[Translation by Allen Montrasio – John Peter Sloan, la Scuola]
The men have forgone their ties so that you can see their initials on their bespoke white shirts. The women – a rare sight confined to HR and corporate communications – prefer a discreet, ethnic look. They routinely share articles from a smart American publication on their social profiles. Their most recent trip? To the Silicon Valley. On each issue, they know what Google did, what Facebook did and what Apple did. They haven’t read it in the media, they have discovered it first hand in the Silicon Valley, last August with their kids.
How to recognize fake managers
Their obsessive attention to smart management is accompanied by a 1950s management style, tempered by an outlook on corporate reality worthy of an MBA. At meetings, they quote their own case histories, meaning the things that the company they worked at previously was so excellent at doing and “we just aren’t able to implement here”. During their first weeks at work in the new company, their collaborators can’t help but ask why these managers have left their previous one, which was so obviously the Garden of Eden.
Fake managers, a National as well as global phenomenon, don’t like talking about relevant issues either in meetings or in everyday work. Rather than discuss expectations, measurable goals or priorities, they focus on overarching visions, on the minute errors they found in a report or on the delivery of a service. In their opinion, management is “God’s overview on the world” (or, if you prefer, the view from the business class seat of an A380) and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, checking font size on a slide, as if there were nothing between the vision of the next millennium and micro-managing insignificant details.
To a fake manager, the pursuit of a smart project or a smart, impactful action of which to go proud, often results in the surprise conception of crazy ideas that confuse the team, i.e. the people who are working on the organisational process. Often these ideas are disconnected from the company strategy and people fail to understand what sense they make. In many cases, in fact, they have no sense in the context of specific business and customer needs, and the company, which doesn’t pay managers to look at solutions for the next century or check fonts, but to manage a division, ends up despairing.
The fake manager’s personal strategy
Fake managers are simply unable to translate company strategy into goals and actions connected to their function and this is the greatest measure of their uselessness. They are connected with all that is trendy in the managerial world, but they are totally disconnected with the real needs of the company they work for. Some collaborators fail to see these managers on their radars for months. Then, suddenly, the manager appears, calls them with someone else’s name and – in the thralls of some emergency – calls for their expertise to solve an issue for which there is no solution: “I know your potential, only you can do this”.
Taken in by their smart business, fake managers offload their tasks on co-workers (they prefer to call them this) without checking on the state of advancement. The collaborators’ loneliness is interrupted by sudden checks when the CEO needs an urgent report by 8.30 on Monday morning; this is when the fake manager re-drafts the report in detail, to ensure it is just sexy enough.
Action- and work-plans? The fake manager fills the whiteboard with diagrams as he was taught at the MBA, but when things get serious at the development phase, they disappear. Getting your hands, and white shirt, dirty is not smart. This way they avoid addressing the matter in a structured, analytic way until the issue becomes a full-blown corporate problem.
Fake managers don’t promote sharing among colleagues because sharing is only a digital matter. When one of their collaborator retires, they normally don’t consider handing over responsibilities; after a year they will discover that the person who retires was the only one with the technical knowledge to perform a key quality check on the product. But, hey, a colleague retiring is too analogue, and a rather sad affair, so why deal with it?
These managers’ collaborators, at the mercy of micro-managing visionaries who are unable to translate their ravings into workable plans, may take on regressive, even childish behaviours. If the manager is so smart, they think, let’s see how well they do. The assessment of these collaborators is considered by the fake manager as an end-of-term report, which they fill in when it’s already overdue and only because HR has threatened dismissal. Favouritism, prejudice and carelessness turn people assessment into a true Russian roulette. Not having set goals, expectations and assessment models, our fake managers surprise their collaborators with perceptions that are not based on concrete, objective facts.
Anyway, feedback is an abstract concept for the fake manager. It they ask for feedback, they risk getting back an opinion that undermines their carefully constructed self-perception. Removing error in the choice of shirt, car or tablet, translates into the removal of error as a whole. If there is an error, someone else made it, typically a collaborator, who isn’t afforded a chance to make the necessary corrections on the go. Often, it’s the collaborators who’ve done a fake job for the fake manager who get rewarded. This obviously is a matter of discouragement for those who have done real work to keep the division going.
Fake coaching for fake managers
Despairing at the fake manager’s underperformance, which can no longer be hidden by fact there is a Smart parked in the company garage, HR put the manager into the care of a coach, who is given the goal of turning a self-absorbed un-empathic subject into someone capable of understanding and relating to the people they have in front of them. A desperate task.
A real manager is able to link the projects of their corporate function with the organisation’s strategy, current or emerging. Real managers avoid asking for useless bureaucratic tasks and mobilising people around smart projects that are not in line with the needs of the business. Their goal is to ensure that their people make the best use of their time to generate true value. This is why they are good at motivating their teams, regardless of the fact they wear a tie or not.