The Types of Managers That Fail

We recently hosted our quarterly Advisory Committee meeting in Lafayette, Indiana. Jeff Peterson stuck around afterward to share some more detailed advice. I asked if I could share his notes –which he delivered from memory–I had to write down. He agreed and proceeded to say, “There are 3 types of managers that fail.”

  1. Those that are not up to the task. These men and women were promoted but were not ready. This is the fault of the person doing the promoting. Commonly, there are problems that develop when someone promotes a successful individual contributor that simply did not have the management talent to succeed as a manager. A favorite examples includes making your top sales person your sales manager. This can go badly quickly as they don’t have the processes, nor the interest in the processes to succeed. They don’t understand how to help their teammates succeed. They ultimately fail as a manager.
  2. Those that lose their way ethically. These men and women are not inherently dishonest people but they let slip a small thing, that leads to a modest thing, that leads to a big thing that leads to their demise –and sometimes many others. Each of us face temptations to do the hard-but-right thing, or do the easy-but-wrong thing. Too many of the easy-but-wrong things and the manager and his team wind up in the ditch. Managers that take the easy-but-wrong path demonstrate by their actions that taking the easy-but-wrong choice is the way to work. Once others start emulating this decision making habit, the organization has gone way off the rails and the manager has failed.
  3. Those that are all about themselves. These men and women think they are God’s gift to the customer and therefore the business. They’re not on a mission to help. They outrank the business. And they are there to stoke their ego. You can spot these folks because they don’t pass out credit to their teammates. They also fail to admit when the customer is right and your company’s product or service has failed. In several cases these are the folks that cheat on safety because they think, “well, the best of us simply know how to do it without following the safety protocol.” Watch out for big egos. They cause the team to back off and wait on superman to cover for them. Once this happens you’ve lost the team and they’ve failed as a manager.

Ultimately, each of the above types fire themselves. But, first, they erode the performance of the team. Just be sure you get the memo of them quitting so you don’t allow them to quit and stay. Otherwise, you’re the bad sort of manager that also took the easy-but-wrong course.

On a positive note, the best means I have found to stay on top of the above? First, have a system to get the key numbers fast. Second, talk to your people on a regular cadence. Most of your reports need your help but are too scared to ask. Create a repeating 1:1 meeting and invite them to bring private items up to you that are important but not urgent. By doing so you’ll open up channels for important and urgent and/or eliminate most of the urgent altogether as they are empowered to meet and exceed your clear expectations.

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