Wickham Skinner and W. Earl Sasser thought so. Although their Harvard Business Review article is from over 40 years ago, their observations about behavioral characteristics of less effective managers still ring true:
- accepting conventional company wisdom without question; example, “we always promote from within”
- acting too slowly when changes are needed now
- tolerating subordinates who are ineffective, hinting at improvements needed instead of taking decisive action
- not challenging the way things are done, “we have always done it this way”
- not handling priorities
- not taking calculated risks, lack of “boldness, nerve, and self-confidence”
- not asking for help or advice when needed
- not recognizing their own weaknesses
1. Have you seen managers who exhibit these characteristics? I have many times, even managers who had good people skills and were liked by those with whom they worked. Sometimes they were just too busy putting out fires. Sometimes it just seemed that it would be too much trouble and take too much energy to challenge the status quo. Different reasons for different managers.
2. Often the complacency or lack of initiative is a function of organizational culture. What happens if you take risks and fail? The consequences become part of the culture. Challenge conventional wisdom and get shot down? The consequences become part of the culture. Ask for help or advice and then have this seen as a sign of weakness. Again, part of the culture. Culture is difficult to change but if the culture is not what you want it to be, then as leaders we should act to change it.
3. I wrote in an earlier blog that these characteristics could be used to develop a good questionnaire or scale to measure effectiveness. Years later I realize these might also make good items to help assess culture. To be innovative, to compete, organizations need people who challenge the status quo, make change where change is needed, hold others accountable, and have enough self-confidence to ask for help when needed. To lead is to do more than just the job.
Skinner, W. & Sasser, W.E. (1977). Managers with impact: Verstile and inconsistent. Harvard Business Review, 55(6), 140-8.
Image, "Multi-tasking-efficiency-manager", by mohamed_hassan. Image obtained from https://pixabay.com/en/multi-tasking-efficiency-manager-2840792/ Used in accordance with: https://pixabay.com/en/service/license/
© John Ballard, PhD, 2019. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018.