#16: Don't Create a MINO
A client called me the other day to help them with one of their managers, Jim. When Jim was promoted to his position over the largest team in the company, he'd been a slam-dunk—dedicated, hard-working, innovative, engaged. Two years in, though, he'd drifted off. Disengaged, cynical, doing the minimum to get by. My client wanted to know if this was simply the end result of four months of remote work due to Covid, or something more serious.
I went to the office (fully masked and social distanced, of course) and spent some time observing Jim in action. It only took about five minutes for me to diagnose the problem—this company had created a MINO, or Manager In Name Only. On paper, Jim was responsible for the daily activities of two inter-connected teams. He was supposed to direct their work, handle issues as they came up, innovate through problems, run daily WIP meetings, do performance reviews, etc. All the things a good manager is supposed to do. Except, every time an issue came up, the CEO immediately took charge. The day I was there, one of Jim's direct reports was sick, and instead of calling off to him, he'd called off to the CEO, who didn't even bother to tell Jim right away, and left him wondering if one of his people was AWOL.
After watching these interactions, it wasn't hard for me to see why Jim's performance had fallen off. Why would you work hard to lead, manage, innovate and troubleshoot if you can't get a word in edgewise AND your people no longer view you as their manager. I don't think there's anything more demoralizing for a supervisor or team lead or manager than having a title but knowing it doesn't really mean anything. I had a conversation with Jim, and apparently, this wasn't the first time he'd dealt with the CEO stepping all over his authority. In the past, he'd brought it up, but this time, he was just tired. Tired of dealing with it, resigned to his existence as a MINO, and frankly, uninterested in fighting the same battle again.
I wouldn't be surprised if Jim isn't actively seeking a new position at a different company, too. The easiest way to drive off good talent is to cut their legs out from under them, publicly. That's why I encourage all my clients to regularly assess "supervision creep" in their companies and work to step back and allow managers to do their work, establish their authority, and feel empowered to make decisions and handle issues. It's the only way people grow.
Also, in case you were wondering: Why are my blogs numbered?