What I Learned From a Crappy Manager.

We’ve all seen the thousands of posts where people talk about what they’ve learned from awesome managers.  Truth is, it’s the same for me — I’ve been (and currently am!) fortunate to have managers who I’ve learned boat-loads from, have cheered me on, challenged me, believed in me, and set me on the right course when I veered off.   Over the weekend I had a conversation with a great friend and afterwards I was reflecting on the one & only horrible manager I’ve had in my career (I’ve had at least 14 “managers”, and have managed others).  I thought — there must have been something that I learned from them — it couldn’t have all been wasted time.   Or was it?

It turns out, that there was alot that I learned — and thus, thought I’d share it.  If for no other reason than to show that even the crappiest of crappy managers, can still teach us something.  Below is a short list of things I learned & hope to never repeat.

  • Don’t be absent, then be upset that team moved on with out you:

May seem obvious, but assuming you have the right team in place — let them execute.  Worst thing  you can do is disappear (physically or literally) and then parachute back into the mix.  That yo-yo effect kills momentum, and results in the team having the tail wag the dog.   Better yet, set the pace and empower the team to keep up!

  • When you recognize that the team has bonded, embrace it — don’t try to kill it:

Don’t feel the need to be part of the inner circle of the team.  Rather, be proud that they’ve come together in a really powerful organic way.  Teams that can execute at a high degree as a unified voice are wicked powerful.  Embrace (and be proud!) of this movement — it means that the team is firing on all 8 cyinders!

  • It’s OK not to be the smartest person in the room:

Making the assumption that you’ve hired the right people, let them be awesome.  You’re the manager, not because you are the resident expert of every topic from arts & crafts to deep tech — you’re the manager because you can hire awesome people and inspire them to greatness.  The more that you try and act like the cats pajamana’s, the more likely that your team will shut down and you’ll lose that precious good stuff you hired them for in the first place.

  • Past greatness, means nothing to future success:

If you have to go back more than 10 years for your last big accomplishment — don’t bother.  Worse yet, is beating your team across the head with those same stale and irrelevant 15 year old accomplishments.  Instead, focus on the future and how you’re going to, as a kick ass manager, drive the team to something awesome.  Look ahead, not behind you.

  • Give credit and upward visibility to the team:

If you’re afraid to have your team meet with your manager, ask yourself why.   Chances are, you’ve sniped some credit from the team and don’t want to be exposed.  Or you know you’re totally inept, and want to control the messaging.  Either case send shitty messages to your team, not of which are inspiring confidence in your ability as a leader.  Encourage updward dialogue, and most importantly — give 100% of the credit to the team, after all — you had the foresight to hire them.

At the end of the day, a crappy manager can ruin your day (or hell, even your career!), but I believe that no matter how bad the situation — there is always something to be learned.

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