An organization is only as good as the quality of its leadership. Unfortunately, quality leadership at the top does not always translate into great leaders within middle management. Making things even more difficult are the ways that poor managers hide behind their work teams or what appear to be extenuating circumstances.
But effectively identifying and removing problematic management often starts with looking at two kinds of poor leaders: the disengaged and the reactive. As a longtime business owner, entrepreneur and consultant, Shawn Khorrami has had to deal with his share of management problems but has also enjoyed working alongside other top managers. Here is Khorrami’s quick guide to understanding what these managers look like and what to do when you find them.
The Disengaged Manager
In the Gallup Business Journal, Kevin McConville analyzed the problem of disengaged leaders. On the surface, these leaders don’t appear to be much of a problem.
Firing a manager for low employee engagement scores is a gray area for most leaders because they may see several mitigating factors. For example, a manager’s engagement scores may be lagging, but his team’s productivity and profitability numbers seem to be holding steady… In some companies, the human resources department may be uncomfortable using engagement scores in a termination decision.
But McConville (himself a former manager partner of Gallup) insists that disengaged leaders are toxic, and Shawn Khorrami agrees. If a certain manager proves over and over to be disengaged, then that manager is not leading. If that manager’s team still performs according to minimum standards, then they do so in spite of their manager, not because of him/her leadership. In contrast, an engaged workforce is far more likely to reach its potential.
Identifying the Disengaged Manager
One cannot identify a disengaged manager without first creating a metric from which to gauge when a manager is engaged. One simple way – as demonstrated at Gallup in the example above – is by polling employees during their regular reviews.
How engaged is your manager? Very, Some, Barely, Not at All? If certain managers are regularly rated at “Barely” or “Not at All,” it may be time to discuss the issue with the manager directly. However, Shawn Khorrami says if said managers remain disengaged for many quarters or even years, it may be time to demote or terminate them.
The Reactive Manager
Some managers see problems unrelated to context or nuance. That is, they merely react in the face of adversity or success. These managers – far from being proactive – fluctuate back and forth from one extreme to the other: pessimism or naïve optimism.
Shawn Khorrami states proactive managers always have one thing in common, they all think in terms of process. In the legendary Six Sigma textbook, The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt, the main character learns through trial-and-error the process of ongoing improvement. Instead of attacking individual problems, the plant manager tweaked his plant’s manufacturing process until problems began correcting themselves.
Reactive managers will not be able to focus on this process of ongoing improvement. They will merely feel elated or hopeless at every whimsical turn of events. This will exhaust their subordinates as they try to both do their job as well as manage the emotions of their leader, according to the Harvard Business Review.
In the pressure to get things done, many managers fear to be patient. They focus on short-term fixes to existing problems rather than on instituting processes to solve and eventually prevent problems and to identify unsuspected opportunities.
Identifying the Reactive Manager
When times are hectic, reactive managers will not be able to keep up. Shawn Khorrami may notice certain things falling through the cracks as these managers fail to focus on main objectives. Their only priority is what feels urgent. Due to the tendency for reactive managers to project emotions upon their employees, the employees are more prone to burnout.
If reactive managers cannot be mentored into stable, proactive managers, then Shawn feels that it may be time for them to return to a lower position, move to another role, or simply be asked to leave. Keeping reactive managers around will only hinder progress within the department, and ultimately, the company.
Shawn Khorrami is a serial entrepreneur, business owner and consultant based in Encino, California. He has successfully managed businesses in a wide array of industries, including tech companies, hospitality, and more. As the founder of Khorrami Consulting, Shawn offers some of the most potent, in-depth consulting approaches of anyone in the country.