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At a meeting recently, my peers and I were discussion how we were going to deal with our new micro-managing VP. Details on how he micro-manages aren't important here and I'll save them for my bartender/after-work-therapist. ;-)

In this meeting, several of us were sharing our specific experiences so that we might learn a way to keep this guy happy and achieve the goals the IT Governance Committee set out for us on our projects. Business leaders are already beginning to notice detrimental effects of this guy's decisions on their projects and we are beginning to feel the heat. After giving specific details on behavior (I've gotten a couple of my peers to listen to Manager Tools and it shows), I was asked to summarize the situation. I offered 3 comments that while not addressing specific behavior did summarize general patterns of behavior I had observed. To wit:

1. He has openly said that he intends to "put his mark" on the 10 higest priority projects for the year. Clearly he is being honest about that and we need to understand that he intends to be percieved as the decision maker at all times.

2. This gentleman exhibits no understanding of the difference between providing vision and simply being the person talking.

3. This gentleman exhibits no understanding of the difference between leadership and simply telling people what to do.

This last two statement were challenged the two youngest folks in the group, one of whom is just out of his MBA program with less than 1 year of "real world" experience. He asked for clarity on the difference since he had often been taught that decisiveness was a key element of leadership, and this VP does not lack for decisiveness. The rest of us provided our definitions, but that got me thinking that I would love to hear how some people here (especially M & M) would define the differences I mentioned. I suspect many versions here will be more articulate than mine.

Fair is fair, so here is what I said. "If you tell someone what to do and how to do it, you are bossing them. If you tell them what to do and give them some general ideas about how to do it but leave they details to them, you are giving them direction. If you tell people what needs doing and provide an environment to help them do it, that is providing leadership. And if you help people understand what it is they collectively want to become, that is providing them vision."

So, what say you?

TimBryce's picture

Paul -

I enjoyed your comments. What you are describing, sadly, is becoming
commonplace in the work place. I am finding today's managers tend to
supervise more and manage less (whereas it should be just the reverse).
I do not have an answer for why we're witnessing an increase in this
behavior other than it might just be ego related. Nonetheless, I wrote a
paper on this subject which you might find useful. Its called "Managing
from the Bottom-Up" and you can find it at:

http://ezinearticles.com/?Managing-from-the-Bottom-Up&id=211681

I believe we are seeing a return to Theory X form of management
and much less Theories Y or Z where workers are empowered to do
their jobs.

Hope this helps.

All the Best,

itilimp's picture

[quote="pneuhardt"]"If you tell someone what to do and how to do it, you are bossing them. If you tell them what to do and give them some general ideas about how to do it but leave they details to them, you are giving them direction. If you tell people what needs doing and provide an environment to help them do it, that is providing leadership. And if you help people understand what it is they collectively want to become, that is providing them vision."

So, what say you?[/quote]

I say I couldn't say it better - I think that is an excellent plain english summary, thank you!

bhargavap's picture

Leadership is being able to identify what an employee needs to be effective/efficient at completing the tasks assigned to them.

Whether it is being supportive (listening, guiding, etc) or more directive in nature (organizing, prescriptive instructions, etc), leadership is being able to identify the needs that match the individuals strengths.

My .02 :D

Parul

cincibuckeyenut's picture

[quote="bhargavap"]Leadership is being able to identify what an employee needs to be effective/efficient at completing the tasks assigned to them.

Whether it is being supportive (listening, guiding, etc) or more directive in nature (organizing, prescriptive instructions, etc), leadership is being able to identify the needs that match the individuals strengths.

My .02 :D

Parul[/quote]

I would disagree with that. I think what you have described is a perfect description of management. I think leadership is higher order.

pneuhardt's picture

Tim,

Thanks for the input. While I would agree that some of this is ego based (which results in confusion of the right to command with the need to command) and some is simply the continuation of older "Command And Control" management practices I would submit that there are two other larger factors in play.

First, I believe (although I admit that I have never confirmed) that we have more managers per capita than we used to. Smaller teams have decreased the manager to employee ratio in so many workplaces, and more managers overall translates in to more poor managers. Poor managers are MUCH more likely to fall back on to bossing people around as opposed to prviding real direction and leadership. Given the sorry state of management training in most companies (and to my thinking in most business schools as well), it's not surprising that the number of poor managers is increasing.

Second, I put a lot of emphasis on cultural influences. In this, I don't mean just international cultures such as the differences in style between, say, American and Japanese managers. But as a native Texan now living and raising children in Massachusetts I can tell you that there are some very strong cultural differences even within the USA. Let me tell you, it was a real eye-opening experience for a little-ole country boy from Lubbock, Texas to go to work in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Furthermore, there are non-national culture issues. We often speak of "corporate culture" and I'm sure many of us have seen that different companies do in fact have different cultures inside them. Having once had both Chrysler and General Motors as clients I can attest to the fact that while many percieve all big automakers as being pretty much the same those two were in fact quite different in management and decision-making styles. I think many of us have seen that the military has an orgainzational culture quite different from most found in civilian life.

