Micromanagement gets most of the attention, but under-management may be just as big a problem.
This is the term I’ve given to a constellation of behaviors that I’ve seen occurring together often during my 24 years in management: weak performance management, a tendency to avoid conflicts with employees, and generally lackluster accountability. As the name suggests, there’s just not quite enough management being done—and results often suffer as a result. But under-management can often fly under the radar because the managers who have these tendencies aren’t necessarily incompetent; on the contrary, they often know their business well, are good collaborators, and are well-liked.
One HR executive I spoke with about the problem estimated that some 10% to 25% of her company’s managers were under-managing. And I well remember one of my own company’s Human Resource VP’s exclaiming in frustration, “The trouble with our managers is that too
“Did you hear what Beagle said to Doberman yesterday? I heard from Schnauzer that Beagle told Doberman he was going to ask out Spaniel, that cute new hire in Product Development.”
Workplace gossip is common as grass; it takes many forms and grows just about everywhere. The example above is just one of about 12 million variations. While it’s perfectly fine for not every office conversation to revolve around work, and while it may be OK for peers to gossip (within reason) about each other, as a manager you should think twice before taking part in office gossip. Engaging in it (enjoyable though it may be) is a pretty effortless way to set a dubious example, diminish your managerial stature, and likely lose respect.
During the last five years of my corporate management career, I had a great deal of leadership development. Along with many other executives, I attended talks by noted management authors, I went to (often lengthy) team-building exercises, and I participated in discussions on different leadership styles. It was OK — extremely insightful at times, moderately interesting at others, but it often kept me away from the demands of everyday management.
And as I neared the end of my corporate days, I realized I’d received much more management training in the last five years than I did in the first 20 years — when I really needed it — combined.
Most students of management agree that the transition from employee to manager is one of the most challenging in business. It brings new roles and responsibilities, new ways of looking at organizations, and new ways of relating to peers and multiple constituencies. Like
Overtly, most of us say we dislike stress. But often we unconsciously hold on to it, thinking: This is the way real leaders act.
Stress and I have had a long, complicated relationship. Early in my career, it often felt like my naturally lower-stress, quiet management style was an impediment to advancement.
Many years ago, as a young man being considered for executive ranks at a Fortune 500 company, I found myself having the same odd conversation, with only minor changes in phrasing, with several senior executives on different occasions. When discussing my future, the dialogue went like this:
Senior executive: “I just don’t know about you. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you don’t seem like a manager. You just don’t seem like executive material.”
To which I’d normally respond: “Why — what is it that makes you say that?”
The answer would be: “I