June 29, 2011 at 7:52am
It's too easy to be a bad manager. In many organizations it's hard to escape the consequences of bad financial performance but very easy to avoid any form of negative consequence for mistreating people - especially if you're making your number.
This is partly because of what we track and what we publicize. Financial measures are often publicized within an organization. People know who is making their number and who isn't. But managerial and leadership qualities are rarely publicized. These are the topic of closed-door conversations (if they are discussed at all).
Let's make them public so that bad managers have no place to hide.
The problem? Many managers are awful. Either they aren't interested in helping other people succeed or they don't know how. Often, their company makes it very clear to them that their own success is solely a function of their financial performance.
Now very few companies actually say this. Of course they all tout their wonderful culture and values. But people aren't stupid. They see who is rewarded. When it's the jerk who makes his number but mistreats employees, the people see and understand.
Organizations often fuel this unhealthy dynamic by gathering and publicizing financial data but hiding leadership data. For example, they may collect and share (internally) sales data by region, division, product line, etc. all of which can then be attributed to specific teams and leaders. But when it comes to cultural measures like employee engagement, it is very rare to see a company collect and share this information internally so that everyone knows whose teams are happy, engaged, satisfied, enriched, etc.
Managers are often faced with apparent tradeoffs: let the team work normal healthy hours or close the next deal? What do you think the manager will choose when he or she knows that financial failure will be publicized but managerial failure will not?
Every month, the organization should collect data on the human performance of every manager. They should then assign a rating to every manager. That rating should literally be posted on the office door of every manager. It should be posted in the cafeteria. It should be posted on every bulletin board - physical and virtual - that the company has available.
The data can come from quick surveys sent to every employee or brief interviews. This should be quick and easy. If it's too onerous, nobody will take the time to provide the information.
The impact? Probably a good dose of shame in the early stages. Bad managers will be outed. But as everyone sees that this is not a flash in the pan but an ongoing effort to bring the same degree of transparency to management and leadership as is currently brought to the financials, these bad managers will change their behavior. Well, some of them will. Others will leave. That's good. You don't want them anyway. Really. You don't.
There are no first steps. This is easy. Just do it. Write a simple questionnaire. Five questions. No more. Send it to every employee. Use a common scale so you can just average the responses across all five questions to calculate the overall score for each manager.
And then, just be brave. Tack it up on the wall. And let the fun begin.
Then rinse and repeat.