiral of failure and financial loss for their company.
So ask yourself when another one of your top people is quickly walking out the door - are they quitting the company or their manager? Let the answer guide your response.
Oh - and my friend? She eventually landed a good position with a competitor of her previous company. I would guess the old company may experience additional challenges expanding their customer base in the future.