Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Apprentice and Wimpy Management

Apprentice fans - Do any of you wonder why the team project managers continually choose to bring in 2 teammates when Donald Trump gives them the option of bringing in 3? Wouldn't bringing in three people improve the PM's odds of not having to hear, "You're Fired!" directed at them?

So what is going on? Why has every single project manager done something that potentially sabotages him or her self?

I believe what we are seeing is what I call wimpy management. Wimpy management is when supervisors are unable to face conflict head on because of their own personal insecurities, need to be liked and/or fear of rejection. We see wimpy management every day. Supervisors who procrastinate conducting performance reviews or avoid providing feedback to employees on areas where they are not performing up to par. We see wimpy management when managers reprimand (or worse demote or terminate) employees through email. We see wimpy management when managers treat employees who are considered their friends differently than how they treat the rest of their staff.

Nobscot Corporation recently analyzed employees' perceptions of their supervisors. What we found from looking at 10,000+ exit interviews is that employees generally feel positive about their supervisor's skill level but less positive about their supervisor's management abilities on such things as providing the appropriate level of praise, rewards and reprimands. One of the things that surprised us about the research was in the area of reprimands. We might have guessed that employees would not be happy with abusive bosses that rant and rave in front of colleagues and clients. What we did not know was the degree to which employees are frustrated with supervisors who don't provide reprimands to those who need it.

Some of the comments we saw on the exit interviews regarding this type of wimpy management included:

  • "unable or unwilling to face conflict."

  • "there are quite a few people who get away with doing very little or very badly."

  • "Don't feel that poor performers are addressed whatsoever. Dead weight stays on."

  • "Lots of lazy employees who don't do their job or call in sick a lot but are never addressed by management. People who work hard are never rewarded."

It's clear that companies need to do a better job of helping managers with their supervisory skills. What we can surmise from the exit interview analysis is that employees are being promoted into management because of their job skills without being given the tools of the trade related to being a supervisor. Without training, supervisors manage by instincts. For many managers their instinct to have people like them is the dominant force. Result: Wimpy management.

How does wimpy management relate to the Apprentice and the boardroom? Because the apprentices are living and working so closely together, they are forming bonds of friendship that are getting in the way of them doing the right thing from both a business and a winning game perspective. Take last night's episode with Project Manager John and the fashion show. When the boardroom time came around, he chose to bring in Andy, the young man from Harvard who didn't do anything wrong in this task and Kevin, one of the two team members involved in the pricing. When Donald Trump asked John why he didn't bring in the other teammate who handled pricing, John had no answer. In fact, Kevin has been a valuable team member in each prior assignment. While Wes, on the other hand, had not contributed much. Why didn't John bring Wes with him into the boardroom? I'm betting on wimpy management. John and Wes have more than likely become friends and this clouded John's business judgment.

John probably still would have been fired but he would have stood a much better chance of being a survivor if he had brought in Wes. He might have been able to shift the focus of the board room discussion on to Kevin and Wes and let them battle out who was most at fault.

Instead, John made a fatal mistake and let his friend stay out of the fray. Failing to lead/manage because of fear of hurting someone's feelings or because he might not like you can cause equal damage in the real business world. As HR professionals, we need to keep our eyes open for wimpy management within our organizations. We need to hire and promote the right people. We need to train those who are newly promoted. We need to provide mentors to new supervisors. We need to measure manager's effectiveness and the affects they have on their staff. Wimpy management can be overcome but it does takes some effort to stay on top of it.


Blogger Unknown said...

Sorry, I think you blew this call and failed to make the case why it would be better to bring 3 instead of 2 into the board room.

A review of the episode will reveal the reason for not bringing Wes in with Kevin was based on a political decision. Kevin and Wes could present a united front against John. Andy and Kevin were deemed to be the weaker pairing, and so it came to be. So, I am not convinced that John and Wes were/are friends.

Here is what I think piques Trump about this decision...increasing the blame and minimizing risks. The more people in the boardroom, the more blame can be assigned decreasing the risk to the project manager.

Keep in mind that this is a long job interview, and I think Trump is all about defraying intra-organizational risks.

A subtle strategy would to bring 3 people in and have one be a staunch and acknowledged ally in support of the PM's arguments for selecting the other two. It would difficult to defend their inclusion in the mix, but I would try to make the concerted argument.

In the end, bringing in 3 to the boardroom is the epitome of "wimpy management!" Might need to rethink that one.

12:22 PM, October 18, 2004  
Blogger Beth N. Carvin said...

Ahhh, Dutch. If only the reason for John's boardroom selections was because he was trying to choose two weak candidates as the show producers wanted us to believe. It's unlikely though because if he was looking to bring in a weak candidate, he would have selected Wes and not Kevin. Kevin has shown to be a formidable competitor. Wes has not. With the two weak candidates Wes and Andy he would have had a much better chance of survival. There is no valid reason to select Kevin over Wes and therefore I have to believe that there is a friendship involved. If you think back to past episodes, John and Wes were the two quieter ones of similar age who most surely befriended each other along the way.

We saw the exact same dynamic in the restaurant boardroom. The Project Manager didn't bring in her friend who had done the decor even after she was told that the reason they lost was the decor. Sure, the PM liked and approved the decor but the woman in charge of it was the obvious weak link for the boardooom.

Don't kid yourself, Dutch. Wimpy managers will always have a great sounding rationale for their wimpy moves. That doesn't mean the real motives aren't based on fear of conflict or rejection.

Thanks for your comments.

Beth C.

2:12 PM, October 18, 2004  
Blogger Unknown said...

heheh Beth, you must be reading some tea leaves somewhere. I am skeptical about assuming a relationship that is not in evidence.

The idea was to present Andy as the weakest link while John and Kevin are strong quantities. Unfortunately, John could not sufficiently articulate his reasons for bringing Andy in with him.

Besides, you still have not made a sufficient argument that bringing 3 into the boardroom instead of 2 illustrates "wimpy management."

8:29 PM, October 18, 2004  
Blogger Beth N. Carvin said...

You don't need tea leaves to put the pieces all together. :)

The wimpy management is not in the number -- it's in not bringing in your friends. The number of people is just the evidence. If you were playing to win, you'd increase your odds by having 3 other targets instead of just two. That's just pure mathematics. The fear of rejection from their friends is stronger than their desire to win the game.

When you let the same fear of rejection infiltrate your business decisions in the real world you make the same kind of fatal mistakes.

Beth C.

6:15 AM, October 19, 2004  
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