That Derailment Thing – Again

Our friends at the Center for Creative Leadership have studied the reasons behind managers derailing and crashing. It seems to come down to three things: 

They don’t successfully adapt during transitions

They are difficult to work with

They fail to lead in a team-centered way

As I look back at supervisors and managers who derail somewhere along the line, I see lots of examples of people who failed due to one, two, or occasionally all three of these reasons. How about you? Can you think of examples that stand out in your own career?

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Why Managers Fail – 6

Recent posts have described five reasons why 40% of the superivors and managers moving into a new position are likely to fail within the first 18 months in the job. The sixth and final reason is:

Maintaining an Inappropriate Work/Personal Life Balance

Having balance in your life is generally viewed as desirable. It means taking time to build and nurture your family and other personal relationships as well as your professional network. It might mean volunteering in your community for a cause you believe in. And, yes, it means actually taking vacations. Balance means working hard but not becoming a workaholic. Research has shown that if your workweek regularly goes beyond 52-55 hours, your ability to be productive and make good decisions goes downhill quickly – something that no organization wants. Routine 60-70 hour workweeks are a recipe for disaster.

There will be times when a long week (or even a few long weeks) might be necessary, but you can’t effectively sustain that kind of schedule without paying a severe price personally. A failed marriage, missing your children’s lives as they grow up, and generally not having a life other than work are the results of inappropriate balance. At the same time, if your boss can’t count on you to be at work regularly because you are always gone with a family emergency or crisis, you’ll be viewed as someone who isn’t reliable. In the end it is, after all, a question of balance.

How’s your work/personal life balance?

Why Managers Fail – 5

 Another reason the failure rate for supervisors and managers is so high has to do with your ability to do your job within the context of the organization’s culture and way of operating. The fifth reason cited by CCL’s research is:

Lacking Internal Political Savvy

We may complain about it, but the reality is what we call “office politics” is often simply the relationships that help move an organization ahead. Having internal political savvy means understanding how decisions are made, who has real (positional) power, and who the informal leaders are in your organization. As a manager and leader it’s essential that you build a solid internal network within the organization, and that you know how an agenda you’re pushing will affect other parts of the organization.

An important part of political savvy is the approach and tone you use. Constantly raising issues in an aggressive, complaining, tactless manner will be seen as being a P.I.A. (Pain In the Ass) by those above you in the organization. As one executive recently said, “If you are constantly in my face, run me down to others behind my back, and generally behave as a pain in my rear end, why would I want to promote you?”

In every organization there are ways to get things done, raise issues, make suggestions, and transmit important information. Having internal political savvy means understanding how to effectively communicate and interact with others in the organization. Being successful does not mean kissing ass, being a toady, or a yes-person but it does mean understanding how to do a good job within your organization.

What do you think?

Why Managers Fail – 4

For someone who believes, as my colleague and coach Mary Jo Asmus does, that “it’s all about the relationships,” then this is a major cause of supervisors and managers derailing in their careers.

Failing to Build Partnerships & Cooperative Work Relationships

Most successful organizations have effectively broken down the walls or silos that once existed among their internal units or teams. People move so frequently in larger organizations, and responsibilities change so quickly, that you can’t be successful unless you build effective relationships. Your potential for success in higher levels of management depends on your ability to build partnerships and positive relationships with your boss, your employees, and your peers. In the end, being a successful manager and leader is indeed all about relationships.

Think about your own key relationships. Are they all in the shape you’d like them to be? Could one or two relationships benefit from greater effort on your part going forward? In The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers, you will find some excellent suggestions and tips for improving those key relationships.

Why Managers Fail – 3

 We live and operate in a rapidly changing world. Stepping into supervision for the first time is a combination of several emotions; excitement, uncertainty, a bit of fear.

Taking Too Much Time to Learn the New Job

This is the “not getting up to speed fast enough” problem. The days when managers were gradually brought along through a series of carefully planned steps are long gone. Our work force has become highly mobile as the old job-for-life concept has fallen away. Roles, responsibilities, and assignments are often in a state of

This means we must constantly take on new tasks and projects and operate outside of our comfort zone in an ever-evolving, dynamic, ambiguous environment. Rapid lifelong learning will always be necessary. You need to accept that you’ll never feel you’re really up to speed. So it’s important for you to understand what your boss and others think that phrase means, and then give it your best shot.

Above all, getting clear about expectations is crucial. Complete clarity may be impossible, but having ongoing conversations about expectations just make sense. “What are the expectations? And how am I doing in relation to those expectations?”

What are the key expectations for you and your job?

Why Managers Fail – 2

As noted in the last post, 40% of newly appointed managers and supervisors fail within the first 18 months. One of the major reasons is:

Being Unwilling or Unable to Make Tough Decisions

It’s normal to make your first decisions carefully and thoughtfully. After all, being newly promoted or hired means upper management will keep a close eye on you for awhile. That’s fine. And certainly your first or second personnel change will come under rather close scrutiny. The successful supervisor or manager makes personnel changes carefully, keeping at least the next higher level in the loop throughout the process.

In fact, most of the truly tough decisions you’ll face are people-problem decisions. Certain issues can doom a new supervisor or manager to failure, such as being unwilling to confront poor performers positively and help them improve or move on, or ignoring interpersonal disagreements and conflicts. And while the toughest decisions are often people issues, they can also involve equipment, systems, or process problems; new product/service decisions; or other issues posing risk to your team or the organization.

Making decisions and solving problems are part of the deal when you become a supervisor or manager. Just goes with the territory. We cover a wealth of information on navigating that territory in Skill 6 of The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors and Managers – due out in June.