The Lousy Manager (and how to avoid becoming one)

By Jay Forte, Coach, Author, Educator

How did you learn to be a manager? And how do you know when your management style helps create engaged employees vs. driving them away?

According to the 2017 State of the American Workplace Report by the Gallup Organization, employee disengagement is at nearly 70%. And approximately 50% of employees who leave their jobs leave because of their manager. High disengagement is due in part to poor employee-manager relationships, a critical relationship that drives organizational performance.

Having spent years working with managers and leaders, I see some repetitive management styles, some productive, many unproductive.

Productive management styles encourage employees to discover, develop and use their strengths, own their work, think critically, support others, add value and make a difference. Through productive management, employees become more engaged, activating greater performance and retention.

Unproductive management styles don’t support a focus on strengths, accountability or independent thinking.

Here are some of the most frequent unproductive management styles I’ve seen over the years:

  1. Helicopter (or training wheel) manager – You constantly hover over your employees and get involved in every decision, choice and direction. You assist them on everything because you don’t trust them and their decisions, or you feel great pressure to ensure results.
  2. Fairytale manager – You only see the good in your employees. You are not realistic about their abilities, interests, behaviors or performance.
  3. Google manager – You have the answer for everything. You never let your employees discover, learn or try things on their own.
  4. Cinderella manager – You allow yourself to be treated like the hired help. You constantly do your employees’ work for them instead of encouraging employees to take responsibility and own their work and performance.
  5. Tiffany parent – You give incentives and bonuses to everyone without a specific connection to performance, effort or commitment. Your employees have little or no concept of incentives or value.
  6. Thunderstorm manager – You always find some fault with your employees. You are the constant negative voice reminding them what is wrong, not good, or is disappointing about them; your focus is on what’s wrong not on what’s right.
  7. Drill Sergeant manager – You bark orders, demand, confront and challenge. Your employees fear you and are reluctant to share ideas with you.
  8. Pageant manager – You constantly make everything a competition or a comparison, always talking about winners and losers and comparing your employees to each other. You use words like worst, best, better, nicer, smarter or better.
  9. Secret agent manager – You are always checking up on your employees, whether it’s their social media activity, their emails or even if they’re just at their desks. You are convinced they are always ready do something they shouldn’t, or show up and do less than is expected.
  10. Parrot manager – You constantly repeat what the latest management sources say as your way of managing, whether meaningful or not to your employees and your environment. You quote experts but don’t use their wisdom to affect your own behavior. You talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

These styles take away confidence from your employees, hindering performance.

Some of the productive management styles I’ve seen over the years include:

  1. Improv manager – You show up, accept what is going on and use what you know in the moment to choose the best response for the situation and employee. You don’t use managing scripts or apply a one-size-fits-all approach. You are tuned in to the details of your people, performance and opportunities.
  2. Coaching manager – You regularly use questions to get your employees thinking and owning their choices, decisions and directions. You ask more than tell and listen carefully to the responses. You help your employees discover, create and own their solutions; you get to know each of your employees in a way that helps you guide and support them in their current and long-term success. You treat them personally, care about them and make time for them.
  3. Zen manager – You are tuned in. You know yourself and manage your emotions, giving you the ability to more easily separate your employee from his or her actions to address specific behaviors.
  4. Professor manager – You encourage your employees to constantly learn. You introduce them to new ideas and opportunities, and help them value self-development, learning and expanding their skills. You applaud and support them in expanding their thinking and raising their performance.

Just like your employees choose how they show up to their jobs, you choose how to show up as a manager.

Important Questions from a Coach

  1. Where do you see yourself in these management styles? Are any of these your “go-to” management style?
  2. Is your style effective or ineffective?
  3. Take a moment to tune in to your work environment. How does your management style impact your employees? Are they happy and engaged? Or doing just enough to not get fired?
  4. Are there changes you can make to inspire greater engagement from your employees?

Think you may benefit from a coaching session? Contact Jay Forte for a complimentary 15-minute introductory discussion to determine if coaching is right for you.

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The full article originally appeared on Jay’s LinkedIn page, April 2017.