Misleading Conduct # 17: Make Day To Day Management A Misery For People


From Ian Sampson

In a Wizard of Id comic I once read, the King saunters up to the sculptor chiseling away and  says: “I want my new statue to remind the peasants of what I’ve done for them. What should I place in my hand a spear or a sword?” The last panel has the sculptor hanging upside down in chains and another prisoner is asking: “You actually said ‘A screw’??”

Unfortunately most misleaders don’t have real dungeons for recalcitrants but there are lots of ways they can imprison their followers, especially in meetings and other interactions. Here is a partial list:

  • Promise the world, deliver nothing. Don’t worry about following through on promises – nobody expects you to anyway and being considered trustworthy by your people is just a waste of time because it usually can’t be seen by your boss;
  •  Reserve the best invitations, meetings, projects for the misleaders. Team members do not attend, but are expected to prepare the leader beforehand and then do all the follow up work afterwards;
  • Assume your people don’t really want to do the best job they can. Assume their objectives are clear. Assume all the required resources are in place. Assume your team never needs a break to rest, rebuild resilience and to learn;
  • Assume you’re more clever and better at hoodwinking than everyone else. In my experience, most people have finely attuned BS meters, and yet misleaders ignore the impact they are having on their people when they don’t speak and act with complete integrity.;
  • Wherever possible, prevent your team from having an active role in the management of the team itself. They wouldn’t know how things work as well as you and can’t be trusted to do it right. Ownership schmownership!;
  • When negotiating, the most important thing is to get the best deal for yourself at all costs. If possible, screw the other party down so that they agree to something they’re not happy with. This will prove that you’ve got the best possible arrangement. Win/Lose – the only way to go!;
  • Never ever apologize. If you make a mistake, don’t apologize immediately and genuinely. And never outline the steps you’ll take to rectify the situation to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s shameful to admit you’re human. Deny, deny, deny! (Nobody is likely to prove it was you anyway);
  • Steal the limelight at every opportunity. In fact, steal everything – good ideas, others work & achievements. Don’t bother to recognize and reward individual contributions and achievement. You’ll get better results by improving your own profile and pretending that all the great ideas are yours, along with all business successes. Important note: Of course, this only applies to good things. Make sure you always blame others for any issues or failures;
  • If you have no other choice….speak the truth;
  • Arrive late, leave early, and keep your door closed in between. The other variant is to arrive early, eave late  and never actually deliver anything in between;
  • So none of your staff forgets how important you are, periodically criticize one in public …. then apologise with sincerity thus demonstrating how responsible, accountable and committed to the next right thing you really are;
  •  Use your title to act entitled … I am the CEO you know, I deserve some respect.
  • Manage upwards and forget about managing/leading the business;
  • Concentrate on the urgent and not the important;
  • Make sure you are the loudest and get your own way so that you keep everyone else under control;
  • Allow employees several levels down to bypass those in the middle …. but get really peeved if this happens to you.
  • Seek to be the centre of attention in all interactions,…..  even when team members have better knowledge of the topic or value to give;
  • Require all reports/correspondence etc. to be prepared by team members ….. but also require that they go out in your name. Take credit for the work of your team (essentially representing the work as your own) instead of taking credit for managing and leading a great team in which people produce great results;
  • Cultivate the notion that someone else is always responsible or at fault ……  it’s a great way to make sure self-imposed helplessness;
  • Always wing it at meetings – the last thing we need is preparation and process;
  • If you are unprepared for a particular discussion why not throw in a red herring to divert attention?  … distract and confuse, it works every time.
  • Always talk about what wonderful things you did in your previous job … and the one before that;
  • Keep on going even if your health or emotional state says you should not be there that day  … after all you are indispensable;
  • In the absence of innate leadership charisma, hire or promote PR resources ….  then ignore them;
  • When the pressure is on ….. retreat to actions that have high levels of agreement and certainty of outcome;
  • Razzle dazzle by …. moving difficult leadership conversations around important organizational design issues back to actions that deliver better procedures;
  • Always interrupt ….. especially when you can no longer pretend you’re listening;
  • Keep the 3 “and’s always at hand….Demand, Command, Reprimand;
  • Always use a little more force than needed …  when responding to criticisms.
  • Believe you can converse on topics you know little or nothing about ….. with expertise and finesse.
  • Pretend you’re prepared ….. in the hope that others will pretend they are too.

Phew!… and I did say this is only a partial list. Do misleaders have any conception of the havoc they are reeking?

A special thanks to Anita Mulrooney, Norman Branson, Marc Zimmer, Mike Boyle, Shayne Rutherford, Greg Livingstone who have all been on “Misleader Watch” and wired these annoying behaviours in.

About Ian:  Ian Sampson (B.Comm., LLB., FAICD, FAIM)  is a Cause & Effective Associate. He is a Strategic Advisor to Boards, an Executive Coach and a Facilitator of our Powerful Leadership in Action Program and has known a few Misleaders in his time. He can be contacted here.

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