Why Aren’t More Managers Great?

There tends to be a fair amount of manager-bashing in the HR and employment law world. Setting aside whether this is fair, I think the more interesting question is why more managers aren’t great. Participants in an excellent LinkedIn forum came up with a number of reasons and I myself see others:

  •  They’re not given the training and guidance to do their jobs effectively. It’s not easy being a manager or other leader and it usually doesn’t come naturally. Yet most managers get little if any effective training or coaching.
  •  They don’t like being managers and aren’t good at it – but the only way to progress in the organization and earn more money is by becoming a manager. I did an investigation once where two employees in technical fields kept seeking and being denied supervisory positions. The two claimed this was because of their ethnicity, but it wasn’t; it was because they were very good at their technical jobs, but would be terrible supervisors. The real problem was that their workplace had no technical track that enabled them to advance while doing what they did best.
  • The organization has a hierarchical system that does not enable managers to make decisions and take action. Instead, they have to go through multiple approvals before doing anything that could create even a little dissatisfaction or controversy. One form of this is the organization that overly fears its employees and enables their poor behaviors and performance without realizing the harm this does to managers.
  • Top leadership does not cultivate the development of lower level managers. This may occur out of ignorance, insecurity, ego, or a perceived lack of time and resources.
  • The managers are focused on themselves, not others. A quote from the LinkedIn forum on this topic: There are two types of individuals: “One … sends this message when he/she meets you, ‘Here I am.’  A second type … sends this message when he/she meets you, ‘There you are.’”  As the commenter added, “I wonder which type we believe “most” great leaders are?” On this same point, another commenter wrote, “Good achievers are all about themselves, great leaders are all about others.”
  • They don’t have the time to be great and no one rewards their leadership efforts or even allows them to retreat from the daily grind to develop their leadership ability.
  • They don’t understand the difference between getting results and leading people to get results.

Good managers are key to the success of every organization. Perhaps the larger question is why more organizations don’t act on this basic notion and work to develop the skill set needed for their managers to succeed. Any ideas? ~Amy Stephson

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