At one time or another, we’ve probably all worked for a bad manager and perhaps wondered if the boss’s boss knew that manager had issues. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn walks us through how to recognize a bad manager and how to handle the situation.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for another edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi Rob, so good to have you back with us today.
Rob Artigo: And it’s good to be back. And I have another good idea here, I think. We’ve talked a lot on Tough Things First, on this podcast, many times about management and managing those leaders. Some factors are very obvious to me in determining whether or not somebody is a bad leader, but some things are not so easy to figure out and requires experience and expertise and sometimes that’s a learned experience you learn over time. How do I know which leaders are good ones in my business and which ones are not so good?
Ray Zinn: Well, the simple answer is because they meet their goals. In other words, if when you sit down with them establish their goals and their objectives and if they meet them, then they’re probably a good leader. If however, they’re constantly, consistently missing those goals and objectives, either you are not a good leader in the sense of where to helping them set those goals or you are finding that they as individuals are just not capable of leading an organization or a particular function.
Rob Artigo: Well help me out here in establishing a standard for goal setting. If I’ve got a leader or a team of leaders that I want to mentor into being good leaders and make sure they’re hitting their goals, what objective do I have in terms of making sure that they fully understand what that goal is?
Ray Zinn: Well, what I like to do is give them a goal that they fully understand. In other words, one that’s completely within their scope of responsibility and capability, and see how they do. If you give them all right off the bat, a real stretch goal or a tough goal, then you’re not sure if it’s because of the goal or it’s because of them as an individual. Start off with something that you know they should be able to do and accomplish. And then build from there. And then you keep tightening up those goals as you see how they perform. Again, don’t start off with the real tough goals thinking, oh here, this separates the men from the boys. No, start out with goals you know that they’re within their purview and capability of doing and see how they perform. If they can’t do that, don’t even try to go to the next level because you’re going to fail or they’re going to fail. It’s that’s how you kind of weed out the good managers from the ones that are not so good.
Rob Artigo: And I guess this comes with the type of experience you had going through businesses, you rose through the ranks and eventually becoming CEO with your starting, Micrel, having a diverse background experience within the business environment so that you understand how generally long it does take for something to happen. You can say, “All right, well I know in my experience this is how long this basic task should take.” And then you can evaluate it based on that. Having the background and experience will help you understand what types of goals to put upon your managers.
Ray Zinn: Sure. Well problem may be with you as the leader. If you don’t know how to set goals or to properly motivate your people in accomplishing those goals, then you need to examine your skillset and what you can do and what you can’t do. Certainly when you point the finger, you got three or four of them pointing back at yourself.
Rob Artigo: Right. And I was just thinking of this idea that if I meet one bad manager in the course of a day, that’s the manager’s probably, needs some work. But if I meet five or six bad managers at my business in a day, then chances are the problem’s not with them.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. Well, yeah, that’s a general statement, but yeah, that’s probably true. If all your people are bad, you definitely have a problem.
Rob Artigo: Well, if I’ve identified a bad leader, do I just fire the leader or do I go into, put my mentor hat on and start helping them redeem themselves within the business environment? Define for me what it’s like to decide if somebody is worth salvaging and if somebody’s just so bad they can’t stick around anymore.
Ray Zinn: Well you used the word bad leader, so they’ve already identified themselves as not a good leader. And if they’re a bad leader, certainly there’s no way you’re going to be able to turn them around or at least have any kind of a timeframe that you can turn them around. Rather than just throwing the baby out with the wash, if you’ve already identified them as a bad leader, I would say kick them to the curb.
Rob Artigo: Now what if you’ve got people who are on the border between slipping over the edge to being bad and maybe they’re generally good, but they have some serious weaknesses. When identifying those weaknesses, how do I approach the manager about addressing those particular areas, or those weak points?
Ray Zinn: Well, we all have weaknesses. There’s not any of us, you and I included in that, that don’t have weaknesses. But weaknesses can be our strength. If you’re a good leader, you identify your weakness and you improve on it, you build on that and make it a strength. For example, if you have some kind of muscle dystrophy or some other weakness in your physical being, you’re going to go to work on that. You’re going to turn that around. You’re going to make a positive. And so I think weaknesses are good if we know them, identify them and then we work on them. Like we talked about, the muscle that has atrophied and you want to strengthen your legs or your arms or your shoulders or whatever it is that’s a problem.
Or your memory, maybe you got a bad memory and you work on that. Weaknesses are good because we all have them. Because that helps us identify where we need to improve and we need to strengthen. Don’t condemn a person because they have weaknesses. Just look at yourself. But what you do is you want to make sure that they want to improve on that weakness and strengthen it. I don’t know of a single athlete that doesn’t improve on their particular skillset by identifying where their shortcomings are.
Rob Artigo: And the good ones, the best ones, those athletes you’re talking about, work on that weakness and they work very hard at it, but not at the risk of losing what they’re already good at. They continue to foster that as well, right?
Ray Zinn: Sure. Well, sure. Because if you work on a weakness and lose your strength that you’re not getting anywhere. What you want to do is let a weakness become a strength. And then of course now you’re stronger because you’ve repaired that damage or that weakness that you had. And now you’re overall better off.
Rob Artigo: Thank you for your time, Ray.
Ray Zinn: You’re welcome, Rob. Thank you.
Rob Artigo: Find out more at toughthingsfirst.com. Tough Things First is on Facebook, the book, Tough Things First is also available out there so please take a read. Also, check out Ray’s collection of short writings in the Zen of Zinn and make sure you take a moment to rate this podcast with your favorite platform.
Thank you, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob. Appreciate being with me today.