I have met many “nice” managers in my travels and frequently at workshops – good people, pleasant demeanours, humorous, caring and loyal. These managers easily fit into the leadership team and are generally liked by all. They go about their tasks faithfully and encourage colleagues and employees, especially when the workload is putting everyone under pressure. They deal with clients politely and handle crises and people issues patiently. They uphold company values and are seen to be responsible. The problem with many of these managers, however, is that they never seem to achieve expected results. Although liked, results are illusive and this deficiency seems to nag at the very fibre of their beings. They are just not making the grade.

There seem to be two key factors that mitigate against an ability to achieve the goals that have been set for them/their respective departments – an inability to coach effectively and a reticence to confront bad or inadequate performance amongst their employees. They see the hard work and activity, but do not register with, or worse, ignore pockets of resistance or employees that are not delivering according to expectation. Issues are not addressed, resulting in a culture of lethargy – tomorrow is another day – or anger – one that recognises what needs to be done, but realises that laziness is never going to be addressed. This environment is dysfunctional.

The above “nice” managers need to be coached towards improvement and be given the skills to confront the people issues within the department. If left to carry on committing, but not following through and expecting performance from team members, respect for their leadership will be lost. These managers need to:

  • Delve more deeply into the operational dynamics of the company – whether service levels, quality issues, expenditures, or productivity, managers need to be well-versed in the inner workings of each business unit and hold supervisors and employees accountable for high achievement.
  • Not be too sympathetic to employees and accept performance from them that is substandard – managers need to raise the standard to accelerate the company forward towards excellence.

Being “nice” as a manager does not produce results. With fairness as an operating paradigm, these managers need to take charge and hold people accountable. They need to be able to identify weaknesses, help staff become aware of them and coach the employees on how to overcome them. A leadership that is weak is debilitating to individuals as well as to the team. It causes decisions to have to be revisited and possibly reworked and slows down progress. It may well prevent the company from achieving its highest priorities.

Is your leadership behaviour standing in the way of getting great results? Addressing poor performance and ultimately growing people takes courage. It means that the leader gives honest and transparent feedback. Standards get set for excellence and expectations are clear. Employees know how they will be measured – they rely on the leader’s consistency in this regard.

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