The 3 Pillars of Mediocre Management

There is an old joke, which is funny as it is based on standard guidance and practice for all mediocre  ‘C’* level executives.

In essence the outgoing CEO leaves his successor 3 numbered envelopes and tells him to open the first envelope when he hits his first crisis, the second envelope for the next disaster and then finally open the third envelope when the next catastrophe hits. This is what the notes in the envelopes said:

In envelope #1: Blame me

In envelope #2: Reorganize

In envelope #3: Prepare 3 envelopes

Practically speaking there is of course a great deal of sense in this methodology so aspiring ‘C’ levels, listen and learn.

1.     Blame the departing executive

This should be an obvious first step as the outgoing boss is usually leaving because they have been at the company for 4 years and one of their first acts was to announce a 5 year turn around plan. This plan now looks likely to be a giant balls up so they have found another highly paid job elsewhere and handed over the reigns to the incoming executive who will now have to try to sort this mess out. As the new boss you could, of course, accept full responsibility for the disaster as it was on ‘your watch’. You will then be applauded by those with a moral compass and then excoriated by stockholders, analysts, and the world’s press, all of whom lost their moral compasses just after puberty. Crises remember impact stock options and executive pay so carrying the can for someone who dumped you, as the new boss, in this mess is daft. Mediocre ‘C’s always pass the buck and then announce a new 5 year plan.

2.     Reorganise the Company:

When an external ‘C’ level is appointed they rarely have a grasp of the detail or the workings of the organisation they are about to take over. This means that they can be outmaneuvered, challenged or run rings around by those who were passed over or just fancy upping the ante. The second crisis is a perfect opportunity to get rid of these people and those who hold opinions that don’t agree with yours and anyone who is effective at things you’re not good at and therefore might show you up. Fill your inner circle with those who appreciate your talents, who see your obvious leadership qualities and who feel they need your approval to do anything.

Then reorganise the company. Good examples are:

  • If the company is run from the centre, move the management to the regions or the other way round
  • Merge Engineering and Operations or if already in the same department, separate them
  • Bring in a new Marketing Director and then change the company logo
  • Move 50% of Department heads to new roles outside their comfort zones. For example there’s no reason why the Sales Director can’t run HR
  • Downsize the workforce as the last act, getting one of the newly promoted executives to run the process as a way of blooding them
  • Have a Christmas party, the (remaining) workers will totally love you for it.
 3] Prepare for your departure:

 A mediocre ‘C’ Level is always going to get found out, so you should always prepare for that eventuality. As soon as the re-organisation is finished, you’ll need to start Networking in earnest. Its also possible to curry favour with suppliers by cutting them good deals and of course don’t forget that your competitor is not your enemy but in fact a potential job opportunity. So don’t upset them by rocking their boat too much. If the opposition is also a Mediocre ‘C’ then they will do the same. In fact you can have quite a good laugh about your ‘spats’ when you read about them in the press, when you both worked them out between you beforehand.

 So as the Boy Scouts say ‘Be Prepared’ for your inevitable departure and remember unlike a captain leaving a sinking ship last, the mediocre ‘C’ is on the lifeboat to prosperity before the alarm even sounds.

* What is a ‘C’ Level executive? They are the CEOs, CFOs, COOs etc and are the 3rd level of  Management.

‘A’ Level Execs:  Ideas people who plan ahead and create plausible strategies

‘B’ Level Execs: Work with ‘A’ Execs and then deliver stuff on time and on budget

‘C’ Level Execs: Have meetings and lunch a lot. Leave the actual work to the ‘A’s and ”B’s

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What to wear for a Job Interview

Research has shown that people form a lasting impression of a person within the first few minutes of meeting them for the first time. Although Interviewers should be aware of this and make an effort to dispel these initial impressions unfortunately this emotional judgment appears hard wired into the brain. So as an interviewee you need to address this issue and make it work for you. Firstly when you enter the room, do so confidently, smile, say hello and shake hands with a firm grip. Don’t sit down until asked. Then sit up straight, don’t cross your legs or arms and look directly at the interviewer. Perfect. Of course if you do all the above wearing a clown suit or butt naked, you will certainly make an impression but it’s unlikely to be a good one. So what to wear? The Clothing Retailers Association Partnership has come up with a scientifically proven set of interview wear that should tick all the boxes to ensure that the vital first impression is positive and it will set you up immediately as the probable candidate for the role. They suggest:

