Lindsay Bell

Dear Manager: You Might Need a Tuneup

By: Lindsay Bell | November 28, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is by Lindsay Bell.

It’s no secret here in the SpinSucks space that I have a great boss.

And while I get teased mercilessly about my appreciation for Gini (I’m looking at YOU, Danny Brown), people need to stop and ask themselves why I’m so appreciative.

There are many reasons I gush over Gini.

She treats me with respect.

She trusts me to do the job I was hired to do.

She allows her team to have fun and be silly – in public!

And she liberally doles out positive feedback.

Erm, aren’t these just the normal things that any boss/manager would do? Sadly, they are not. I have worked with some vicious managers, and have heard scads of similar stories from friends and family. I don’t have the answers as to why there continue to be dictator’esque bosses and managers out there.

But I have been in the workforce a *koff* really long time, so based on experience, I leave you with a few things to think about if you’re managing an underachieving team or department.

Maybe You Hired Wrong

Don’t hire someone, and then belittle what they bring to the table. They probably endured numerous interviews to land the job – and unless they are Oscar-worthy actors, you probably had a good feel for their skills and experience before you hired them. By all means, work with them if you need change or growth. But don’t blame them if you hired wrong.

Beware Favoritism

Having best pals on the job can cause all kinds of conflict. Too much gossip. Discomfort if you need to discipline. Or, the old high school standard: Someone on staff becomes the Queen Bee. And whether the favoured one then gets all the insider info – which their colleagues have no access to – or simply ‘can do no wrong,’ it’s a dangerous situation for management to have to juggle. You need to be acutely aware of these inter-staff relationships, and ensure they aren’t upsetting the apple cart or clouding judgement. Most importantly, if you’re a manager with a public close personal relationship with a subordinate staff member, it behooves you to be extra sure the rest of the team doesn’t feel passed over or unfairly treated because of it.

Do You Share the Wealth?

It doesn’t matter what goals or performance benchmarks you’re trying to hit, being afraid to share sensitive company information with your staff will hobble your efforts and leave your team feeling like they’re back in kindergarten. Hiding top-level information and doling it out in dribs and drabs does not provide a clear picture for your team of where you’re at or where you aspire to be next month/quarter/year. You’ve hired professionals – trust them to be privy to company information and look ahead projections and allow your team to have ownership of sensitive data. Let them work with you, instead of just for you.

Even Superheroes Need Help

Ok, I tease Gini a lot by calling her a robot. Which is pretty darned close to a superhero. Robot superhero!

She doesn’t take kindly to that particular term of endearment, granted, but Gini is able to BE a robot superhero because she relies on her team to help her. She doesn’t hoard responsibility. She shares the work load, and delegates where possible. And she doesn’t want to constantly be the one in the limelight, or take all the credit for everything. Something far too many managers – whether from fear or puffery – seem obsessed with doing.

Now, before the pointy stakes and fiery torches come out, I recognize that there are many, many incredible employers, managers, corporate leaders etc., out there.

Old habits die hard. But if any of you are struggling these days with an unhappy, under-achieving team, I hope you will stop and take a minute to look inward. There just might be a thing or two that could use a tweak.

Lindsay Bell is the content director at Arment Dietrich, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, and two annoying cats. 

About Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

  • Is part of the onboarding process at AD undying love for the boss? First allenmireles then you? Bleurgh!

    • belllindsay

      @Danny Brown  allenmireles LMAO!  Surely you recall that normally I am full of hatred and loathing, Danny. But it’s not wrong to love your boss if they’re a great boss. 😀

      • @belllindsay  @Danny Brown  allenmireles Is this the same boss you were throwing under the bus in the comments the other week?

        • belllindsay

          @KenMueller  @Danny Brown  allenmireles I have NO idea what you are talking about. 😉

        • @KenMueller  Dear Ken, comments like this remind me why we’re friends. Much love, Gini

    • @Danny Brown @lindsay Methinks he doth protest too much.
      You know you adore her too, Mr. Broooon. 😉

      • belllindsay

        @allenmireles  @Danny Brown  @lindsay Yup, he’s a big squishy marshmallow inside, aren’t you Danny! 😀

  • Hooooooooooo boy, have I worked for some real battle-axes over the years.

    • magriebler

      @jasonkonopinski Me too. And I have the scars to prove it.

