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In Parts 1 to 4 of the Horrible Boss series, we discussed the literature behind managerial effectiveness in terms of the five core requirements of managing and the key dimensions necessary for effectiveness in a job as a manager. In Parts 2 – 4, we identified Mental Processing Capability and Skills and Knowledge as the first two dimensions. In Part 5 we will be discussing Application as the third and final dimension, comprising the framework for understanding the root causes of the “Horrible Boss.” Part 5 concludes with a brief discussion on the symptoms of a manager who fails in application, leading to problems between a direct report and his or her manager.

Applying Oneself as a Manager

In order to be effective, managers need to have the skills and knowledge to perform and the level of capability to properly set context and boundaries for their direct reports. A critical part of effectiveness and success as a boss that is often overlooked is the actual application of those skills. In this context, application refers to work value, in terms of the person valuing the work such that they fully apply themselves to the work.

What often happens in organizations is that front line employees who have been very successful at doing the work move up in the company to become front line mangers. While this is a promotion, if the employee doesn’t value the work of a manager – meeting with the team, delegating, evaluating, performance management, and so on – they will not be effective. As a long term employee, if you value being a tradesman and do not value being a manager, even after being promoted to manager, the “managerial work” is not where your heart is. It’s not the work you value and as a consequence, it’s not where you will put your time and effort. You will not be applying your full capabilities.

Moving up in an organization can happen at any level. Yet, when employees move up to the director level, it’s typically the first time they will be managing managers. If they don’t value this aspect of management, then they simply will not apply themselves fully to that important aspect of their work.

Being an Effective Manager Requires Application in Every Aspect

Management – and more specifically, managing people – is not easy work. It’s important to realize that it’s not an “add on”, but a core part of the job and an integral part of the five requirements for effective management. Doing the value-added work that only you, in your position, with your capability can do is part of it, but there is also planning, delegating, setting context and boundaries, and establishing feedback loops. Each of these aspects of managing requires the same degree of application and capability and energy as any of the others. If one doesn’t value coaching their direct report’s performance feedback sessions, or team meetings, then those specific things will be neglected and the team will not be as effective as they should (or could) be.

Symptoms of Managers Who Are Failing in Application

Symptoms of failure in terms of application can be seen in a variety of ways. For instance, managers who are consistently late with performance management reviews, always constrained for time, and/or always cancelling important meetings, are not applying themselves fully. In this scenario, direct report managers fail to get the direction and formal feedback that they need to succeed whether it’s through team meetings, coaching, or otherwise. It is in these situations where direct report managers will find that context is not being properly set. A final symptom may be that the manager will intervene directly in the direct report manager’s work. Instead of providing the coaching that the direct report expects (and needs), the manager will roll up his or her sleeves and do the work him or herself. This is because he or she values the work at the direct report’s level more than they value doing the managerial aspects of their own job.