With the death of Kim Jong Il comes a ton of news stories about him, including this fabulous one of 17 Bizarre Details About the Dear Leader's Life. While these stories are wacky and worthy of a dictator, there are many parallels in the lives of managers. Based on these 17 things, here are 5 that pop up in managers.
1. False perfection:
What Kim Jong Il did: "According to an official government handout marking his 62nd birthday, Kim celebrated by demolishing a par 72 course in just 34 strokes, managing a world record five holes-in-one on the way. To top it all, the superhuman round was apparently the first time he had actually played the sport."
The manager version: Do you ever notice people nodding or simply rephrasing what you've said? Are all of your ideas "brilliant"? Well, the first clue that you're acting like a dictator is when your ideas are all brilliant. Nobody is brilliant all the time, the same way no one hits 5 holes-in-one in their very first game of golf.
The fix: Ask your employees what they think first and bite your tongue if it conflicts with your own brilliant idea. Start asking for more information and then think about it before acting. If they can give you information that shows their ideas are good or yours are bad, follow that.
2. Overly Demanding:
What Kim Jong Il did: In 2004, a former chef for Kim revealed the North Korean leader employed staff to make sure the grains of rice served to him were absolutely uniform in size and colour."
The manager version: Are you nit-picky about the little things? Do you care about font size or the thickness of lines on your Excel graph? Do you demand that your employees all be at their desks no later than 8:00 even though they aren't customer facing? Do you get overly upset about dress codes, email signatures, or lunch breaks?
The fix: Unless you are a graphic designer or these things are going to press (in which case, you should be paying an expert in this area), line thickness doesn't generally matter. Likewise, does everyone really need to be to work at the exact same time? Is there no flexibility allowed? Try taking a deep breath and allow people do things without micro-managing every step. They may surprise you.
3. Deserve better than everyone else:
What Kim Jong Il did: According to Russian emissary Konstantin Pulikovsky, who travelled with Mr. Kim by train across Eastern Europe, Kim had live lobsters air-lifted to the train every day which he ate with silver chopsticks.
The manager version: Do you fly business (or first) class while your underlings are crammed in coach? Do you get a 40% bonus at the end of the year, while they get 2%? Is there a separate executive bathroom? Separate parking?
The fix: While managers get paid more because (theoretically) the job is harder, take a look at your perks and see if they are realistic. Some may be and some may not be. Try giving up your parking spot to a deserving direct report.
4. Work outside your area of expertise
What Kim Jong Il did: He once wrote six operas in two years.
The manager version: Opera writing isn't a bad thing, but I suspect Kim wasn't the Mozart of the Korean Peninsula. Likewise, do you do your own graphic design, or insist on recalculating all the sales projections but lack the skills to do so accurately, so the original forecaster has to spend 3 hours at your desk going over each calculation, demonstrating why yours isn't accurate? Do you expect praise for the things you do that other departments are assigned to do?
The fix: Hire an expert. Listen to him or her.
5. Take others down with you
What Kim Jong Il did: After suffering a back injury following a horse riding accident, Kim was prescribed painkillers. Fearful of becoming addicted, he ordered a half-dozen of his closest staff to receive the same injection under the logic that if he became dependent, he wouldn't be the only one.
The manager version: Do you make sure that other people are assigned to your failing project? Do you dole out blame (whether deserved or not) on others? Do you keep your people so closely tied to you that if you got fired, your replacement would naturally fire them as well? Do you find yourself blaming others for your problems?
The fix: Give your people the ability to work with others throughout the company. Listen to their ideas. Take responsibility for your own failures. Don't blame others for mistakes you made.