Is Undermanagement Chasing Away the Top Players in Your Organization?


There’s a lot of confusion out there today about the real meaning of leadership. In my opinion, leadership is not about creating a group of followers. 

Instead, leadership is about equipping and empowering others to grow in their roles. It’s also about grooming your team members to one day play a leadership role of their own.

However, there’s also something I’m seeing lately that is getting in the way of good leadership. I call it undermanagement.

When your leadership team is undermanaging, they’re simply not going to be able to empower your employees to perform at their best. Your team will stagnate. Your company’s results will suffer. And, finally, this poor management style will chase away the top players in your organization.

Do you suspect that some of your team leaders might be guilty of undermanagement?

Undermanagement generally manifests in three symptoms, which I’ve listed below. Use them as a litmus test to see if you might need to improve the leadership skills in your organization.

Undermangement Symptom #1: Weak Performance Management

Usually, this will show as a manager’s reluctance to hold people accountable for objectives that they don’t accomplish.

For example, when team members don’t hit their numbers, does their manager step in and do a post-mortem? Do the team members leave that meeting with an understanding of the missed milestone—and how to avoid it in the future?

Or do unfulfilled goals simply go unrecognized and get forgotten?

When unfulfilled goals pass without comment, it’s easy to see how any organization’s bottom line will be negatively impacted.

Undermanagement Symptom #2: Conflict Avoidance

Undermanagement might also reveal itself as a general tendency to avoid or delay resolving conflicts with employees.

For example, if a team member is displaying a lackluster attitude or a general disinterest in their position, does their manager address it? Or look the other way?

Unfortunately, this form of undermanagement almost always has the opposite desired effect. Instead of disappearing, these problems only grow and fester.

Undermanagement Symptom #3: Low Accountability for Results

Finally, you may just see in some managers a general lack of commitment to delivering results for the organization. This may manifest as a reluctance to take decisive action to accomplish your organization’s goals, such as refusing to fire a team member who consistently underperforms.

It also might reveal itself in a manager’s refusal to take responsibility for a lack of bottom-line results. After all, although a manager may task a team member with individual performance numbers, if those numbers are not met, the buck ultimately stops with management.

No matter how it manifests itself, when it comes to undermanagement, the bottom line is that there’s just not quite enough management being done. Consequently, results suffer—as do the direct reports of an undermanaging leader. They’ll never get to excel in response to the thoughtful leadership of a strong manager. 

How Does Your Organization Stack Up?

One business leader I spoke with recently estimated that as many as 25% of her company’s managers were guilty of undermanaging. Does this number resonate with you?

If you’d like to discover more about this topic and how you can combat it within your organization, check out Episode #10 of the Growing Leaders, Growing Companies podcast, "Uproot Undermanagement, the Source of Your People Problems."

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