These cultural issues can manifest themselves in management behaviors.
A person raised in a very authoritarian household or in a more authoritarian society is more likely to be an authoritarian manager as it is simply the environment that they know. Managers who come in to management in more authoritarian corporate cultures are more likely to carry that style forward, even when they move to another company.

Unless and until companies start doing a better job of teaching good management skills and behaviors (notice I said "companies" and not "business schools") I think we can expect to see culture as a principal factor in how managers act in the workplace.

pneuhardt's picture

Follow-up to the original post:

My manager, in a very Manager Toolsish way (even though she is not a listener to the podacst) went to the VP in question and, even though she is actually one of his skips and not a direct report, gave him some feedback on how his behavior affected our group and our ability to perform our duties in the organization.

The VP was very surprised to hear our feelings and felt that perhaps we had some serious communication issues that needed addressing. He also said that he very much regretted any actions he had taken that were percieved as meddling or overly controlling and he did give us some explainations as to why he took the actions that he did. He gave her some additional feedback to carry back to us and has asked if we would be willing to sit with him as a group and have an open discussion about the issues we have.

I remain dubious that he truly understands the leadership/command difference, but I will say that I am very happy to hear that he has respected our feelings and opinions and has taken the path of working and communicating with us and not just telling us to shut up and go do our jobs. And I will also say that his asking to be allowed to sit with us as a group and talk rather than simply ordering a group meeting where he would explain himself to us is a very positive sign. I find myself looking forward to this meeting as a chance to establish a healthy working relationship with him and in his organization.

Score one for feedback. Let us hope we all show the professionalism to take this positive step and turn it in to even more progress.

TimBryce's picture

Paul -

Thanks for the follow-up. This leads to an important point; management
can be taught, but it is also learned in the absence of any formal training.
I've noticed a substantial decline in training dollars being spent on
management related subjects over the years. In contrast, training
for technology related subjects has skyrocketed. I consider this
a "penny-wise, pound-foolish" behavior by companies. I don't know
why this is, perhaps companies think management skills come
naturally to people; they do not. Hence the need for forums such
as this.

All the Best,

Awanish Kumar Dev's picture

Great! reading all that stuff. What is leadership? Leadership - depends on what you are looking for - say for example indian independence - then all that Gandhian approach is a part of the leadership concept. And that too because it could deliver what people wanted! Leadership is a concept deeper than pacific because it is a highly inclusive subject. Depending upon your perspective you can approach it from individual i.e., trait to .......human ..... to........political dimensions to say the least. Have a nice day,
Thanks & regards,
Awanish Dev,
[email protected]

Mark's picture

Folks-

Sorry this took so long.

Leadership: Achieving a vision.

Management: Achieving effective results.

One on Ones: Scheduled effective communication.

Feedback: Encouraging effective behavior.

Coaching: Improving individual performance.

I wouldn't have had the conversation with my peers about that guy, but glad there's some movement in the right direction.

Mark

pneuhardt's picture

Mark,

I didn't initiate the conversation about this VP. My manager did, as she was a witness to some VERY unprofessional behavior from this guy directed at all the PMs in our PMO. She was asking for feedback from the group. I think she was afraid we would all quit if we had to work with this guy. To be honest, she might not have been too far off with that.

Follow-up to the sit-down with the VP: When it finally occured, he tolked for the entire hour with almost no communication from us. His explanation for his actions was that we needed guidance and behavior modification so that we could perform at a higher level than we already were. Three times in a one hour speech he compared us to his 12 year old son, a B student that he feels should be doing A work. He assured us he treated us no differently than he did his own son and that he did it for our own good. He assured us on 3 other occasions that we would be grateful for his experience that he shared with us and that was his job as a leader. (Of the 7 people in the room, he was the 2nd youngest and had the least amount of hands-on project management experience.)

Exercise for the group: Can you name at least 5 things he did wrong? There are more than 5, but let's see if folks can figure out the 5 things that chapped my backside the most. Bonus points for those that can phrase their answer to show how his actions demonstrate what leadership is NOT.

In another thread I said I had never worked with a manager that was so bad he was a major force on my career because of the counter-example he provided. If this guy survives the acquisition (we are being purchased in a deal that should close very soon) he may well end up fitting that role.

Mark's picture

"At a meeting recently, my peers and I were discussion how we were going to deal with our new micro-managing VP. "

What part of that don't I get? Your BOSS was there, dissing a VP in front of her team? Dumb.

I thought it was just peers, which would mean... the peers were messing up.

Be careful, folks, about airing grievances. There's another thread about a manager who has a boss who has been bad-mouthing him, and she thinks he doesn't know.

I know he's a jerk. But it's only jerks we talk about behind their backs. And you just never know.

Mark

pneuhardt's picture

*grumble grumble*

I hate it when I'm wrong in public. And of course, Mark is correct.

Mark's picture

Paul-

But not much more often than you are.

Mark

pneuhardt's picture

Mark,

That may very well be the best thing anyone has said to me in months that did not involve the word "love." It certainly was one of the most humbling, considering the source.

Mark's picture

Absolutely my pleasure.

H