My last blog post discussed some of the commitment confusion and challenges we see with many management teams we’re working with. Here are two key behaviors that send very loud, visual messages about managers’ true priorities:

Visible, Felt Leadership or Remote Control Management

Managers in high-performing organizations spend much more time “managing by wandering around” with employees, suppliers, partners, and customers than traditional — and less effective — managers do. Too many managers manage by remote control through e-mail and office meetings. Senior managers who are stuck in their offices answering e-mails or holding court with those wily or privileged enough to make it past the moat guards (executive assistants) create a legion of managers or supervisors who aspire to do the same. And so the moat separating “we” (management) and “them” (employees) grows ever wider and deeper.

What’s keeping managers locked in their offices and meeting rooms? Generally it’s managing by remote control — often micromanaging — on operating details, crisis management, or approving plans from staff support people who are often even further separated from operations. Analyzing and fixing problems at their root cause belongs to empowered teams along with operations if the organization is going to develop relevant improvements that are owned by those who must make them work. Managers must get out of their offices and “manage the team or organization’s context.”

That means, for example, constantly repeating the “stump speech” the management team has developed on what business they’re in, where the organization is going, and what they believe in. Not only will that help focus and guide the organization, but it forces managers to push operations down to where it belongs and takes them out of the burdensome and destructive “upward delegation” loop.

Management Group or Management Team

Far too many management groups are quick to sing the praises of teamwork — for the rest of the organization. Their own personal behavior with each other and with their peers is still within the “rugged individualism” mould. Because many grew up in the segmented, “command and control” era of “vertical chimneys,” individualistic, “fix the problem or person, not the process” behavior is what got them promoted. It’s often all they know. As a result, they are frequently one of the many reactive managers who either act independently of other divisions or departments or swoop in to solve the problem but leave the underlying root causes in place.

The more we help to build high-performing cultures, the clearer it becomes that the way an organization behaves as a whole (its culture) is a reflection of the way the management team leading it behaves. Too often we see management groups that aren’t teams at all. They are a group of high-powered individualists. They are not a team.

Sometimes managers take potshots and “snipe” at each other or other departments. Other managers don’t “sing off the same sheet of music” by emphasizing the same areas and delivering consistent messages throughout the organization. The result is always an organization full of thick vertical chimneys, searching for the guilty, covering their backside, sub-optimization at the expense of the whole process or organization, disharmony, and everyone out for themselves.

Significant and lasting leadership and culture transformation is not possible without extensive management and employee involvement through a wide variety of teams. But team development has to start at the top if it is to “take.” So get out that mirror and look at your team. Are you truly a team or are you really just a group of individuals who meet occasionally?

“The most effective communication is face-to-face. The most believable communication is behavior.” We find that most management team members agree with that statement. However, many managers judge themselves by their intentions. But the people they are leading can only use what they see — actions — as a basis for judging intentions and priorities.