Have you ever looked at your boss and thought “How on earth did you get to be there? They really don’t have a clue!”

Here’s a couple of examples of ‘smart’ leaders who really didn’t get it.


A few years ago, I was running an employee engagement survey for a division of a large electronics manufacturer. This was the second time they had run the survey and the previous years’ results had been poor – around 30% engagement. When the results of the latest survey came in, the needle hadn’t moved at all – engagement was still stuck at 30%.

Having not been involved in the first survey I reviewed the results of the most recent survey and identified one of the key issues as management visibility. Employees clearly didn’t believe that management was in touch with what was happening on the shop floor on a day to day basis. One of my recommendations was therefore that managers should increase their visibility and consider implementing Management by Walking Around (MBWA).

As part of the post survey action planning process, we conducted a series of employee focus groups and I raised this suggestion with the staff. When I shared the idea the employees laughed, stating:

“That was what was suggested last year and they’re doing it.

We have no idea what they are doing, but they’re always walking around!”


Performance Management

A research organization I was working with wanted to revamp their performance management system. Now everyone in this organization was smart – they all held a minimum of a Masters degree and most had PhD or post-doctoral qualifications.

For whatever reason – and against our advice – the client decided they wanted a 10 point rating scale for their new system. They stated the rationale was to encourage a broader distribution of ratings enabling more differentiated short term incentives.

Being a bunch of smart people after the system and documentation was developed they opted to conduct the internal training and implementation themselves. Bad idea!

In their comprehensively documented training materials for all managers they included one small comment “given a normal distribution, the majority of people should be scoring 5”.

Come performance review time 85% of all employees scored 5!! This included people identified as ‘stars’ in the high potential program as well as those on performance improvement programs.

Heavy sigh …

Bottom line – The best advice in the world comes to nothing if it is not implemented effectively. While I don’t believe “mansplaining” is the best solution, it increasingly seems a lot better than assuming managers and leaders fully understand HOW to implement recommendations – no matter how clearly they are documented or articulated.