Leading a company of any size is a challenge, and even more so if a CEO can’t count on his or her managers. In this edition of the Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn addresses the key warning signs of a poor or inadequate manager.
Rob Artigo: Hi, I’m Rob Artigo, entrepreneur and screenwriter, happy to be back for another Tough Things First podcast. Hi Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello Rob. Welcome back.
Rob Artigo: Appreciate it. The most successful entrepreneurs learn to recognize both positive and negative trends, and that includes the behavior at work of our employees and managers. So let’s focus on managers. What are some of the indicators or warning signs of a poor or inadequate manager?
Ray Zinn: Well the first thing I really notice is that they don’t respond very quickly. In other words, you send a request in for them to handle some particular assignment, and they’re slow to respond. That’s one of the quickest ways I can tell if a manager has some issues. That means they’re not responsive.
Rob Artigo: Well on that subject real quick, I think of sometimes where I expect someone to at least let me know they’re working on it, and they don’t respond and say “I’ve got the message.” Simply saying that they’ve got the message tends to help me know that they’re engaged, right?
Ray Zinn: Exactly. So when I was flying, when I would want to contact the tower or air traffic control, they would be waiting for me to respond back. In other words, they would send a request out saying “Turn right heading 370” or something like that, and then they would expect me to respond back “Okay, I’m level at 3,000, turning right heading three,” whatever. So it’s just courteous and it also shows that your responsive when you do say “Got the message, and I’m on it.” That shows a consideration and a dedication to your task.
Rob Artigo: What’s the next thing?
Ray Zinn: The next thing I can think of is, if they don’t have the answers on the tip of their tongue, in other words, if they have to search or they just hem-haw around, that’s another example that they’re not on top of their game, and that they’re having to think through what it is they’re doing, and that tells me they’re not paying attention.
Rob Artigo: Can you tell when somebody is … I don’t want to use the nasty word for it, but when somebody’s not giving you the honest scoop about the situation, they’re sort of … Like you said, if they don’t have the answer on the tip of their tongue, that’s one thing. But then to play it off as if you do, but you’re not giving the answer, you know what I’m saying?
Ray Zinn: Sure. That’s the same thing. If they just fire off something and then I later find out that the information was wrong, that just tells me they’re being flippant, or they’re just trying to act like they know what they’re doing, but they really don’t.
Rob Artigo: Okay. Another one for you is really company policies and procedures, if they’re complaining about it.
Ray Zinn: I know. Isn’t that … So, what I’ve found is that employees that are having difficulty integrating, or managers that are having difficulty integrating, is they complain about the policies and procedures. And the reason for that is that they’re used to doing it maybe the way they did at their old company, and they just can’t adapt. And so, they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and so the manager who can’t adapt well indicates to me that they’re not very flexible. And as the saying goes “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not get bent out of shape.” And so if you’re not flexible, you’re going to constantly be complaining or get bent out of shape.
Rob Artigo: And it seems to me they’re deflecting, too, and I think this goes to your next one. And that is, essentially blames others. So complaining about policies, procedures, or complaining in general, or simply saying “It was somebody else’s fault.”
Ray Zinn: I call them whiners, you know. They “Oh, you know, so and so didn’t do their part, or they didn’t finish their assignment.” And they’re constantly blaming someone else for the shortcomings that they’re having. That’s another example I’ve found of people who are … Who just don’t have their act together.
Rob Artigo: How much rope do you give them, to test their limits as they go along? I mean, if they’re doing that to a certain extent that’s one thing, and I think everybody has to depending on what the circumstances is on their desk. You know, what they have on the table that they need to get done. But how do you know?
Ray Zinn: Well, you know they say, you give them enough rope to hang themselves. So you give them enough opportunities to demonstrate that they’re on board, that they’re a team player. And if it looks like they’re not, you either reassign them, or invite them to find another place to work. And so you know you need to be open and transparent with them regarding their performance, but if they’re not willing to toe the … or pull their weight, then that’s a sign that they need to go.
Rob Artigo: And you suggest that accepting responsibility is a way to counter that, right?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. So if … When you accept responsibility, you get the job done on time. You don’t hesitate. Even if the task is difficult to do or has some pitfalls with it, as long as you put forth your best effort and do whatever it takes to get that job done on time, I’ll be happy with their performance.
