Under-Managing: 4 Energy and Time Drains of the Busy Boss


I’m following up on my series of posts about why 90% of managers are under-managing. We hear a lot about micromanaging and busy bosses who command and control, but survey data tell us “hands-off” managing is pernicious and the foundation of  poor employee engagement.

Author Bruce Tulgan, (The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems) says that in the ten years since his research firm first investigated under-management, they’ve begun asking about “management engagement”.

The key factor affecting employee engagement was and remains the relationship employees have with their immediate supervisors. That’s why we had been asking a different question of business leaders: “Are your MANAGERS ‘engaged’ or not?” ~ The Under-management Epidemic Report 2014: …Ten Years Later

So if managers are practicing ‘hands-off’ management, what are they doing with their time? Here are four energy and time drains that tie up managers and get in the way of good management conversations with their people. Read More »

Posted in career, collaboration, communication, leadership | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

9 Out of 10 Managers Are Undermanaging

Bad ManagementWhat is going on? I know many of my clients complain about micromanagement and controlling jerk bosses, but this report says there’s an undermanagement epidemic.

In 2004 a research study from RainmakerThinking, Inc. revealed an epidemic of undermanagement throughout the workplace. Now, 10 years later their on-going study shows undermanaging is still rampant.  A full 90% of all leaders and managers are not providing their direct-reports with sufficient guidance, support and coaching.

Undermanaging is defined as when a leader with supervisory authority fails to regularly and consistently provide employees with the ‘management basics’: Read More »

Posted in career, coaching, collaboration, communication, relationships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Work Surveys: “We Want Better Communication!”

Better-CommunicationIt’s quite remarkable: Survey after survey shows that most employees want better communication at work. And managers report similar wants from their direct reports: “more” and “better communication.” Apparently 60% of people want improved communication at work.

You’ve got to see the irony: there’s an awful lot of communication at work, too much email, too many meetings, a lot of touching base, texting, checking-in and just plain shooting the breeze! That’s what attracted me to Bruce Tulgan’s book, The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Step-by-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems.

According to consultant and author Tulgan, “There’s a lot of communication in today’s workplace. It’s just mostly low-structure and low-substance. And so it’s not accomplishing very much. That’s why people crave more and better communication.” Read More »

Posted in career, collaboration, communication, relationships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to Boost Motivation with
Motivational Conversations

MotivationHere’s a suggestion for boosting motivation among staff: conduct a motivational outlook conversation. Ask your people to identify what motivates them to do their work. The goal is to help them see which motivating factors have maximum impact and energy for them.

Most people identify several reasons why they do the work they do. There are many motivational levels ranging from external and short term, such as money or status, to internal and profoundly meaningful, such as values and ideals in service to a higher purpose.

Take a look at this video trailer for Fowler’s book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work:

Read More »

Posted in collaboration, leadership, outcomes, relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Motivate People without Over Managing or Micromanaging

Micromanaging-with-carrotsI don’t doubt that most managers truly want to motivate people to peak performance; it’s the way they go about it that backfires. In a fervent desire to teach people what they know to be true (after all, it worked to get them promoted to management, right?), some managers enthusiastically over-manage.

Over-management can also manifest as micromanagement. When a manager tells someone what to do, how to do it, when to do it, why their way is better, they undermine the person’s ability to think for themselves.  Instead of someone feeling as if they have some control over the way they work, they begin to feel powerless and controlled. They many even start to doubt their competency. Their relationship with their manager becomes fragile, since it is based on compliance and conformity. Read More »

Posted in career, coaching, collaboration, leadership, outcomes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Motivation: What Managers Can Learn From Monkeys

Motivation-Smart-MonkeyIn 1949, psychologist Harry Harlow placed puzzles in monkeys’ cages and was surprised to find that the primates successfully solved them. Harlow saw no logical reason for them to do so. What was their motivation?

  • Their survival didn’t depend on it.
  • The monkey’s didn’t receive any rewards nor avoid any punishments for their work.
  • Apparently, the monkeys solved the puzzles simply because they had a desire to do so.

As to their motivation, Harlow offered a novel theory: “The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward.” The monkeys performed because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles. They enjoyed it, and the joy of the task was its own reward.

Further experiments found that offering external rewards to solve these puzzles didn’t improve performance. In fact, rewards disrupted task completion.

