Are Most Managers Set Up to Fail?

Unclear performance expectations, ever-changing deadlines, missed communications, and lack of a centralized vision or strategy: these are the hallmarks of a bad manager, and we’ve all experienced them, whether the bad manager was your immediate boss, the head of an adjacent department, or the leader of a project team that you were a part of.

Head Down on Desk, overhwelmed, bad management

Books, movies, television shows, and advice columns have provided endless examples of pathologically bad managers – sometime played for laughs, sometimes played for horrors.  They depict bad managers as malicious, willfully ignorant, petty, or otherwise emotionally stunted. And there are certainly plenty of real-life versions of these terrible boss archetypes.

But most bad managers are ineffective for far less dramatic reasons: they were never taught or mentored on how to be a manager, or they never wanted to be a manager in the first place.

The way our workforce is set up, in many industries, employees come in at junior and middle grades as subject matter or technical experts, service providers, or skilled workers. If they do a great job, they get promoted, and may eventually find themselves promoted to a management position, with oversight responsibility for a staff, a project, a program, or a facility. They were so successful in their previous positions, the logic goes, that they will of course succeed at this higher level.

Unfortunately though, management of any kind requires a totally different perspective and skill set. Too often these new expectations and responsibilities are never communicated, so the new managers don’t even realize the realities of their new role. The repercussions are immediately felt by their teammates, and the newly-minted managers never even have a chance to get their footing as chaos ensues.

I could write a tome about this problem, but I’ll save that for another day. I do want to share this excellent piece featured on NPR last week about just this problem. It does a great job illustrating the unintended consequences of the current approach to developing – or NOT developing – managers. Check it out here!

If these management challenges resonate with you or your workplace, I can provide coaching, consulting, and training aimed at developing or strengthening all kinds of management skills and approaches. Let me know how I can help!