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When Leadership Pretends Not to See

When Leadership Pretends Not to See
"How can I let the leadership team know my manager is a really poor manager and our team is falling apart because of him?"

That question was emailed to me by one frustrated senior manager. It is such a tragedy because here's the truly frustrating aspect of this situation:

The leadership team already knows this manager is weak. They've simply chosen not to do anything about it.

The leadership team is simply pretending not to see this manager's weaknesses. Because if they do, they'll have to address them. If they address this manager's weak management skills, they may well have to address their own management failures in letting this manager become so ineffective. Now why would they want to open that can of worms?

I've yet to hear a CEO, president, executive director, or Vice President say, "So-and-so is a weak manager? Really? I had no idea!" More often than not they say, "Yeah, I know, but he really knows Production. Until we can find someone with those skills, we're kind of stuck."

That's a logical-sounding excuse, but I don't buy it. If the leadership team is keeping a poor manager in place because she or he has technical skills, they've got more systemic issues to address than the manager's weak management skills:

  • They're not building depth in the organization.
    • Why does only one person have the technical expertise needed to effectively oversee and manage production (or whatever the department is)?
      • Who is this manager's backup? What happens if s/he is on vacation, leaves the company or retires?
    • What is being done to continually develop the skills of all employees to ensure they can continue to support the company as it moves forward to support its customers?
  • They're promoting the wrong people into management positions.
    • Why is the manager the one with the strongest technical skills?
      • The people doing the work - the people who are the closest to it - should be the strongest technically.
    • Technical skills and management skills are two very different skill sets.
      • Don't promote a strong technical person only to create a weak manager.
  • They're teaching the weak manager to continue to behave poorly by enabling his or her behavior. By not addressing poor management skills, they're condoning them.
  • They're allowing a weak manager to frustrate solid, well-intentioned employees. As a result, employees who had every intention of contributing, don't.

If you're a leader, ask yourself, "What have I been pretending not to see?" The longer you choose not to address issues with your own leadership, your senior team's leadership, or with your management team, the longer you'll cause your employees to sit-back and disengage. So before you allow anyone on your leadership team to complain about production, operations, marketing, or any other department, group of employees, or individual employee, ask yourself: "What have I seen but have chosen to ignore?" Then, take your blinders off and do your job.


Copyright MMXIV - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!

Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.

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One thought on “When Leadership Pretends Not to See”

  1. Alan Kay says:

    Good post, thanks. The weak manager I often witness is the bully. I recently witnessed a case where the manager was said to, '...get results. The client would fire us if we let her go'. The exec team knew about the damage being done to staff.

    The hidden cost of the bully's behaviour is what's at stake, not the lost revenue.

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on April 15, 2014 in Leadership Development and tagged , , ,