If Shakespeare Wrote About Business

Your company is only as good as it allows its managers to be—or not to be.

By Randy Pennington Mar 1, 2016
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March 2016 HR Magazine cover 3Tools.jpgThis year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, but the bard remains as relevant today as he was in his own time. For example, while you may not remember Dick the Butcher, a rather forgettable character in “Henry VI, Part II,” chances are you’ve heard Dick’s famous line: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Henry VI addresses the personal jealousies that tore England’s political system apart and led to its loss of territories to the French. Dick, a follower of the anarchist character Jack Cade, believes that lawyers played an active role in keeping the common people down.

So what would Dick say today if Shakespeare wrote about the poor performance and caustic environment that plagues many organizations? Probably something like this: “The first thing we do, let’s fire all the bad managers.”

Your organization is only as good as the talent, productivity and engagement of your people. And their success is directly related to the quality of those leading your teams, departments and divisions.

Poor supervisors are easy to spot if you look and listen. An easy place to begin is by targeting those who do any or all of the following:

Make lousy hiring decisions. They don’t pay attention to a potential candidate’s fit with the organization and team. They hire the first person who meets the minimum requirements rather than looking at every opening as an opportunity to improve the team’s performance.

Leave new hires to learn how the organization works on their own. Even worse, they allow new employees to be influenced by disgruntled co-workers, who are only too happy to show newbies how things “really work around here.”

Fail to invest in developing people. As a result, their teams are not equipped to meet the demands of a competitive marketplace. When development opportunities do occur, bad supervisors view them as an inconvenience to getting work done.

Create a toxic environment. Your best people have a choice about where to work, and they will run to your competitors to escape a bad manager. The people who are left do only the minimum to accomplish whatever they are told. There is no discretionary effort that comes from volunteered commitment to the organization’s purpose and vision.

Place the organization at risk by failing to follow policy, procedure or even the law. You know the ones I’m talking about. They believe the ends justify the means when it comes to driving business results, and they are magnets for discrimination claims, safety violations and lawsuits.

Allow your worst-performing employees to frustrate their co-workers. A small percentage of your staff may have checked out and are taking up space, while others are either high-performing or want to do a good job but are prevented by something from doing so. Your employees want their managers and supervisors to work with all of these groups in an honest, respectful and legal manner—and to have the courage to effectively confront the people and issues that need to be addressed.

Your organization’s workforce and results will improve only when the quality of your managers gets better. So follow the advice Shakespeare would give if he wrote about business today: Fire all the bad managers.

Just make sure you avoid making the same mistakes when you replace them.

Randy Pennington is a consultant, speaker and author. He can be reached at info@penningtongroup.com.

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