The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Managers!

(With due deference to the late great Stephen Covey’s more famous work of a similar title!)

Question: What qualification do you need to be a street cleaner?

Answer: None, you just pick it up as you go along…..

Question: What qualification do you need to be a manager?

Answer: Same as before: None, you just pick it up as you go along…..

Unfortunately that’s a bit too close to the truth for comfort. I know many people who ended up being given the role of a manager with little or no training. Sure they had demonstrated a high degree of competency in their technical role and maybe had some good communication skills as well, but for many they were simply thrown in at the deep end to sink or swim. If you did manage to keep your head above water, avoid the many predators and stay afloat then you had pretty much passed the test and got the badge…..

Trouble is, there was often no real test of competence and the badge had less to do with merit and more to do with effort….

So, if this is how many of us start our management career how do we know what is right and what is wrong? Without guidance we default to our own instinctive value based guidance. We copy what appeared to be good practice by others or we read a few dog eared books lent to us by our peers. I clearly remember mine were: ‘Who Moved My Cheese’, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ and ‘The Dilbert Principle’. It struck me if my experience was anywhere near typical then our management habits will be influenced accordingly. The consequence can only be inconsistency, ineptitude and inappropriate management practice. Hence the title of this post: The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Managers……

Habit No.1 – It’s my way or the highway!

If you have ever been on the receiving end of this behaviour by a tough uncompromising boss, naturally you start to believe this is the way things get done around here. It’s called role modelling so if I say: “Jump!” you are expected to ask: “How high boss?” This coercive style is highly destructive, unsustainable and particularly where men are concerned is part of an alpha male hierarchy which simply keeps repeating the same culture, it’s called bullying anywhere else! Research shows that an inappropriate leadership style is the biggest single reason why people leave a job. This same research clearly shows that actually most people leave jobs because of bad bosses. The likelihood is that the business will stagnate, employees will be afraid to contribute and they will only perform at the minimum level. Staff turnover and absence may also be high.

Habit No.2 – Being paid should be reward enough!

For some strange reason I have never been able to fathom, it seems alien in British industry to encourage, praise and genuinely support people. I remember once asking my boss, how is it that if I do 100 things and 99 are spot on, the only one you talk to me about is the 1 that’s not right? The general reply was: “That’s what you get paid for. What do you expect, a gold watch for doing your job properly?” I have witnessed many occasions when an employee who lacked confidence, when it came to carrying out a task being completely overwhelmed by the feeling of anxiety and the fear of failure. It’s similar to teaching children to walk for the first time. By creating a safe and supportive environment, encouraging them to succeed even when they stumble and praising every faltering footstep breeds confident, competent and positive people who will tackle many obstacles they might not otherwise have done. Of course pay is important, but sometimes it’s things like recognition, responsibility and respect that is the greater reward for both parties.

Habit No.3 – I communicate on a ‘need to know’ basis!

“When there’s something to tell you I will let you know”. This of course gets translated into: “Mind your own business, get on with your work and stop asking damn fool questions”. It’s probably the biggest single factor why the general workforce don’t engage well when asked to challenge work practices and suggest new ideas. Even worse is that hideous ‘grapevine’ that companies spend so much time and effort in denying only for half truths to become a reality and immediately undermines any future company communication! When human beings are not given the full story they consistently repeat the same behaviour. We fill the gap with opinions, guesses and made up mischief. Add the ‘Chinese Whisper’ effect and all manner of rumours will fly around the organisation. Perhaps this habit starts with ‘knowledge is power’, but there is a fatal flaw in this thinking. Managers who play their cards too close to their chest for this reason simply disadvantage themselves. Why? Well it can become very difficult to promote someone when they keep so much information to themselves. The easier option is to promote someone else! Did you just hear the sound of a manager shooting themselves in the foot?

Habit No.4 – A little less conversation and a little more action!

Many organisations are very action orientated. Readers particularly in service and manufacturing industries will inherently know what I mean. It was almost a crime to discuss things at any length or to sit and think differently. Trying to be creative was considered some sort of black art associated with arty types and overpaid consultants. I have actually heard the words: “You’re not paid to think, you’re paid to get the job done” Some companies believe that on the basis of “We’ve always done it this way” and “The customer couldn’t possibly know what they want” means action not thinking is needed in most situations. That promotes a “Get off your backside and just get on with it” management approach (the polite version) “We have a sleeves rolled up, can-do attitude around here” Meetings are demonised as places where the only good thing to come out are people and were obviously an excuse for people to hide from the real world and have a break from the stresses and strains of work!

