After one of my DISC workshops I was asked by one of the attendees (let’s call her Jackie) for advice on how to recover her work relationship with her manager. Jackie had previously been given her first written warning and approached her manager’s boss to voice her side of the story.

This by-pass did not go down well with her manager.

What I discovered was that Jackie was being managed by an overextended manager. Like all executives, for her manager there are never enough hours in the day. Without good time management skills this manifests as

  • Lots of incomplete work
  • Under instructed staff
  • Staff turnover
  • Curtness with staff
  • Stress related illnesses for the executive and their team
  • Low productivity

In Jackie’s case, her manager was the classic High I in the DISC behavioural profile. The High I or “Influencer” / “Inspirer” is a fast paced people orientated person. They can be very good at multitasking and delegating when not over-extended. Once overextended, chaos can quickly eschew.

The High I loves variety and will very quickly find distractions to fill up their day. When stressed these distractions take them well away from what is productive.

Many overextended executives find themselves caught between fire fighting and “clearing their head”(coffee, long lunch, Facebook time etc). This clearing their head helps them reset, but it also drives them further into being overextended.

The trick of course is to stop non-important activities and instead use that time to tackle the important but not urgent tasks. In that way the executive catches potential crises before they be arise.
It requires a daily discipline of planning your day – something the High I generally dislikes or packs too much in their list. The High I likes variety, drama and spontaneity. Planning sucks all the fun out the day. If they can’t plan or manage the details, then they need someone around them who can. Your high I leader’s time is best spent talking with people, inspiring them, not writing reports.
The best High I managers delegate and avoid being caught in the details. They manage best by getting things done by inspiring others to do it – not by doing it themselves.

The high I’s biggest fear is not looking good.

If you are unfortunate enough to be managed by an overextended High I, you may quickly find yourself the scapegoat for their poor management. In Jackie’s case she had made several mistakes at work. The business model had also changed and she had not been trained.
This led to slow production and re-doing of work. Jackie’s manager had spotted the low production, and immediately assumed that Jackie was incompetent. She quickly found Jackie’s mistakes. This propelled her into looking deeper. Being already stressed and in a rush, her search quickly escalated into what one may call a witch hunt. Jackie found herself being blamed for errors that upon a fuller inspection were found not to be errors at all.

When people start looking for faults in people, they will keep finding them

Conversely when we consciously start looking for the good in people that is what we keep finding (think of your first love). Have you ever noticed that after buying a car, that suddenly you see more of the same model on the road?
In Jackie’s case her manager had made he mind up that Jackie was incompetent. This led her to quickly blaming her for mistakes that in most cases were not her fault. It also led her to seeing mistakes that actually were not. This can be further fuelled by her manager’s lack of time to delegate tasks correctly.

One could argue that fault lies on both sides.

In Jackie’s case she could just leave. But, what would that accomplish? Jackie would invariably come up against someone similar in her career.
It is very rare that we find the perfect manager.
She likes her job. Maybe this could be great chance for her to master working with this scenario and become a better manager herself.

The first step is to understand her manager, what her motivations are and her behavioural style.
Sure there are workplace psychopaths out there, but they are not as common as we’d like to think. In Jackie’s case, her manager is not one.
Her manager is simply overextended and needing more leadership training.