How do others view your managerial skills?

If any of the below traits are those that you show as a manager, you might want to consider finding a way to change them right away.  Your gig may be up…

1. Do you show a bias against action?  There are plenty of reasons for you to not want to make an immediate decision, such as, wanting to wait for more information, to plan more options, seek more opinions or do some research.  Real leaders display a consistent bias for action. People who don’t make decisions make mistakes in who they choose to listen to and the course they take to get an answer.  It’s dangerous and shows the rest of your management team you are not qualified for that position.

2. Secrecy: “Don’t let the staff hear,” is something I hear managers say repeatedly. “They won’t understand” is usually the rationale behind this decision.  If you treat employees like children, they will behave that way — which means trouble. If you treat them like adults, they may just respond likewise. Very few matters in business must remain confidential and good managers can identify those easily. The lover of secrecy has trouble being honest and is afraid of letting peers have the information they need, if they choose to use that information to challenge him.  Secrets make companies political, anxious and full of distrust.  (See government).

3.  Over-sensitivity:  I saw this a ton in the government.  Too much.  “I know she’s always late, but if I raise the subject, she’ll be hurt.” An inability to be direct and honest with staff is a critical warning sign. Can your manager see a problem, address it upfront and move on?  If not, these problems won’t get resolved, instead they will grow.  When managers say staff is too sensitive, they are usually describing themselves.  The bad traits of secrecy and over-sensitivity almost always travel together.

4. Do you have a rather fond love of procedure?  Managers who live and die by the rule book have forgotten that rules and processes exist to speed up business, not ritualized it.  A fond love of procedure often masks a the inability to rank key tasks will get missed while thumbing through the book looking to cover your ass.

5.  Do you have a preference for weak candidates?  Have you ever interviewed candidates for a new position and hired the one with the rawest skills because you may have been threatened by the others?  The super-competent manager knows that you must always hire people smarter than yourself.

6.  Are you a micromanager?  Do you get caught up in the details?  Are you the type that has always produced the perfect charts, forecasts and spreadsheets, is always on time, has work completely up-to-date and always volunteer for projects in which you have no core expertise?  This type of behaviour tells others that you are trying to hide the fact that you could not do your real job and you keep close tabs on everything so that if you are called on something you know it right away.  But by hovering over your direct reports you show them you have no trust in them and they know when you do or do not understand something.  It’s a bad situation all around.

7.  Inability to hire former employees:   Have you hired someone who did not attract any candidates from their old company?  That might tell you that your new hire had not mentored anyone who’d want to work with him again.   Every good manager has alumni, eager to join the team again; if they don’t, smell a rat.

8.  Are you unable to meet deadlines?  A deadline is a commitment. The manager who cannot set, and stick to deadlines, cannot honor commitments. Failure to set and meet deadlines also means that no one can ever feel a true sense of trust in this manager and once that level of trust has been eroded, it spells the beginning of the end for the manager.

9.  Addiction to consultants: A common — but expensive — way to put off making decisions is to hire consultants who can recommend several alternatives. While they’re figuring these out, managers don’t have to do anything. And when the consultant’s choices are presented, the ensuing debates can often absorb hours, days, months. Meanwhile, your organization is poorer but it isn’t any smarter. When the consultant leaves, he takes your money and his increased expertise out the door with him.  It is also so much easier to blame the consultant if something goes wrong than to put your own neck on the line by making that decision.

10.   Long hours:  Bad managers tend to work very long hours.  I suspect they think the rest of the business will think they are super-hard workers, dedicated to their roles, but it is probably the single biggest sign of incompetence.  To work effectively, you must prioritize and you must pace yourself.  The manager who boasts of late nights, early mornings and no time off cannot manage himself so you’d better not let him manage anyone else.

Are you management material?

I found an article online written by F. John Reh, entitled “How to Tell If You Are Management Material” and I read it hoping to see if it would shed some clues into why I have always thought I was.  The article, however, was a little more on the comical side then I had hoped for. 

