I'm Sorry I Broke Your Company: When Management Consultants Are the Problem, Not the Solution 4/x

I’m a Manager and So Can You

There’s no shortage of management models and techniques

  • People leave managers, not companies.

  • Management == leadership, no need to differentiate. [MK: despite thousands of reposts of cool ‘manager vs leader’ slides on LinkedIn]

  • Too many and too boring to list.

  • Not managing by a certain technique is a technique, too, but hard to admit.

Being a Good Manager isn’t all that Different from Being a Good Person

  • [MK: it’s blasphemy in many cultures]

  • Show you care. Relationships with interesting people are rewarding.

  • Communicate. No one can read your mind, even the closest people.

  • If something’s not working – try something different. But don’t give up on a person. Try different methods, find out the causes, obtain external feedback, put a person in a different situation.

  • Think and plan ahead. [MK: mostly applies to project work] Provide clarity about tasks, goals and timelines in an iterative way with the team.

  • Being scared of having friends at work who, after being promoted, start throwing you under the bus, simply means they are not friends.

Step Perpetrating Talent Management on People

Let’s stop sorting the ABCs

  • A players (top 10-20%) with highest salaries and career progression; drive the company and may leave if neglected.

  • C players (bottom 10-20%) – get coached and improve or get out.

  • B players – the rest, don’t mess them up too much.

  • The A Player Fallacy – A players are encouraged to take excessive risks and cheat without proper oversight, and mistakes are easily forgiven in the favour of risk taking.

  • So much wrong with this concept, even hard to start explaining. If B / C players may be coached into A players, can’t the opposite happen?

Performance is Situational, But Labels Stick

  • Sadly, in many companies managers have to ABC-rank their staff.

  • This is particularly unfair to new hires as their rank is assigned based on one review.

  • There are lots of stories of remarkable people who demonstrated different ABCs during their lives.

  • Being labelled as an underperformer or a troublemaker sticks. [MK: in many cultures, including the US, despite giving everyone a fair go in theory, companies choose to get rid of inconvenient people]

  • Personal issues (family, legal, etc.) can affect performance in the short-medium term. [MK: let’s not forget about remote work and kids’ study]

  • It’s easy to succeed when you get to pick your assignments.

  • The impact of labelling is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • In consulting identifying and rewarding stars is a must because they’re the future of the firm. (needless to say, racial, religion, gender, etc. biases are well at play here)

  • This is a part of talent management best practices.

  • Labelling sometimes happens at the inconvenient time (a manageable hiccup, mid-task, etc) when the past history has to be ignored.

Sometimes the A Players Are Alienated by This System, Too

  • Seeking A players has a goal of promoting them to the next management levels.

  • Developing A players “via development opportunities” takes time, and sometimes is prone to being stuck with a project, while others get promoted faster.

  • So not A players will remain A players (see above) after such “development opportunities”.

The Peter Principle is not a Joke – We’re Pushing People Toward Mediocrity

  • Promotion requires an employee to demonstrate superior performance.

  • Assumption: success breeds success.

  • Can’t be promoted? Stay there or find another job.

  • The Peter Principle is true: the equilibrium state of the system is when everyone’s relatively incompetent in their jobs.

  • Incompetent people should be let go, but hey, let’s coach there C players to be B first.

  • But B players get little attention and are left alone.

  • Thus, organizations end up with “mediocre” staff only, as A players revert to B more often than they stay A.

Performance in the Workplace

  • Performance is conditional. Most people can achieve high performance under the right conditions. And the wrong conditions can kill almost anyone.

  • Poor performance is usually not due to incompetence. Most failures are because of poor job fit and/or design, not incompetence.

  • High performers are given more resources and better opportunities to succeed. The rest suck.

  • People like to think they’re in control of their own destiny, especially high-performing individuals. Assigning people to the projects not of their choosing is a punishment.

Fit the Jobs to the People and not the People to the Jobs

  • [MK: this one goes against the common knowledge]

  • Most companies don’t think about shuffling people between jobs to achieve better fit. [MK: Aviasales often does] And almost always – without these people’s attendance.

  • Having more people in the right jobs is a company performance boost.

  • Employees can (and should) take care of their careers and ask for help.

  • Managers should take care of people’s performance [in their span of control] rather than careers [outside their span of control].

  • Job descriptions must not be used to tick the box with a person; the work must be matched with a person. [MK: I am not sure it’s as simple or practical as is described in the book. You may and should compromise on something trivial, but think twice about doing this for a key skill]

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