Why your management team sucks (and who to promote instead)

Skeptical woman looking at an employee

I talked in my most recent article about signs your management team sucks. Now we’re going to talk about why. Sorry, if you are offended by the term, that there is so much about sucking in this week’s content. But it’s something we need to discuss.

Bad management costs the North American economy billions of dollars each year, and bad management is the number one reason people leave their jobs. Also, only one third of the workforce is said to be engaged at any given time. What can you blame this on? Can anyone guess?

Ooh! Ooh! Me, me, pick me!,

Yes, you with your hand waving frantically in the air.

Bad management?

That’s right! Someone give that girl and A+.

OK, so why does your management suck? I think there’s an easy answer to that. I think your management team sucks because you didn’t promote or hire them for the right reasons. I think you promoted/hired them because they were brilliant marketers, salespeople, developers, engineers, designers, and carpenters – and not because they were brilliant leaders. And that’s why your management team sucks.

This is a huge problem in our workforce. We almost always think of promotion to management positions as the only way to reward for good performance. “He’s an awesome chef!” we say, “Let’s put him in charge of everyone in the kitchen!” But the skills required to lead are not the same skills required to do well in other positions. Leadership requires a whole specific skillset, and leaders have to have that skillset in order to be effective.

This idea is one aspect of the argument for pay for performance workplaces. At Google, for example, performance is rewarded. Managers may make less than the people they manage. Career pathing is an entirely other concept in this environment.

As Mark Crowley of the McQuaig Institute said in a recent Twitter chat when I brought this up, “What an impact on engagement we could have if we created new paths for people unsuited for leadership.”


But since we’re not writing an entire revolutionary manifesto (no time right now!), let’s get back to promoting talent.

The marketing manager doesn’t necessarily have to be the best at every aspect of marketing. (S)he has to have a broad understanding of every aspect of marketing. What he/she has to do have to be able to get the most out of a team of marketing professionals. If you want good management, promote for leadership skills.

Here are just a few of the signs that someone is good leadership material.

(S)He doesn’t take credit: Good leaders share credit with their team and often take none of it for themselves, no matter how hard they work. They are confident that the results will speak for themselves.

(S)He is accountable: Good leaders take responsibility for their own mistakes and don’t pass the buck into others.

(S)He never complains about others: Good leaders don’t complain and they certainly don’t complain about – or gossip about – other people. They handle their own conflicts or, even better, don’t have them.

(S)/He is diplomatic: Good leaders know how to give constructive criticism that doesn’t hurt, how to smooth ruffled feathers, and how to refute without offending. What’s the saying? “Diplomacy is the ability to tell someone to go to hell so that they’re excited about the trip.” Or something like that.

(S)He is level-headed: Good leaders don’t fly off the handle. They stay cool under pressure and they don’t stress out their entire team by getting agitated or annoyed all the time. Level-headedness is a valuable leadership trait.

(S)He is self aware: Good leaders are aware of their behaviours and how they impact others. It’s imperative that your management understands that what they do has an effect on everyone.

(S)He is confident: A good leader has to have confidence in his or her ability to lead and to be successful, otherwise, why should anyone do what they say?

If your candidate or employee doesn’t have these qualities, don’t hire or promote them. Look elsewhere. Or you will regret it.


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