Earlier this week, I asked some questions that managers and leaders should ask, prompted by an email I received through the blog.
I've been thinking about this and I've been trying to keep my “no blaming” hat on. Managers are part of a system — therefore, we shouldn't blame individual managers, necessarily, for their “bad” behavior.
- Is the manager being held accountable for things that are out of their control?
- Is the manager being blamed by higher leaders?
- Has the manager had adequate training and mentoring about how to manage?
- What behavior is expected or rewarded by their managers?
Even if there is a “bad manager” involved, we should ask “why?” and probe to see if there is a root cause within the organization or the management system. What do you see in your organization? What other questions would you ask?
Back when I was at GM, we had a plant superintendent who was a legendary screamer. One day, he called me and another young IE into his office. He wasn't going to yell at us, but before talking, he called a unit manager on speaker phone. He yelled and cursed and screamed at the unit manager, putting on quite a show.
Since I was leaving soon for grad school (and didn't plan on coming back), I had the courage to ask the superintendent, “Why did you behave like that? What are we supposed to learn?”
He claimed, basically, to be part of a system. His boss yelled at him like that, so he was passing it on. He traced through the levels of screaming and cursing, basically tracing it all the way up to GM's board of directors…. therefore, he wasn't “choosing” to act that way, it was just the expectation and culture he had been a part of for over 30 years. I could sort of see his point, but it also seemed like a lame excuse… but his career might have stalled out earlier if he had tried to buck the system, right?
By the way, this was a guy who also didn't believe in Statistical Process Control…. that the line should keep running as long as the product wasn't “out of spec.” And this was a plant that claimed to be managed under “The Deming Philosophy.” Hardly.
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