The author presents a top ten list, David Letterman style, of clues that you are management material.  Read it as there is some truth mixed into the humour, then we’ll have a real discussion about what I think are clues;

  • 10. You like not doing anything.
  • 9. You have no trouble telling others what to do
  • 8. Work fascinates you – you can sit and watch it for hours
  • 7. You like ‘sweating the small stuff’
  • 6. You have always been something of a loner
  • 5. You don’t think ‘plan’ is a four-letter word
  • 4. Your favorite cocktail is milk of magnesia
  • 3. On Halloween you dress up as Alex P. Keating
  • 2. Your favorite horror writer is Tom PetersAnd the number one clue you are management material –
  • You enjoy having people despise you just for doing your job.

There is some truth to a few items on his list, but I think they can all be managed through perception.  Being aware of how others perceive you goes a long way towards you being able to manage that perception.  Even if you have no one else to help you, you should still be aware as to the basics expected of you by your staff.  For example;

The management style of yelling and berating staff is so 1980’s and is no longer an effective tool… Unless you want your staff to hate you.  Also unpopular among staff is the perception that they do way more work than you.  That should never happen.  Not only do you have a job to do as a manager but you are also required to lead a team, think strategically and get stuff done to a higher level on some very short time frames.  Not that I recommend whining to staff about it, they don’t know what you do all day, but sharing information with them helps them buy into the job, and feel that they are an important piece in the company.  Nothing is wrong with telling your staff your thoughts and suggestions to make their lives better.  I believe they actually appreciate it.

As for the perception of doing nothing or the concept of being hated for doing your job, I think these 2 go hand-in-hand.  If you sit in your office reading the paper, but then go home and put in 5 hours in the evening, no one is going to know about the extra work, but everyone will know about the perceived slacking during the day.  Be strategic.  If you must read the news during the day, do it online!

So back to the clues…  Here is my top 10 list;

10. You have a bigger vision of the way the company can operate more efficiently

9. You offer suggestions and ask questions surrounding process improvements and operational improvements

8. You enjoy helping others get work done and see them praised for it.

7. You are eager to achieve recognition of you direct manager and peers, in the good way. 

6.  Being respected is important.  Being a team player, also important.  Put team goals first.

5. You are able to act as a team leader / manager naturally

4. You have passion – for your current job, for the company, for everyone doing a good job.

3. You are flexible.  You can work in different areas, understand what others have to do and can thrive in your area of expertise or somewhere where you have no knowledge of the work required. 

2. You keep emotion out of the workplace

1. You treat everyone in the manner you want to be treated… With respect!  Explain to the level of understanding.  Be empathetic.  If you ever want people to work for you, and I mean WORK for you, you have to be understanding that they have lives beyond work and in their lives there are stresses.  Don’t be one too.

My thoughts… What would you add?

Leadership vs. Management

It’s always good to know the difference and what to expect from your Team Leader and from your Manager, or if already in a management role, what others expect from you…

In my opinion, the biggest difference between managers and leaders is the way they motivate the people who work or follow them, and this sets the tone for most other aspects of what they do.

Many people do both.  They are in a management position, but they realize you need buy-in from everyone in order to go down a difficult road, so they lead too.

The main difference…  Managers have subordinates.  Managers also have a position of authority vested in them by the company, and their subordinates work for them and largely do as they are told.  Management style is this case is considered transactional, because the the manager tells the subordinate what to do, and the subordinate does it in exchange for salary.   Managers are paid to get things done too, often within tight constraints of time and money, thus they naturally pass along work to their subordinates.

Another interesting finding relating to managers is that they tend to come from stable home backgrounds and lead relatively normal and comfortable lives.  This generally leads them to be relatively risk-averse and they seek to avoid conflict, whenever possible.  They like their personal and professional lives to mirror each other as they aim to run a “happy ship’.

Leaders… Have followers, not subordinates, at least not when they are leading. Many organizational leaders do have subordinates, but only because they are also managers. But when they want to lead, they have to give up formal authoritarian control, because to lead is to have followers, and following is always a voluntary activity.  Telling people what to do generally will not inspire them to follow you.  In order to build a following, you have to find a way to appeal to them by showing how following them will work out for you and for them.  They must want to follow you enough to stop what they are doing and perhaps walk into dangerous situations which they would not normally consider risking.

