Have you ever worked for a manager who never seemed to have a consistent story, need, question, or approach to a situation, fix, problem or goal?  One day you are told to approach a problem in one fashion and the next day you are told to approach the problem in an opposite way. This type of manager can be extremely frustrating to work for and this approach will waste a lot of time and energy as the organization tries to align with a strategy that is neither well thought out or well communicated.  This is what I mean by Etch a Sketch Management!

I remember one such manager.  I used to joke that this manager didn’t just change the rules during the game, but changed games in the middle of the game.  And, to top it off, the manager’s way of dealing with employees who felt as though they didn’t understand what was being asked, was to stop communicating with them, as if that would make the problem go away.  What went away was the employee’s desire to help.  You see, Etch a Sketch management sends a clear message, the leader has no clue what they are doing.  How else can you explain such a reversal in direction?

A great leader needs:

Vision – A leader must have a clear compass on direction and goals (vision), and she needs to share that vision with those individuals charged with accomplishing the vision.  She needs to take the time to make sure all charged with accomplishing a vision understand the vision.  Not just what the vision is, but why it is important to the company.  Visions change from time to time as do priorities and those changes in vision and priority need to be clearly communicated or the message received will be one of lack of vision.

Passion – Without passion, how will a leader make it through the challenging portions of her position?  It is passion that fuels the leader through those challenging times. Passion becomes infectious and employees want it;  they will do amazing work for a passionate leader.

Decisiveness – Leaders need to be able move quickly and be committed to their decisions.  A great leader will seek and value input from those around him, be able to understand and analyze the information and then act upon it with confidence.  If the leader needs to keep going back to his team to further discuss or analyze the decision point, he is communicating a lack of knowledge and understanding.

Team Builder – Without a solid team, even the best laid plans will most likely fail.  It takes a great deal of time to build a cohesive team of people who enjoy working together, help one another, leave their egos at the door and work for the common good.  It takes little time for an Etch a Sketch manager to tear all that down.

Character – This is perhaps the most important of all these traits.  A great leader is selfless to the organization.  She understands the greater good of the organization and operates to better the organization rather than putting herself first.  A great leader also thinks about the well-being of her employees and shows respect to her employees.  If you do not show respect, how do you expect to gain respect?  

Etch a Sketch’s have their place and time.  They are fun tools for creating pictures, but they are not good at saving or sharing designs.  Like an Etch a Sketch, Etch a Sketch managers are not good at preserving or sharing ideas and goals.  They are not good at communicating and they are ineffective at inspiring others to perform at their best.  Don’t be an Etch a Sketch manager.  Engage with your people and enjoy the experience.