Are You a Dysfunctional Manager?

Last Updated Nov 2, 2010 7:55 PM EDT

Dysfunctional ManagerEveryone goes through the same stages of human development on the road to adulthood and maturity. Unfortunately, lots of us get stuck in one stage or another, stunting our growth and rendering us dysfunctional. We look just like ordinary adults, but we actually behave a lot more like children, acting out, throwing tantrums, and generally making life miserable for everyone around us.

Well, believe it or not, it's pretty much the same thing with managers, executives, and business leaders. The rub is that, instead of just screwing up their own lives and maybe a spouse and some kids, dysfunctional managers have a far broader impact by influencing the lives of hundreds or even thousands of employees, coworkers, customers, and investors.

What percentage of managers are dysfunctional? Well, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in four adult Americans "suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder." I don't know about you, but judging by the people I've worked with, myself included, that percentage seems low to me.

Just think about that for a minute. You're sitting in an executive staff or a board meeting. Look around the room. One fourth of the people there have a diagnosable mental disorder. Not only that, but you've got a 25 percent chance of being one of them. Sobering thought, isn't it?

In all seriousness, I've identified 5 Stages of Management Development to help each and every one of you determine if you're stuck in one stage or another. Yes, I know, you're reluctant to upset the applecart. Well, that's entirely up to you, but don't come crying to me when you self-destruct.

Sponge. You listen and learn from everyone and every situation as you try to figure out how things work in the real world. Although you're prone to saying dumb things and making stupid mistakes, you're not in a position to cause any real damage. So, every time you fall you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try it again until you get it right.

Proof-of-concept. Believing you're actually capable of accomplishing something besides making a complete idiot of yourself by promising the world and delivering squat, you set out to prove yourself worthy of the management title that, in all too many cases, you've already been granted. It's sort of like being thrown into the deep end of the pool before you can swim. Cruel, but effective.

Delivery. Congratulations, you've somehow managed to deliver the goods and succeed in doing something that can credibly be viewed as a business success. In other words, you made money for somebody and, for that, got a pat on the head and a gold star. You've arrived.

Reset. A little full of yourself, you try a repeat performance using the same tricks that worked the first time and realize, too late, that you're going to need a bigger playbook to consistently make it in the big leagues. Failure doesn't sit well with you. In fact, it sucks. So you set out to make sure it never happens again.

Maturity. After a few iterations of the third and fourth stages, you finally get reality and realize that you're just like everybody else. You succeed at some things, fail at others, and learn from everything. In fact, it's not that much different from the first stage, except that experience has given you confidence and stability, for all that's worth.

    So, think it over. Are you stuck in one of the stages? Just in case you haven't figured it out, success as a manager or leader - reaching maturity - means having the perspective and humility to look at yourself and actually see what everyone else sees, the genuine you. If you can do that, you'll make it, guaranteed.

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    Image CC 2.0 Flickr user oddharmonic

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