Leaders who have diplomacy and some charisma find it easier to attract people to their cause.  As a part of their persuasion they typically promise transformational benefits, such that their followers will not just receive extrinsic rewards but will somehow become better people, and enjoy the trip.

Although many leaders have a charismatic style to some extent, this does not require a loud personality. Good leaders are always very good with people, and they almost automatically give credit to others (and takes blame on themselves) which makes them very effective at creating loyalty that great leaders engender.

Although leaders are good with people, this does not mean they are friendly with them.  In order to keep the mystique of leadership, they often retain a degree of separation and aloofness.  separating office life from home to the greater extent helps.  Not hanging out with your staff / subordinates also helps set you apart.

This does not mean that leaders do not pay attention to tasks – in fact they are often very achievement-focused.  What they do realize, however, is the importance of empowering others to work towards their vision.

Earlier I mentioned that managers tend to be risk-averse, and to that point, leaders appear to be more along the lines of risk-seekers, not to be confused with thrill-seekers.  When pursuing their vision, leaders consider it natural to encounter problems and hurdles that must be overcome along the way.  They are thus comfortable with risk and will see routes that others avoid as potential opportunities for advantage and will happily break rules in order to get things done.

A surprising number of these leaders had some form of handicap in their lives which they had to overcome. Some had traumatic childhoods, some had problems such as dyslexia, some were overweight as a child, had acne, low self-esteem, or were shorter than average.  The overcoming of this event perhaps taught them the independence of mind that is needed to go out on a limb and not worry about what others are thinking about you.

The table below summarizes the above (and more) and gives a sense of the differences between being a leader and being a manager.  This is, of course, an illustrative characterization, and there is a whole spectrum between either ends of these scales along which each role can range and many people lead and manage at the same time, and so may display a combination of behaviors.




Essence Change Stability
Focus Leading people Managing work
Have Followers Subordinates
Horizon Long-term Short-term
Seeks Vision Objectives
Approach Sets direction  Plans detail
Decision Facilitates Makes
Power Personal charisma Formal authority
Appeal to Heart Head
Energy Passion Control
Dynamic Proactive Reactive
Persuasion Sell Tell
Style Transformational Transactional
Exchange Excitement for work Money for work
Likes Striving Action
Wants Achievement Results
Risk Takes Minimizes
Rules Breaks Makes
Conflict Uses Avoids
Direction New roads Existing roads
Truth Seeks Establishes
Concern What is right Being right
Credit Gives Takes
Blame Takes Blames

Understanding your Boss

It’s no secret that tough times bring out troubling traits even in bosses who seemed supportive and easy to deal with, and employees should learn to develop strategies to cope with this behaviour.  When times are bad, employees are usually much more reluctant to push back.

Bosses, too, are under more stress from their bosses and from the economy.

All this stress makes for a dangerous work environment that senior management should be monitoring, because left to fester, it can demoralize workers, reduce job performance and damage relationships which cannot be repaired.

In order to learn to cope and succeed in these troubling times, it’s time for employees to develop strategies to manage their bosses and develop ways to avoid being a victim of their leaders’ rogue behaviour.  An employee will want to make sure that they stay in frequent contact with their boss and make it clear that they understand his or her agenda and do whatever you can to help make it happen.  Act as if you are in survival mode and that your boss is not going to want to sink their only possible life raft.

Another way to look at your bosses odd behaviour in times of recession or when the company is struggling is by trying to see your uncooperative boss like an unruly kid, and use the variety of parenting tactics that work on kids to get them to play nice.  By setting limits and boundaries, anticipating their needs, creating distractions to get their attention off a tantrum, you may be able to prevent conflict, and be prepared to use good timing and humour and reward their good behaviours to encourage it to continue.

 So what are the kinds of bosses to watch out for?   Do any of these resemble your boss, or you?  Here are some stereotypical bosses found on the Internet via Google;

 1) The chronic critic

The behaviour:  Frustration over having things not go his or her way makes this boss find fault with everything you do.

How to deal with it:  Stay resilient. Don’t try to defend yourself against the corrections or you will receive more of them. Instead, smile, take notes and then walk away without taking the comments personally.

2) The pass along boss

The behaviour:  This person responds to a growing workload by passing it on to you.

