Don’t Be A Ghost Manager


Today is Halloween, a day enjoyed by many children in our country as they collect candy wearing costumes of various famous and infamous people or characters.  This year, my daughter is going to dress up as her favorite soccer player, