It’s Okay to Be the Boss
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Since 1993, my firm RainmakerThinking, Inc.® has conducted ongoing in-depth workplace research. For many years now we have focused our research on a stubbornly persistent workplace problem we call undermanagement. The vast preponderance of those in leadership positions—at all levels—are not sufficiently engaged with their direct-reports on a day to day basis. Too many leaders, managers, and supervisors are failing to lead, manage, and supervise with any regularity or consistency. That is undermanagement in a nutshell.
Undermanagement is not a household word like its opposite, micromanagement, but it should be because undermanagement is far more widespread and damaging than micromanagement. Micromanagement may be defined as too much guidance, direction, feedback, and support for a particular employer with a particular task at a given time. In contrast, undermanagement is simply not enough.
Since we began tracking undermanagement, we have found throughout the workplace, in organizations of all sizes, in every industry, nine out of ten leaders, managers, and supervisors fail to engage their direct-reports at least weekly in a regular one-on-one dialogue in which they review specific expectations, track performance, correct failure, and reward success.
Wherever there is undermanagement, we’ve documented eight tangible consequences:
1. Unnecessary problems occur
2. Small problems that could have been solved easily instead turn into big problems
3. Resources are squandered
4. Employees make recurring errors in tasks without ever knowing it
5. Low performers hide out and collect paychecks
6. Mediocre performers mistake themselves for high performers
7. High performers get frustrated and look for other jobs
8. Managers perform work that should have been delegated to someone else
Here’s the good news. You do have a choice. I’ve spent so much time behind the scenes in so many organizations that I can tell you this: So many problems can be avoided altogether or solved quickly by a strong, highly-engaged leader who regularly and consistently accepts his/her authority and the responsibility that goes along with it.
In our training seminars, we teach frustrated managers to copy what the most effective managers are actually doing every day. Here’s what that looks like:
Be the boss who says:
“Great news, I’m the boss! I’m going to help you get a bunch of work done very well, very fast, all day long. I’m going to set you up for success every step of the way.
“I’m going to spell out expectations for you every step of the way. I’m going to help you plan. I’m going to work with you to clarify goals, guidelines, and specifications. I’m going to help you break big deadlines into smaller time frames with concrete performance benchmarks. I’m going to go over standard operating procedures.
“I’m going to offer reminders. I’m going to provide checklists and other tools. I’m going to help you keep track of what you are doing and how you are doing it every step of the way. I’m going to help you monitor and measure and document your success every step of the way.
“I’m going to help you solve problems as soon as they occur, so they don’t fester and grow into bigger problems. I’m going to help you find the shortcuts, avoid the pitfalls, and follow the best practices.
“Count on me. When you need something, I’m going to help you find it. When you want something, I’m going to help you earn it.”
Easier said than done, right?
Stay tuned: In future posts I will share with you our research on some of the leading causes of undermanagement, how you can fight the undermanagement epidemic, how you can become a stronger and more highly-engaged leader, and how you can help build a culture of strong leadership and highly-engaged working relationships in your organization.
Bruce Tulgan is the author of numerous books including the bestseller It’s Okay to Be the Boss (2007) and the classic Managing Generation X (1995), as well as Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (2009) and It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss (2010). To find out more, visit www.rainmakerthinking.com/blog/ or www.talkaboutthework.com. Follow Bruce on Twitter @brucetulgan.