Sticky Notes: Management’s Vicious Cycle
One of the greatest challenges in providing leadership/management training is that most experienced managers severely overestimate their own leadership effectiveness. Our research shows that while 9 out of 10 managers fail to consistently practice the fundamentals of management, 5 out of 10 managers think they are doing an “excellent” or “very good” job managing their direct reports.
Why do most managers think they are doing better than they are? Part of the reason is that the vast majority of managers do spend a lot of time on people management. The real problem is how most managers spend their precious management time.
We find that the vast majority of managers spend an inordinate percentage of their management time in what I call “firefighting mode,” solving one urgent problem after another—usually problems that could have been avoided with better planning or identified and solved more easily at an earlier point.
When not in “firefighting mode,” these managers prioritize “catching up” on their other work, and their management practices take a back seat, defaulting to a mode I call “managing on autopilot,” in which they communicate with their direct reports mostly in low-structure, low-substance conversations punctuated by mediocre meetings and e-mails. As a result, unnecessary urgent problems occur or small problems go unnoticed and grow more serious or urgent. Then the manager gets pulled back into “firefighting mode.”
Most managers are stuck in this vicious cycle, and they don’t even realize it.