Everywhere you look on the web, you can find articles about leadership. Why? I think that we are fascinated with it because we have so little of it in our lives and the lack of it has a considerable impact on our job satisfaction and happiness in general. I’ve recently read some blog posts that describe the personal flaws of the managers. However, I don’t really see that as being the biggest issue. I would like to see corporate leadership focus on the situations that put the wrong people in management positions. Here is a list of situations that I’ve seen over the years.
FUMU Principle. This principle basically states that we promote those who screw up (i.e. screw up, move up). For example, I remember working with a quality engineer who guided his company to create 40,000 test products for a new customer but built them to the wrong specification. When they asked him why he built the products to a bad specification, he reply was “they didn’t tell me what they wanted.” The new customer ran away and never came back. To punish him and ensure he wouldn’t make another mistake like that, they promoted him to quality manager.
They fit in. Executives are usually outward facing, meaning that they spent much of their time with people outside the company, such as customers. Their skill set will be different from those managers who focus their efforts internally. Henry Mintzberg, McGill University professor of management, identified the ten roles of managerial work, by studying CEOs (1973). Later on, Pavett and Lau (1982) repeated his study on lower level managers. They found that the managers that emulated the executives were promoted far more than those who really focused internally. In short, the executives promoted managers who seemed to operate the way they did. While this may not be the best for the company (i.e. who is doing the internal managing), it seems to be the way promotions work. Fitting in with the big guys is very important to your career.
Don’t know how to hire an A-level player. HR has a tough job. They often have to hire someone in a profession they know nothing about. Studies show that even the most reliable assessment techniques of structured interviews and assessment centers have a predictive validity of around 60 percent. Of course, there’s also the shortage for such talent that you read all over the web. But if you don’t know what they look like, then you’ll likely experience a shortage. This dilemma leaves companies with the only choice of allowing their existing managers to hire the next manager.
B-level players hire C-level players. A-level managers are the kind I like to work with. You know, people who are not afraid of competition or challenge. They want to be in the company of the best, if only to compare their abilities against the others. Great players hire great players. However, B-level managers aren’t like that. They actually initiate the decline of the company by hiring C-level managers underneath them. The real problem is that B and C level players don’t know they aren’t A-level players. If you want to see how to sort out the difference during hiring, Inc. has some ideas.
Once you get B and C-level managers in place, there hiring mistakes will grow in number. You’ll begin to see managers hire their friends, the ‘Yes’ man/woman, people who won’t challenge them, and many more excuses. The reality is that organizations get the performance they hire. Can you see your company running a NBA Basketball team? Would they hire the best players? Would the team be competitive?
Before I end this post, I’d like to bring up one other point; that is, Accountability. For example, one company I worked with had a Research and Development (R&D) Director that led a team who hadn’t developed a new product in five years. Now, the R&D team should be developing new products for your business, whether to enter new markets or grow existing ones. How could the executives fail to recognize that no new products were being developed? Accountability is one of the major reasons bad managers exist. If you watch college football, you’ll note that colleges have recognized that coaches can help them make lots of money by creating a great team. Each year you’ll see coaching changes because of lackluster performance. Why don’t companies do that?
Lastly, if you’re one of those professionals seeking to move up quickly, realize that the game you’ll have to play is not performance-based. Too much research shows this isn’t the case. Granted we try to tell ourselves that the game is fair and things like hard work, great credentials and a consistent trail of successes will lead you to great success, when you work for someone else, you have to play by a different set of rules. Bad managers exist everywhere and college doesn’t prepare you for this. When you find a good manager, latch on to them and learn as much as you can. Sometimes you can maneuver your way through the maze, sometimes you have to move on. Either way, keep thinking positive and moving forward towards your dream. Don’t ever let them steal your dream!