Habit No.5 – If you train people, they might want to leave!

The best answer I ever heard to this was: “Well, it could be worse, don’t train them and they might just stay!”

Richard Branson is credited with saying: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

I have often wondered why the mentality exists that management and leadership is just common sense and somehow skills are passed on by telepathy or osmosis. When you think of the range of ‘stuff’ a modern manager needs it is equally as complex as any technical role. Here are just a few: Understanding the psychology of people so they can work together as a team. Being an expert negotiator and influencer to solve conflicts with a variety of people both inside and outside the business. Be a master planner so you can balance all your commitments and achieve all your goals with as little stress as possible and still have a home life. Develop people and manage their foibles and bad behaviour, but praise, motivate and ensure they are ‘engaged’ at the same time. Be a champion of change and but not allow your own personal feelings to get in the way. Oh, and there’s that little matter of hitting financial targets which are ever more challenging each year, so we must have some accountancy skills too….. But hang on I forgot, it’s all COMMON SENSE though!

Habit No.6 – If it ‘aint broke don’t fix it!

So, as a new manager you come into a role that is well trodden. Your predecessor and your boss (could be one and the same of course) expect you to pick things up fro where they left them, quickly understand how the process works and keep it going. This often includes all the inherited problems, issues and pitfalls you need to make allowance for and ‘manage’. For your part you have no desire to make radical changes, after all it’s always worked that way….. We often mistake managing known problems for being a stable process. After all we know how to overcome them it’s part of the job isn’t it? NO!!!! Even if the process works any manager worth their salt should be continuously seeking better ways of doing things and should be saying: “If it ‘aint broke let’s make it go faster” There is a very important reason why managers should do this. There are countless examples of organisations that failed to improve the way they did things, safe (or so they thought) in the knowledge that what they did worked. The demise of the Triumph Motor Cycle company is one of them. Completely blown away by superior Japanese imports, mostly Honda. The same began to happen in the car industry too until the Western world woke up to the need to drive out waste, continuously improve and embrace ‘lean’ management practices.

Habit No.7 – There’s no room for sentiment in business!

Perhaps it’s the fault of the good old British stiff upper lip or maybe a culture that discourages feelings to be shared, but many managers see emotion as simply a distraction from getting the job done. The most frequently expressed emotion is anger aimed at anyone who doesn’t perform as required! Fortunately our thinking about emotional intelligence has been moved on a long way, much to do with Daniel Goleman’s work on EQ. To quote another well respected leadership guru Tom Peters: “Leadership is one hundred percent about emotion. I don’t mean crying and hugging, I don’t mean screaming and shouting. I just mean emotion. Because organisations are people. That’s all they are – they’re people. And people are emotional. That’s the definition of people – you, me, hourly workers with or without names.” Leadership therefore is also about engaging hearts and minds not just employing a pair of hands. The most recent neuroscience also reveals that decision making starts in the emotional part of our brain before being rationalised. It is also fairly obvious that we perform much better when our emotional state is good i.e. happy, confident and relaxed as opposed to when we feel anxious and fearful which leads to mistakes and a lack of clear thinking. There is a clear link between managing emotional states and performance at work.

How much do these bad habits cost?

A recent article in the Telegraph quoted the following statistics:

Three quarters of UK workers waste one and a half hours a week due to unclear communication from their bosses, a lack of support and “micro-management”, the study by the Chartered Management Institute revealed. Multiplying the average hours lost per week by the 48 weeks a year that the majority of employees work, the study calculates a loss of £900 per employee per year. Based on the average worker’s salary and the number of employees in Britain, the total amount lost across the economy could be as high as £19bn, the CMI said.

Christopher Kinsella, acting chief executive of CMI, said: “This survey highlights some disappointing – but not necessarily surprising – numbers”.

“We are in one of the hardest economic climates we’ve faced in some time, and business bosses need to understand the financial impacts of not having properly trained and qualified managers”.

“Improving the skills of the management workforce is absolutely key in terms of individual business success, in terms of delivering effective public services and in terms of helping the UK deliver on a world stage.”

Interested in finding out more about CMI Qualifications? Would you like a keynote speaker to address your conference on this subject? Or do you simply want to improve your managers skills? Please contact us at TIPS for Good Management. We make gaining qualifications easy, cost effective and above all else relevant to your organisation.


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