Why Managers Fail – 1

Managers fail for a number of reasons, and the failure rate is remakably high. Our friends at the Center for Creative Leadership ( they do remarkable and important work at CCL – they’re the Gold Standard when it comes to Leadership Development) have studied the issue of managerial failure for years. Their term for it is “derailment” and it’s a good term for what happens.  About 40 percent of supervisors and managers fail within the first 18 months in their positions (defined as being fired, demoted, having their job reorganized, or otherwise having their responsibilities significantly changed). In addition, the vast majority of these new managers failed due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Not understanding their boss’s expectations
  • Being unwilling or unable to make tough decisions
  • Taking too much time to learn the new job
  • Failing to build partnerships & cooperative work relationships
  • Lacking internal political savvy
  • Maintaining an inappropriate work/personal life balance

We’ll take them one at a time over the course of several posts. Let’s start with the first one:

Not Understanding Their Boss’s Expectations

Expectations are always there. No matter who you are in the organization, you report to somebody else and that person is going to have expectations of you as a manager and supervisor. When those expectations are discussed out in the open, and mutually understood, the odds of your success go up considerably. When those expectations are unstated or unclear, it’s like stepping up to home plate with two strikes already against you.

Do you know what your boss expects from you? Have you discussed and mutually agreed to a shared vision of success for you and the organization? If you answered “no” to either of these questions, you may have a great opportunity for improvement.

Try this; first, make a list of what you think your boss’s expectations are. Then schedule a time to sit down with them and have a discussion about expectations. This should be a critical, top-priority item in your busy life; it could be the single most important meeting you’ll have this year.

Think about it.

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