The following is an excerpt from my soon-to-be published book, “Saving Innovation.”
I uncovered an employee working to kill innovation: the “Barbaric Manager.” Squashing ideas that could become breakthroughs because of his own insecurity or ego he tops the list as innovation’s enemy number one.
The barbarian uses the power of his position to crush employee ambition, ideas and engagement. A combination of ignorance and arrogance fuels this manager’s desire to conquer and subjugate his staff. Both aggressive and weak, this prototypical bully stifles the creativity and imagination of his employees and makes sure innovation doesn’t happen through the repetitive and dismissive, insulting, belittling, demolition of thoughts and ideas until his employees lose hope of making a difference and stop trying to.
The best innovation tools and strategies in the world go nowhere with this barbarian at the gate.
While there are classic managerial errors from history that everyone recognizes – Custer’s Last Stand, the leaders who watched as General Motors went from the world’s largest company to bankruptcy – far more commonplace are the millions of middle managers, branch managers, supervisors, and shift bosses who ruin innovation on a smaller level.
Senior leaders may drive strategic direction, but it’s the infinite layers of sub-managers who ensure that direction takes hold – or doesn’t. These managers have their boots on the ground every day at the store and facility level and wield enormous influence because they interact most regularly with employees – the vast untapped resource of ideas that every business possesses and few utilize.
To emphasize the importance that this stratum of management has over companies and employees, a Gallup Poll of 1,000,000 U.S. workers released in 2009 found that the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor.
“People leave managers not companies…in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue,”Gallupwrote in its survey findings. It also determined that poorly managed work groups are on average 50 percent less productive and 44 percent less profitable than well-managed groups.