This post was triggered by a great post in the HBR Blog Network by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman. This essence of their article is that most of the behaviors of so called “bad bosses” are, in their words, sins of omission, not commission. In other words, it’s more what the boss fails to do that makes him or her a poor manager. Of ten “fatal flaws” their extensive research uncovered, only two (Inept Interpersonal Skills and Bad Judgement) were of the commission type.
The authors go on to say that because so many flaws in managers are what’s not there, as the manager’s boss you don’t readily see them. They don’t register on your “radar screen.” They become evident only after some time has passed and the consequences of the flaws begin to manifest in lower output, poor morale, increased turnover, and so forth.
What can you do? How can you scan for what your managers are NOT doing? You reframe the flaws from “failure to…” and “lack of…” to “presence of…” or “examples of…”
- One flaw Zenger and Folkman identify is Failure to Inspire. Ask yourself, “Are this manager’s people demonstrating enthusiasm in and positive energy in their work? What is he/she doing to cause and support this?”
- Another shortcoming is Failure to Develop Others. Pose these questions to yourself, “What discussions has he/she engaged in and what plans have been activated for each of his/her employees? What concrete progress are we seeing in their skills and capacity?”
We don’t know what we don’t see. But we can monitor and insist on more of the behavior we can see that we need in place to create a high performing and growing enterprise.
An added bonus of this approach–we are focusing on positive forms of leadership behavior, rather than the negative, downer impact of framing our feedback in terms of “failure” and “lack of.”