I was told the boss wanted to see me. Do you know the feeling? You know something is about to go down, but you’re not feeling too concerned. In some strange way, you’re looking forward to it…
There he sat accompanied by his usual smug smirk and one of my colleagues. Quite a duo, but not in any way dynamic. My manager was about as useful as the proverbial mammary glands on a male bovine – if you get my meaning. He spent each day pretending to be interested in doing his job whilst building his own business he would soon leave to run. My so-called colleague was always happy to say or do anything as long as it made him look good in the boss’s eyes.
Their key message was pretty simple – I was fired. The reason, and I quote: I had “lost my mojo”. I was in sales and wasn’t performing to expectations. To some degree, what they were saying was true. I was demotivated, unfocused, and already planning my next career move. I may in fact have temporarily lost my mojo, but sadly, the business I was working in had lost its own many months before, and as it turns out, it would never be regained.
Years under poor, self-obsessed management, providing no leadership and churning staff at a rate of knots just to apportion blame and feed some over-inflated egos. That manager finally replaced with another, but still the directors had no real understanding of the issues in the business. They were focused on anything other than running the business they had spent years to build.
Why does it happen? How does a business that had provided good services to great clients for so long go into such a steep downward spiral? It’s going to sound cliché, I know, but management completely forgot that your business is only as good as the people in it. Recruiting good people is just the beginning. Even good people need to be guided, trained, inspired; they need to feel like they are helping to build something worthwhile and that they’re progressing personally and professionally. It’s a big task for any manager or management team.
To help, here are some quick tips gleaned from my time at this business:
- Don’t say one thing and do another. If you say you’ll do something, do your very best to deliver. Even if ultimately you can’t, people respect the fact you genuinely tried.
- Don’t lie to your team members. Don’t promise you’ll provide an incentive for example, and then change the goal posts if it looks like someone might achieve it.
- Micro-managing people doesn’t work. Want your team to perform? More spreadsheets and reports are not going to do it. Roll your sleeves up, get in there and lead by example. The rest of the time, get out of the way and let people do their thing.
- Admit when you get it wrong. Don’t weave complicated stories, use half-truths and subterfuge. Got it wrong? Admit it, ask for help to fix it and move on.
- You don’t have to take the credit for everything. No, the world does not revolve around you just because your business card says manager. Let your team members have the limelight, give them praise – regularly and publicly.
- Back up what you say with facts. As important as your opinion is to you, it’s not reason enough for people to commit a big chunk of their lives to their work and your business.
- Take a real interest in your people. Listen more than you talk. Know what’s important to them, what motivates them and what really cheeses them off. Don’t treat them like they are all in the same “human resources” bucket.
- Don’t assume you’re always going to be where you are now. Just because you’re flying high, don’t get complacent or worse, arrogant. People – including your team members – will take
- Don’t bother with big performance reviews. Most of them are counterproductive. Give feedback every step of the way – good or bad, discuss it, improve, get on with it.
- And finally, be yourself. People appreciate authenticity, and it’s a lot easier than pretending to be someone you’re not.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about my mojo, I got it back the moment I cleared my desk and walked out the door. Funny how that happens.