  • One colour, conservative suit
  • Coordinated blouse
  • Sensible shoes, you can have heels but don’t totter
  • Restrained jewellery
  • Tan or light tights

Your hair should be tidy, clean and should not fall over your face. Constantly putting it back behind your ears can be irritating. Tie it back if it’s too long. Make-up should be discrete with a touch of lipstick of a subdued colour. Avoid upfront colours here, black and red are for nights out only! Finally, you can sashay into the room but don’t overdo the wiggle. Right follow this guidance and you will be set for success and good luck!! That’s the boys sorted and a later post I will give some hints and tips on what girls should wear.

The 7 Habits of Mediocre Management

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There is a very successful book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, written by Stephen R. Covey. The premise is that by aligning your behaviors to these Seven Habits then you can achieve almost anything you want. But what happens if your company is run by a psychopath, the middle management are incompetent and your co-workers are as effective as chocolate tea pots. You’ll need the following habits to survive.

The Seven Habits of Mediocre Management

(1) Be Reactive:

Whatever you do don’t start anything new. If it hasn’t been done before its bound to fail, as your competitors would have thought of it first and obviously decided it was too risky. Only do something if has to be done e.g. putting a fire out. Otherwise the safe not sorry mantra is: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

(2) Always Think of the Consequences:

If you have to start something new and god forbid, innovative, what happens if it goes wrong? Can it be traced back to you? If it can, set up a ‘Steering Board’ or at least a Works Committee so you can spread any blame by ensuring collective responsibility. If it goes well, your boss will take the credit so don’t concern yourself with that scenario

(3) Prioritise Yourself:

Put yourself first. After all you are at least less mediocre than your peers. So what can you get out of this? Is there a promotion or pay rise involved? Make sure that you are front and centre of any activities that are visible to your management and are bound to succeed or at the very least not to fail. Your team, direct reports and anyone else directly connected to the project should be in no doubt that your happiness is their job security.

(4) Never Apologise or Explain:

It’s an old truth but one practiced by the Captains of Industry, Politicians and Royalty for generations. You must always remember it’s never your fault. Even if you made the original decision, someone should have interpreted it in a way that did not cause the catastrophe it created. That’s the point of a ‘Team’. Plus of course, all should remember that in the unlikely event you do go down, they go down with you.

(5) Communicate Effectively:

Communicate information only a ‘need to know’ basis only. The ‘Team’ should not have the ‘Big Picture’ as it’s far too hard for them to understand. They should just follow any orders that are given to them, whether written, verbal or via ‘guidance’ delivered in the pub. Telepathic employees are like gold dust, so ask all the team to work on that skill, it saves so much of your time time if you actually have to pass on stuff.

(6) Build a Team:

You need do-ers, a note taker, a PowerPoint expert, a sycophant and an expert. Make sure there is only one expert, two will just contradict each other and this will involve decision making in a subject area you have no idea about. The do-ers should be told what you expect to happen and the expert will look aghast at the time scale and budgets allocated. Let them fight it out between them. The PowerPoint guy does the status reports, the more pages and complex the less likely to be commented on negatively at your review with your boss. The sycophant provides coffee and biscuits. The note taker (ideally a sycophant as well) is to ensure evidential proof that what ever you said or did was the right thing.

(7) Your Boss is Always Right:

A Mediocre Boss will practice these habits so expect to be managed in that way. The advantage is you know what to expect from the behaviors so don’t get caught in any fall out. If your Boss is a complete $*!@*% then sycophancy is the best defence.

The Biggest Dick….

Over the coming weeks and months possibly even years, Dick Lannister, a Management Guru of international renown, former CEO of Amalgamated Industries, public speaker and about to publish his very first book (did I mention the book? Oh yes just there, sorry), will reveal the secrets to his incredible success, whilst debunking the fallacies peddled by other so called ‘Management Experts’ and providing the little people with the step up they need to sup at the big table. Especially those who buy his book.