CIO magazine has another spot on article, this time about management actions that actively demotivate staff.  I’ll spare the point for point recounting of the article, but will offer some relevant anecdotal evidence supporting cases made by the author, Esther Derby.

My favorite is a manager asking for input and then ignoring it.  Ignoring simple input regarding a project is bad enough, but I’ve enjoyed the experience of a manager asking for constructive criticism about his methods and then paying no mind.  A manager asking for feedback from direct and indirect reports is usually thought of as noble, but what good does it do if not acted upon? 

The one time I was given this opportunity, my suggestions revolved mostly around interpersonal skills.  My manager employed a “Wizard of Oz” approach to management.  That is, he stayed behind his curtain(cube wall) and dictated from there, rarely coming out to have actual conversations.  To this point, my number one suggestion to him was to have more one on one contact like we were at that moment.  My comfort level with him through two one-hour conversations doubled compared to the last year and a half of working “with” him.  These talks were always business relevant and not of the deliborate relationship strengthening type, but they opened both our eyes tremendously as to the thought processes and goals we shared and didn’t share.  Ultimately, I was far more willing to approach him over difficult matters.  Prior to, as I explained in the meeting, I was far more comfortable talking to our CTO directly than to my manager. 

We parted with a healthy handshake and a very genuine sounding “thank you” from him for the honest feedback.  Six months later, nothing is different.  He is no longer my manager, but he is someone’s.

Moving to the section on creating an environment for success, I identify the number one missing element as the articulation of the group’s mission.  This has nothing to do with mission statements or vision paragraphs buried in a 20 slide presentation.  This is an actionable philosophy for how things get done.  This is especially important in the technical world, where uber-nerds have a tendency to stray from current tasks to whatever new technology sounds interesting that day.  Too many brainy shops lack significant direction, perpetuating a daily loss of focus and eventually the failure to meet deadlines or quality standards.  Not only does this remove the manager as a decision bottleneck, as the article states, but it naturally reduces the opportunity for manager dictation, saving oneself from that possible coaching pitfall.  Get a techie on board with the what and why, and the how comes without effort.

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