How to deal with it:  Keep a careful record of the fallout you’re carrying because of your boss’s absentee behaviour. Then when you have a review with your boss, show him or her the facts and ask for a reward for handling it, or a less arduous workload in the future.

3) The spineless boss

The behaviour:  This boss tends to hide out, either due to indecision or to uncertainty about what to say about a challenging situation.

How to deal with it:  Take the lead. Decide what needs to be done and approach the boss with documented evidence of why your recommendation should go forward.

4) The rule changer

The behaviour:  This boss reacts to uncertainty by regularly changing decisions and rearranging priorities.

How to deal with it:  Remain flexible and accept the fact that plans are tentative.  Check in daily to keep abreast of priorities to avoid wasting efforts.

5) The demanding boss

The behaviour:  When over-burdened and out of control, this boss turns to you, assuming you will take on ever more of his or her load.

How to deal with it:  Set boundaries, and stand your ground. When the boss gives you more work and your plate is full, make it clear you are busy and may need more time.  A reality check lets you show you’re helping with the load but setting limits on further burdens.

6) The insecure boss

The behaviour:  Constantly checking in and asking you to revisit finished work for fear of being second-guessed or reprimanded for not being good enough.

How to deal with it:  Stroke their ego.  Express confidence that work is on track.  Avoid talking about any doubts that could provoke further insecurity.  Regularly remind bosses of their, and your, past successes.

7) The distracted boss

The behaviour:  Too many things are on the boss’s mind, creating a short attention span, so ideas get forgotten and discussions need to be repeated.

How to deal with it:  Use props, visual aids and supportive materials to hold his or her attention. Make communications compelling and to the point. Follow up with a written summary of decisions.

8) The tantrum thrower

The behaviour: Angry because something is not going his or her way, this boss panics and lashes out at whoever is being blamed for the problem – or even the nearest unsuspecting target.

How to deal with it:  Call a time out. Never fight a tantrum with a tantrum, which will only make it grow. Find shelter until the storm passes. For instance, look at your watch and say, “I’ve got an important call scheduled. Would you agree to defer this discussion until later?” When you come back to the discussion, the emotion will invariably have lessened.

9) The fickle boss

The behaviour:  Even though you got approval and your project is well under way, the boss suddenly has another prime directive and asks you to start over.

How to deal with it:  Shore up the boss’s confidence in having picked the right course to begin with to make for less flip-flopping. Offer up supporting materials and endorsements of the wisdom of the plan from others.

10) The control freak

The behaviour: Fearful of being caught off guard when so many things are changing so quickly, this boss wants constant status reports and final say on everything that is going on, which means time-wasting meetings and long waits for a go-ahead.

How to deal with it:  Provide constant updates. No matter how time-consuming it may seem to soothe the boss’s anxiety, over time it will win trust and mean less constant interference.


In other words, its better to react like an adult, even though your boss may be acting like a child.  Also it helps to know the least stressful way to discuss things with your boss.  Some bosses prefer e-mail, whereas others favour phone conversations or face-to-face encounters.

Also learn to pick up on queues for the best and worst timing.  Avoid bringing up bad news or asking for favours at the wrong times – close to lunch, late afternoon, nearing time to go home.

Communicate regularly!  Sounds like a marriage…  Make dialogue with the boss part of your routine so it becomes more natural and less stressful.

Anticipate.  See problems coming and prepare a calming, positive spin.

Avoid unnecessary conflict.  If your boss is under a lot of stress, stay out of the line of fire.  

Don’t snap back.  If caught when the boss is having a tantrum, listen calmly and react with a comment such as, “I hear you,” then walk away.

Use humour.  Laughter is a great diffuser of tension, if appropriate.  Breaking out in spontaneous laughter might not be the best remedy, unless the situation warrants it.  

Manage up.  Be the voice of reason and calm under pressure. Your boss will appreciate that and want to stay on your good side.  Also shows your boss what you are capable of in times of crisis.

Work, don’t worry.  Dreading the storm clouds or wishing for a different boss just wastes time and will distract you from doing your best work.

 With all this insight into what your boss may or may not be like, the key concepts to remember are the same in work as in play;  communicate, be respectful and work hard.

Good luck!