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Over the years we have had the privilege of working with many organizations and we have found that the culture of the organization sets the tone for performance excellence. Every organization has politics of some type; it doesn’t matter who you are.

There’s good and bad politics of course: the "good politics" promote performance excellence and personal accountability while the "bad politics" are associated with a pervasive "flavor" of accepted non-performance by the team. A particularly nasty form of "bad politics" is described by "The who matters more than the what."

This is a particular management style associated with low performing managers who can’t get the respect of the team without playing favorites and parceling out information on an "as needed basis."

Following are five signs that a low performing manager is destroying potential in your organization.

1.  "The Who Matters More Than the What" Syndrome – Ineffective managers typically have their favorite (low performance) employees who mirror that manager’s poor performance record. Doing the job well isn’t a "performance metric" with low performing managers. Instead – currying favor of the low performing manager by enabling them and feeding their ego becomes the goal by the low performing employee. The low performer, subordinate employees maintain their "favored status" through "favors" of various types for the low performing manager. The biggest "favor" offered to the lousy manager by the low performing employee is the acceptance of that manager’s mediocrity. It turns into a circle of "protectionism" of sorts. The lousy manager may give the lower performer preferred tasks that make both the low performer and the lousy manager look good. The reality is they aren’t fooling high performers who may decide to seek employment elsewhere before they themselves succumb to the low performance game.

2.  The "Stupid Factor" Syndrome – Information isn’t shared but disseminated on an as-needed, "need-to-know" basis. We can either share our knowledge and lose all power or we can share it and then go and get more knowledge and have the power. Tim Sanders best describes this thought process in his outstanding book "Love Is the Killer App". Knowledge is power when it is disseminated quickly and efficiently. Low performing managers don’t disseminate knowledge but instead harbor and squander it in order to make themselves feel important. How can you tell if this is an issue? If the same questions must time and time again be answered by a particular manager, the real problem is a lack of systems or low performing managers who are trying to make themselves important by injecting themselves into every decision – thereby making employees depend on them and enhancing their "importance."

3.  The "Trivial Issue Factor" Syndrome – Simple, trivial issues must be handled by management. This is particularly troublesome. If employees aren’t "smart enough" to handle repetitive issues via a policy or just plain intelligence, it’s a sign of lousy management practices or a low performing employee. Either "problem" is unacceptable. Low performing managers want control over every issue – even when the decision-making process could be handled by a policy statement. After all – low performing managers derive their power in handling everything down to the minutest detail.

4.  The "Greener Pasture" Syndrome – Your high performers leave for "greener pastures." Think about it strategically: if you have benchmarked the job and know what is needed in terms of behaviors, values, and personal attributes and you match the right talent (person) to the job, then what could be the real problem? Poor management. Lousy managers and high performers are like oil and water. The lousy manager doesn’t want a subordinate that performs at a higher level than they do, and a high performer quickly "smells" a manager’s incompetence. If you have a high performer with the requisite experience and it seems that they are leaving for "greener pastures" – chances are they are really leaving a lousy manager.

5.  Lack of Personal Accountability Syndrome. This is a huge problem. In many organizations there is very little personal accountability. This problem always represents a lack of personal accountability at the managerial level. What does a lack of personal accountability look like? Low performer managers blame performance on subordinates who can’t do their job. The reality is… The "buck" stops with the manager. It is the manager who must ensure that the right people are in the right seats on the "bus". It is the manager who must ensure that every employee team member knows what is expected from them to do the job well. It is the manager who must ensure that every team member is maximizing possibility by doing the job well. It is the manager who acts as a role model of mediocrity or excellence for the team members to emulate. The lack of personal accountability is a serious disease that must be eradicated from every organization. This problem begins with the low performer manager.

Your organizational culture is critically important. It’s up to you… Decide what you want it to be.

  • Decide.
  • Set the vision.
  • Monitor your managers and ensure that they are living the brand of your organization – ensure that they are living the mission, vision, and guiding values.
  • Expect results.

Mediocrity or Performance Excellence. It’s your choice – it’s always up to you.