A dumpster, by definition, is a commercial trash and garbage receptacle found behind most businesses. In it are placed the discards from the day’s work: paper, print-outs, trash of all sorts. Most dumpsters are steel bins that have sloping sides and a heavy metal top, weighted sufficiently to keep stuff from blowing out.
Commercial dumpsters serve a valuable purpose: They are a place where people can get rid of “stuff.” And as long as they are emptied regularly so that they do not overflow, they serve their purpose well.
But when they are not emptied regularly, they become home and haven to all sorts of vermin and health hazards.
A management dumpster is the emotional equivalent to the commercial variety. It’s an emotional and mental trash bin for managers. It stores the complaints, problems, obsolete programs, and the whining of employees, customers, co-workers, and even bosses. A management dumpster is a mental and emotional health hazard to the work environment.
Leaders who have their own personal management dumpsters are those who make daily to-do lists but never get anything accomplished. Their good intentions to build attitudes of collaboration and consensus, which (they believe) would result in accountability, have, instead, created a culture of dependency, not accountability: The team depends on itself or the leader to make decisions, instead of knowing and holding itself accountable to do “the next right thing.”
Leaders who find themselves deep into this conundrum of accountability feel buried alive in the bottom of a management dumpster, because they do not have time each day to do for others what those individuals could do for themselves.
If you are a manager who has fallen into a management dumpster, you may view work as a chore, and challenges as insurmountable obstacles. You no longer take joy in going to work. Instead, every day is “Monday,” and you feel that you have a never-ending to-do list.
Leaders who find themselves in a management dumpster often recognize their dilemma and try to climb out by applying a quick fix. They may attempt to change the organization by implementing new structures (such as formal teams) or imposing new programs (such as “zero defects” or “total quality management”).
Or, given some insights, they may attempt to change themselves by emulating what they believe are successful management traits.
Any of these attempts, noble as they are, is doomed to failure, because each is essentially a band-aid solution to the problem.
The solution to climbing out of a management dumpster and leading the organization to sustainable success can only be accomplished by addressing the problem as a whole. That requires putting into place a new leadership paradigm based on non-negotiable processes that elevate expectations of engagement through core systems of accountability and communication.
In a nutshell, the solution requires transforming yourself into a principled leader who does not rely on position (that is, your title and authority), your powers of persuasion, or your proximity to the team to achieve results. Rather, the solution relies on the power of non-negotiable processes to achieve a culture of clarity, consistency, and connectivity.
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