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Main Street: March 6, 2019

March 7, 2019

One simple phrase “You might be a redneck if …” has propelled comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s net worth to more than 100 million dollars. Done in good humor, a few of Jeff’s classic barbs include: “You might be a redneck if you’ve ever made change in the offering plate; Your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand; and if you own a home with wheels on it, and several cars without.”

Funny and yet, like all good humor, they have a tinge of truth to them.

This week, I thought we might have a little fun with what being a good manager-leader vs. a bad manager-leader entails. Most of us who have had a difficult manager-leader can identify with these because they are all based on real situations.

Below are a few examples of the more common ones. I always like to write a disclaimer that none of us are perfect and we miss the mark sometimes ourselves, but when good or bad behavior becomes a practice, it is time to examine it.

First, let’s start out with the undesirable side “You most certainly are not a good manager if …”

You fail to respond to written letters and memos, email or phone calls promptly. Most of us get way too much communication these days, and we are not obligated to respond to all of it. But if your job requires you to respond to important constituents and you never, if rarely, respond in a timely manner or at all, you are not a good manager. You will be seen as unprofessional and arrogant as well.

If ... you take a raise or bonus when others are losing their jobs or getting their hours cut, you fail the leadership test. This happens too many times today in corporate America and utterly undermines the confidence of remaining employees and your customers.

If ... you operate with the philosophy of just, “Tell them what they need to know and no more” (even if they have a right to know to carry out their jobs), forget what your official title is, you are not a good leader.

If … you think it’s your right to “cast the vision without consulting your people,” you are a failed leader. A few years ago it became fashionable for top executives to cast a purely top-down vision. Forty years of research and practice has demonstrated how foolish that is.

Of course, depending on the situation leaders do have a responsibility to take action, but the best organizational leaders also nurture vision creation up and down the company.

If ... you hear yourself saying fairly often, “Well you just don’t see the big picture.” The logical, painfully obvious, question is: “Well whose fault is that?” That arrogant attitude and those words in my grade book earn you an F-.

Now let’s focus on the affirmative.

You might be (and most likely are) a great manager-leader if …

You don’t treat everyone the same but are flexible enough to adapt your style to fit the employee. Surprisingly, by adjusting to others, rather than making them conform to you tends to raise productivity. Treating everyone the same, while it has the appeal of being fair, often produces just the opposite effect.

This does not imply accepting low standards or playing favorites, but rather providing the environment to allow employees to use their particular talents.

If you work just as hard as you demand others to work. We are not talking about fostering workaholic behavior. Many of us have had a boss that arrives late or leaves early or both.

Give people a sense that you understand and appreciate what they do by being there both mentally and physically. The best example I ever saw was provided by Florida Gov. Bob Graham (before he became a U.S. Senator). One day a month he went out and worked at one of the state agencies for a day. It was not done for a photo-opt but rather to demonstrate to both the employees and citizens we are all in this together.

You are likely a great leader if you tell people the truth whether it is good or bad news and equally share in the sacrifice and the prosperity. It really is remarkable how people respond during a crisis if they trust the managers and leaders. On the other hand, when things are going well, they need to “share” in the credit, good fortune, and be given new opportunities.If you value people who want to improve themselves by learning and pursuing additional education, even if that means you may ultimately lose them, you are likely a good manager.

For those of you who watch Undercover Boss on CNBC, you will notice many of the best bosses try and open up opportunities for their rising employees. But if they don’t have a possible position, they still support further education and a move to another organization with the boss’s blessing.

Across the years I’ve watched narrow-minded managers not want to hire an overqualified candidate for fear of losing them. Instead, they employ mediocre employees and live with them for years. Better to have the best of the best and lose them someday than have mediocrity become the norm in your company.

The list could go on. Most of the writing on management and leadership focuses on being a great leader. Too little time is spent on looking at the opposite — what is not good management and leadership and then correcting that. It is an effective way to diagnose some of our limitations and try and overcome them.

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