Managing on one leg

Aug 26, 2010

Go on, admit it. You’re managing while hopping on one leg.I’ve worked with around 1,500 management teams, and I can’t recall one that wasn’t in some way consciously hobbling it’s ability to make high quality decisions.

This isn’t a criticism or a moral judgment, just a statement of fact. We all do it, but over time we rationalize or compensate for the ‘hobble factor’, until eventually we become inured to it, and accept it.

Frankly, it makes my job as an external growth consultant easy, because to a fresh pair of eyes the hobble factor is usually startlingly obvious – and painful to watch. Calling it, and working to remove it brings a quick and almost always financially impactful win.

Here are the five most common ways in which management teams hobble their ability to perform at a consistently high level:

1. Putting up with someone on the team who clearly shouldn’t be there (can be for any one of a number of reasons: not enough skills, battlefield promotion, legacy shareholder, the business has outgrown them, they’re the CEO’s favorite – whatever);

2. Poor communications (again, can be for a variety of reasons: meetings not run well, personal agendas at work, too insular, “don’t bring me bad news” culture, are just a few);

3. ‘Sunk cost’ mentality: The management team are clinging to a practice or process not because it’s the best for the business, but because they’re so heavily invested in it (this could be a specific product line, a pricing structure, distribution channel, a hiring practice, a commitment to a geographic or demographic market – again, YMMV).

4. Out of their depth / too lightweight a team (the business has grown, but the management team haven’t grown with it);

5. There’s an elephant in the room (usually a ‘sacred cow’ that no-one is allowed to challenge, or an individual or group dysfunction that must never be mentioned, or simply a fact about the business or the marketplace of such glaring, damning, negative import that no-one is brave enough to mention it).

So do yourself a favor (and save a chunk of consultant’s fees) – call out your ‘hobble factor’, untie that strapped leg and after massaging the blood flow, enjoy the delight of managing on two legs.