Rob Artigo: Do they come into your office, or call you or email you and tell you directly, and expect that even if it’s a big thing that they seem to have messed up, that they can count on you to listen to the circumstances and sort of see things their way when they say “Hey, look, I did this, and I was … I misunderstood something and I went forward and did it, and I messed up. And this is … The result was not good.” Maybe it was a financial problem for the company. I mean, it could be really big things sometimes, and it’s hard to accept responsibility the bigger the dilemma is.
Ray Zinn: As I have said in the past, accepting responsibility is making amends, in other words fixing the problem, not making it a problem for the company. Make it transparent to the company. No harm, no foul, as they say. So again, the purpose of taking responsibility is to make something of it. In other words, resolve the issue and make it not a problem for the company.
Rob Artigo: And of course, Ray, what we’re talking about here on this edition of Tough Things First, is how to recognize the warning signs of a poor or inadequate manager, and you said doesn’t respond quickly to requests, doesn’t have the answers on the tip of their tongue, complains about company policies and procedures, complains and blames others and doesn’t accept responsibility. And also, which goes along with this, and lastly on your list is regularly misses due dates.
Ray Zinn: That’s the challenge. We all expect everybody to pull their weight, in other words do their fair share, and when a due date is not met, that puts a hardship on the company or the department.
I was talking with a friend of mine, actually just couple days ago, and they’re building or remodeling the kitchen. And the original forecast was two and a half months to remodel the kitchen. Now these people decided to live in their house while the remodeling was done, which is a real hardship in of itself.
Then when the project got started, they said “Oh, well the city is late in getting us the permits, and so we can’t cover up this wiring or this plumbing until they do the inspection.” And that delayed it. And they had a vacation coming, you know the kids were all out of school and they wanted to take some time off and then that delayed it. And here it is, five and a half months later and they still don’t have the kitchen done.
This is an example of not meeting your commitments, and having all kinds of reasons for not finishing on time. So the unfortunate thing is, whenever there is a remodeling to be done, you have to double or triple what they tell you, because they just are not very good about meeting their commit dates.
So don’t be that way in your company. Meet your commitments. That’s so important, to meet your commitments, and make those promises means something.
Rob Artigo: Yeah, the word I always think of, as a guy who spent 20 years in journalism, was the word deadline. And if somebody gives you a deadline, if it’s approaching and you know you’re not going to meet it, maybe you need help, and maybe you need resources, or maybe you just need a little more time. but the important thing is to address it beforehand. Don’t have your boss or the CEO of the company have to call you and say “Hey, we had this important deadline and you didn’t meet it. What’s the deal?” And then you’re explaining “Well, tomorrow.” Or “It will be Thursday.” Or “Monday at the latest. I know that I can get this done by then.”
It seems to me before … You have an expectation that you are going to meet that deadline. And if you don’t meet that deadline, and you haven’t addressed it beforehand, then I think that’s an extra hit on you. I mean, you’ve got to be able to say “Look, I know what I can get done.” And I used to do this in journalism, is they would hand me the story. And they would say “Here’s the assignment. Go get this, and get it done by this particular time.”
And I knew from the assignment and where I needed to go, because I had enough experience where I would think in my mind, and I’d be able to back time. From that point, when do I need to do certain things to get it done at that time. If the deadline was unrealistic, I would tell them. Because they could say “Well look, we don’t need this part of the story, or just do the best you can, but get it to us at this time.”
Then that was different than saying “We need all these things, A, B, C, D and E, and you have to have it done at that time.” And then I just go, I don’t say anything, I go out and work on it, and then call them up at that time and go “Well, I just didn’t get it done, because it was too much.” You know, I could have been passive-aggressive and just not done it on time, and blamed them.
But at the same time, I think you’ve got to say something beforehand, because there may be something they can do. Give you some more resources or help you out, or make a call for you that might speed things up.
Ray Zinn: Well a deadline is exactly as it says, it’s a due date that can’t be missed. In other words, it’s a line that if you don’t meet it, you’re dead. And that’s why they call it a deadline. So, anyway.
Well this has been a good conversation, Rob, and hopefully our listeners, if they have some questions or other ideas or concerns, that they will email us or call us or let us know, and we’ll be happy to answer them on the air.
Rob Artigo: Right. ToughThingsFirst.com is a great place to start. You can link up with Ray Zinn’s Facebook page, email information, and also of course subscribe to the podcast. Thanks again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob. This has been a great session.