Clueless Bosses

The Wichita Eagle carried a front-page article in today’s edition about an ex-FBI agent, Dan Jablonski, who has established a second career advising corporate clients. In this new role, he has learned a lot about good and bad corporate managers. I was especially interested in his description of the bad ones.

Bosses ask for efficiency evaluations because they want to know how their companies can be more efficient, or whether they have problems. Sometimes their numbers aren’t adding up, or customers are complaining.

After a few such jobs Jablonski noticed patterns. That’s what the FBI teaches: Look for patterns.

He saw problem employees. But he also saw problem bosses isolating themselves, staring at computer screens, deluded about how things were going.

He saw that this was costing buckets of money.

“A lot of these bosses don’t know what’s going on outside their own office doors,” Jablonski said. “They sit in their offices feeling confident that everybody in the company is on the same page. And then I talk to employees and find a completely opposing viewpoint.”

The root problem, he says, is a simple one: The boss is out of touch with his people.

Many employees know about these problems, but no one tells the boss, and the boss doesn’t ask.”Oftentimes, all the boss needs to do is just ask how things are going. But they aren’t doing it. They sit in their offices,” he said.The gulf between reality and delusion surprised him.

“I saw places where everybody in the company knew what the problem was,” he said, except the bosses, who seem surprised by the results: resignations, loss of contracts, sabotage, customers going elsewhere.

“Do they talk to their employees one-on-one once in a while? I was surprised to learn they often don’t,” Jablonski said.

“One thing the FBI teaches you to look for is a culture, such as a culture of thought,” he said. “I think after the Internet started, a whole culture developed where a lot of bosses drifted into a mistake. They think their job is to manage their computer terminal.

“That’s not what a boss is supposed to do. A boss is supposed to manage the people.”

This further reinforces the age-old axiom that good management is simply a matter of basic interpersonal skills.

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