Strategy

2nd March 2017

On Weak Management

There has been a surprising reaction to last week’s blog, ‘There should be a law against it’. With most comments railing against the injustices created by weak management.

I frequently write and coach about the role the leader has in inspiring his colleagues and helping them to want to bring their brains, their creativity, their enthusiasm, their best selves to the work place. When we employ someone, at best, all we do is buy eight hours a day of their time. Whether they choose to bring their brains, their creativity, their enthusiasm, their best selves to the work place is their choice. I believe the primary role of leadership is to create the environment that allows this to happen. That is why Stephen Covey calls Leadership “the highest of all arts; it is the enabling art”. It is an art, more than a science although there is some science too.

We should never forget that when we have a position of formal or informal power, that brings with it a responsibility. A responsibility to look after and care for all under our influence and that will often entail saying no to the stronger or more selfish, so that the weaker or more altruistic aren’t taken advantage of. A responsibility to create a fairer environment where all can flourish.

Of all human values the one that is possibly most universal is that of fairness. You might choose to use the words justice or equality. We feel powerful when our values are being honoured and we feel powerless when they are not. If we choose to create an environment which is systemically unfair, how much do we emasculate our people, I wonder?

Now before you think I have turned into some new age hippy, be assured I haven’t. What I am talking about is creating an environment of trust, dignity and honesty so that the human spirit can flourish, where people can be open and honest with each other; where they can passionately debate their viewpoint so that we make the best decisions for the business and the customer.

When we fail to create such an environment, people will probably still engage in passionate debate, but absent an environment of trust that debate is likely to be less healthy, more political, more personal and less about the business and the customer and more about point scoring, self-preservation and getting one over or one back on our colleagues.

If you have enough time and resources to waste on all of that point scoring nonsense, then don’t worry about the environment you are creating with weak managers. If you are, however, interested in all of your team working together to create a great business, a great customer experience and great results consider the damage that weak management creates.

Weak management can be as simple as allowing inappropriate behaviour, language, attitude, timekeeping, dress to simply go unchecked. Your decisions on what is and isn’t appropriate will be unique to you and your business, but I would suggest that it should be an area to which you give due consideration, on which you have a shared vision. It is easy to turn a blind eye and to think it doesn’t matter but I wonder whether you would be so keen if your child’s schoolteacher allowed her to repeatedly behave badly. We have to have a few rules (as few as possible, and as clear as possible), a few principles, to which we are absolutely committed and which we will stringently enforce. The saying goes “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Good managers will not do nothing. Weak managers probably already are.