This led Harlow to identify a third drive in human motivation:

  1. The first drive for behaviors is survival. We drink, eat and copulate to ensure our survival.
  2. The second drive is to seek rewards and avoid punishment.
  3. The third drive is intrinsic: to achieve internal satisfaction.

What Motivates People?

Twenty years passed before the psychologist Edward Deci, now a professor at the University of Rochester, followed up on Harlow’s studies on intrinsic motivation.

In 1969, Deci ran a series of experiments that showed students lost intrinsic interest in an activity when money was offered as an external reward. The results surprised many behavioral scientists. Although rewards can deliver a short-term boost, the effect wears off. Even worse, rewards can reduce a person’s longer-term motivation to continue a project.

Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan later expanded on the early work differentiating between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Their Self-Determination Theory proposed three main intrinsic needs involved in self-determination. These needs are said to be universal, innate and psychological:

  1. Competence
  2. Autonomy
  3. Psychological relatedness

Deci proposed that human beings have an inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn. Unlike drives (for thirst, food, and sex), these needs aren’t ever satisfied. When we attain a degree of competency, autonomy and relatedness, we want more.

Competence is our need to feel effective at meeting everyday challenges and opportunities. It is demonstrating skill over time. It is feeling a sense of growth and flourishing. ~ Susan Fowler, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging

Trying to motivate people with the promise of rewards doesn’t work. You can’t impose growth, learning and meaning upon someone, they must find it for themselves. But you can promote a learning environment that doesn’t undermine people’s sense of competence.

What are you doing as a manager or leader to provide growth and learning? What questions should you be asking your people that would stimulate their learning? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here and on LinkedIn.

Posted in career, coaching, communication, leadership, learning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Ways to Motivate People at Work

Motivating-People-RelatednessMotivating people to do great work is a continual challenge for managers. The truth is you can’t really motivate anyone, they have to motivate themselves. Yet companies invest in incentives and reward programs, and hope for the best. Don’t be fooled. Science tells us that people are motivated to satisfy three psychological needs:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Relatedness
  3. Competence

Autonomy is our human need to perceive we have choices. It is our need to feel that what we are doing is of our own volition. It is our perception that we are the source of our actions, according to Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging by Susan Fowler.

Relatedness is our need to care about and be cared about by others. It is our need to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives. It is our need to feel that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves. Read More »

Posted in career, collaboration, relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Once Again: What Motivates People At Work?

Motivating-PeopleMost business leaders have lost sight of what motivates people at work. In fact, some companies haven’t updated their incentive practices in years, which means they’re incapable of creating high-performance teams.

Companies continue to ignore the obvious: Offering incentives and rewards is less effective than tapping into truly meaningful intrinsic motivation. Leaders operate on old assumptions about motivation despite a wealth of well-documented scientific evidence.

The old “carrot-and-stick” mentality may actually inhibit employees from seeking creative solutions, partly because they focus on attaining rewards instead of solving problems. If you look at some of the major failures in business, they focused on rewarding short-term results at the expense of sustaining success. Read More »

Posted in career, coaching, collaboration, executive coaching | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Business Writing Tips: Get Readers
to Take Action

Business Writing-Take Action Now Smart business writing creates results. It helps if it’s interesting and well-written, but the most important thing to keep in mind is this: Will this report, memo or email get my reader to take action?

In my last post, I helped a client rewrite her resume so that it improved her chances of getting the job interview she wants. This meant she had to directly address the needs of her potential employer first.

Colleagues decide whether to read your memo or report based on the first few sentences. You need to grab their attention right away and create a desire to know more.

Many business professionals introduce the subject matter slowly and build up to make their point. They often start from their own point of view, talking about themselves and how they’re connected with the reader or the problem.

This is a mistake. Readers immediately want to know: “Why am I reading this? What’s in it for me? Why should I care?” Read More »

Posted in career, coaching, communication, sales | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rewrite that Resume to Get the Job You Want

Job-ResumeSometimes you have to turn conventional wisdom on it’s ear. A standard resume might get you a standard job, but will it get you the career you want? I was recently in email contact with a client who wanted advice on getting an interview for a job she wants.

Dear Chip:

I would like to apply for a director or VP position in Marketing, and I feel I need more coaching on how to conduct a great interview.  I feel inadequate and would like polishing.

I asked her to send me a copy of her resume for starters. Here is my response: Read More »

Posted in career, coaching, leadership, relationships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment