Any engineer aspiring to join the ranks of managers can learn from the observations of Michael Paris, president of MPA Ltd, Oak Brook, IL. The manufacturing consultant has seen more than his share of top corporate executives get the ax, some deservedly, some not. Here were some of the traits he saw in those who had it coming, with some added insights of our own:
- The four-walls syndrome. Executives suffering from this malady assume that if their subordinates don't tell them about problems, there aren't any. They don't think to look for themselves. Of course, there's a fine line here. Executives should be able to expect subordinates to find and solve problems for themselves, bringing only the most untractable to the boss. If the subordinates are always bringing problems upstairs, that's a whole other kind of dilemma.
- "Don't bring me bad news." Some executives make it hard for subordinates to raise difficult issues. They fly off the handle. They immediately assess blame. They refuse to accept that there could be a problem. They take over the solution. Encourage dialogue, be open minded, and let subordinates take the first crack at solving problems.
- Listening, but not hearing. This one is for the subordinates. Executives state their objectives and assign responsibilities, then fail to monitor progress. Meanwhile, subordinates misinterpret or outright ignore directions.
- "You wouldn't understand." Don't accept jive that a situation is too complex to explain.
- Be careful what you measure. The wrong benchmarks can lead to bad decisions.
- Mistaking activity for results. Having lots of programs is great--until they become ends unto themselves rather than means to an end.
- Mistaking good fortune for good management. Was your decision really inspired? Or, were you in the right place at the right time?
- Saving yourself out of business. Cost effectiveness, yes. Nickel and diming, no. Sometimes you have to spend money, like on new tools and equipment.
- What do you want to be? Have a vision, stick with it, and communicate it.
Recognize any of these traits? Did Paris leave out any? Tell us your own observations.