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If Shakespeare Wrote About Business Today


You may not remember Dick the Butcher. He was a rather forgettable character in William Shakespeare’s play, Henry VI, Part II. The chances are good, however, that you remember Dick’s famous line: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Henry VI addresses the personal jealousies that tore England’s political system apart and led to its loss of territories to the French. Dick, a follower of the anarchist character Jack Cade, believes that lawyers played an active role in keeping the common people down.

So what would Dick say today if Shakespeare wrote about the poor performance and caustic environment that plagues many organizations and keeps workers from being productive?

That play would undoubtedly produce a line that goes something like this: “The first thing we do, let’s fire all the bad managers and supervisors.”

Your organization is only as good as the talent, productivity, and engagement of your people. And, their success is directly related to the quality of those leading your teams, departments and divisions.

Bad managers and supervisors are easy to spot if you observe and listen. An easy place to begin your discovery is with those who do any or all of the following:

  • Make lousy hiring decisions. They don’t pay attention to a potential candidates fit with the organization and team. They hire the first person who meets the minimum requirements rather than looking at every opening as an opportunity to improve the team’s performance.
  • Leave new hires alone to learn how the organization works on their own. Even worse, they allow new employees to be influenced by their disgruntled co-workers who are only too happy to show them how things “really work around here.”
  • Invest no time or resources in developing people. As a result, their teams are not equipped to meet the demands of a competitive marketplace. When development opportunities do occur, bad supervisors view them as an inconvenience to getting the work done.
  • Create a toxic environment. Your best people have a choice about where to work, and they will run to your competitors to escape a bad manager. The people who are left do only the minimum to accomplish whatever they are told. There is no discretionary effort that comes from volunteered commitment to the organization’s purpose and vision.
  • Place the organization at risk because they do not follow policy, procedure, and/or the law. You know the ones to whom I am referring. They are magnets for discrimination claims, safety violations and lawsuits.
  • Allow your worst performing employees to continually frustrate their co-workers. A small percentage of your staff may have checked out and are taking up space. The majority of your underperformers want to do a good job, but there is something preventing them from doing so. Your good employees want managers and supervisors to address both of these groups in an honest, respectful, and legal manner. It is not happening because supervisors and managers lack the courage, competence, expectation, or support to do so.


Do This Now

If you are the bad manager or supervisor described above, stop it. You are killing your team’s effectiveness. Get the training or coaching you need to improve. If that doesn’t help, consider another job.

If you have marginal managers and supervisors reporting to you, let them know that they have one last opportunity to improve. Then secure the development, coaching and support they need. Most important, hold them accountable for the new performance and behavior you expect.

Your long-term, truly bad managers and supervisors need to go. At best, they are unlikely to become anything more than marginal performers even with intentional development. At worst, they will morph into undercover leeches on productivity, morale, and results.

Firing your bad managers has another important impact: it sends a clear compelling message to everyone that you value the environment in which people work as well as the importance of being a great performer.

Your organization’s people and results will improve when the quality of your managers and supervisors improves. Follow the advice that Shakespeare would give if he wrote about business today. Fire all of the bad managers. Just make sure that you avoid all of their mistakes when you replace them.