  • magriebler

    There’s an old saying: Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. If you want to attract and retain good people, then you need good managers. You really can’t have one (long term) without the other.
    And it makes me smile to watch the Mutual Admiration Society you have going with @ginidietrich. Love is in the air!

    • belllindsay

      @magriebler  @ginidietrich LOL! Just wait until I break the website or something. We’ll see how much love is in the air then. 😉 I’ve talked before about some of the absolute crazies I’ve worked for. It always amazes me that these people are able to rise through the ranks while being so abusive and dysfunctional.

      • magriebler

        @belllindsay  @ginidietrich It’s because they spend most of their time managing up instead of getting their job done. Just sayin’.

        • belllindsay

          @magriebler  @ginidietrich My pal uses the phrase “failing up” – which I LOVE!!!

        • magriebler

          @belllindsay  @ginidietrich I’m stealing it! And using it in a sentence as soon as possible.

        • belllindsay

          @magriebler  @ginidietrich Yours to steal, but if you make T-Shirts I want one! 😉

  • HowieG

    You haven’t seen @ginidietrich ‘s mean side yet. I remember a guy she made cry all because he chose to use a stapler vs paperclip. She hates paper with holes or punctures. Goes back to 3rd grade when after coloring 12 pages for a story project…colored the complete page..took her hours and hours…not once did she color outside the lines…her teacher punched two staples into the corner forever blemishing a perfect A+ project paper…framable she thought. Now ruined. and from that day on she always carried a box of paper clips with her (seriously check her purse and pockets)

    • belllindsay

      @HowieG  @ginidietrich LOLOLOLOLOL!! I use those teeny tiny bulldog clip things!! I *hate* staplers. 🙂

  • allenmireles

    @belllindsay Nice post there Linds.

    • belllindsay

      @allenmireles Thanks Allen!

  • I’ve run my company as both bricks-and-mortar, managing employees with real bodies on site, and also as a completely virtual organization, managing an on call troop of senior-level pros. Even with the latter, your remarks apply… and not only to managing my team members, but even to managing the one employee in the office: me.  Daily I have to avoid Hiring Wrong (i.e., avoiding “tap dancing” in a role to which I’m unsuited),  be on the lookout for Favoritism (to my own ideas), and remain eager to Share the Wealth (be transparent with as much information as possible).  If I don’t, I very quickly discover I’m in an impossible situation – wanting to fire myself!

    • belllindsay

      @creativeoncall I love what you said here – and you’re so right – all of the above applies to each of us individually. We have to be responsible for our own comfort and happiness, and take some of the blame when we are stuck in unhappy ruts. 🙂

  • Nice work Linds! My current boss is a fantastic leader and mentor.  He is moving to a new role within the business school, but i will miss his guidance. He has taught me so much! Trusting your employees to do their job is so critical.

    • belllindsay

      @RebeccaTodd Hey, congrats!! That’s awesome news.

  • rdopping

    I thought you were talking about Charles there for a sec but after reading @Danny Brown comment I realized what is going on here. You know that we will banish you from the if you are too nice. You will end up exposing the ruse……

    • belllindsay

      @rdopping  @Danny Brown Hey Ralph, once a Maritimer always a Maritimer! LOL

    • @rdopping  @Danny Brown Please. Canadians are the nicest people on earth.

  • belllindsay

    @ericamallison HA! Just a nice xmas gift. LOL @ginidietrich

  • belllindsay

    @lizscherer xoxoxox 😀 @SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    @howiegoldfarb Thanks for the share, dude. @SpinSucks

  • belllindsay

    @opajdara Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • belllindsay

    @jasonkonopinski Mwaw! 🙂

  • belllindsay

    @martinwaxman Thanks Martin! 😀 @SpinSucks

  • John_Trader1

    I think a post about this topic should be a once a week staple at Spin Sucks.
    I work for a company where I report to the President, who also happens to be my brother. Talk about a balancing act to actively suppress favoritism, he and I talked at length about it before I was hired and he does an admirable job of keeping a lid on it.
    I am forwarding this post to him as we are experiencing some of the symptoms you described, not from him but more from another Exec here who could really brush up on the points you make in the post.
    Thanks Lindsay!

    • @John_Trader1 You learn something new every day. I didn’t know this! Knowing what I know about you, though, you’re nothing but professional.

      • John_Trader1

        @ginidietrich Thank you ma’am.

    • belllindsay

      @John_Trader1 I’m so glad this resonated John. We all have so much to learn when it comes to dealing with other people – whether you’re the boss, or just speaking about colleagues, etc.. I am just as guilty of “blaming others” – when sometimes the fault can – and does – lie within.

    • magriebler

      @John_Trader1 I agree! You can tell from the comments that this topic really resonates with people. And for those of us who are managers, it’s especially important that we stay on top of our game … so we don’t become inspiration for @belllindsay.

      • belllindsay

        @magriebler  @John_Trader1 LOL!!

  • I told you this privately, but I’ll say it here, too: Thank you! @allenmireles (why does she have two different Livefyre accounts with nearly the same photo?) and I were talking about work the other day and she said part of the reason this is working so well is we’re all having fun. I LOVE that each of you is willing to be teased – and tease right back – and willing to have fun while we work our butts off. You’d think that wouldn’t be hard to find in employees, but it’s a very unique characteristic.

    • belllindsay

      @ginidietrich  @allenmireles Agree 100%. Many time people just don’t ‘get’ my humour. It’s so refreshing to not have to worry about that with this crazy bunch! LOL

  • @belllindsay — you really hit the nail on the head. As I was reading, I could picture some of my best bosses and clients. And some of the worst!

    • HowieG

      @barrettrossie  @belllindsay I heard you have a lot of Mr. Smthers in you Barrett. Just saying what I have heard.

      • belllindsay

        @HowieG  @barrettrossie *withholding urge for inappropriate joke*

    • belllindsay

      @barrettrossie Oh wow, do I have *stories*!!!!!

  • Wait, I’m not the only one who calls Gini a robot? And I’m pretty sure I started doing that independently of you and vice-versa… I’m starting to think the “quacks like a duck” rule applies here. Has anyone ever actually confirmed that she’s NOT a robot? Can we ask her about lonely turtles in the desert?

    • belllindsay

      @jelenawoehr I’ve never seen @ginidietrich and a robot in the same room together. Just sayin’. 😉

  • belllindsay

    @MargieClayman Thanks Margie!! Xo @ginidietrich

  • ChristinaHuerta

    Definitely a MUST read for all managers!

    • belllindsay

      @ChristinaHuerta Thanks Christina! 🙂

  • Oh you are so sneaky. I think I’m popping in for 1 post and now I’ve got to read 4! Seriously though, I think my favorite point has to be about favoritism. I feel like this one can be so hard to manage because we naturally gravitate to certain people. It’s a constant balance. Things can turn high school really fast.

    • belllindsay

      @kateupdates LOL You crack me up! Yes, the favouritism thing is hard, but I think it can be the most destructive to a team or group. People aren’t dummies and can usually smell it a mile away (especially if they aren’t the ones begin favorited!) – and it creates such feelings of negativity and paranoia.

  • leaderswest

    This is such a great insight, Lindsay!  There’s a paper out by some analyst suggesting that ten years from now the workplace will be much more egalitarian because of social media, and I think that’s a pretty preposterous statement for the reasons that you describe.  I think a lot of people have had opportunity to work for someone with the same leadership qualities (though slightly less fabulous) than Gini, but every remarkable boss there are a lot of dirtbags.  I didn’t realize you were working for AD now, but clearly human resources is high among Gini’s many talents!

    • belllindsay

      @leaderswest Hi Jim!! I’m so glad to see you here and thanks so much for the comment. Yeah, I think ‘egalitarian’ is a bit of a stretch too – lol – but I do see changes happening, less due to social and more due to the way technology has changed our ability to work – at all times and from anywhere. I think bosses are starting to trust a bit more than before, and value ‘work done’ differently (eg overall output/goals achieved, etc.) but it’s a very slow change. And for every great manager – and I absolutely agree there are many – there is also that person who thrives on being the power player, and wields that power in the negative ways I’ve mentioned above. 
      Currently. I’m extremely lucky – amazing team and a great boss. The proverbial win-win. I’m loving every minute of it! Cheers, and again, great hearing from you! 🙂

  • belllindsay

    @leaderswest Thanks for the share JIm, and the lovely comment. 😀 @SpinSucks

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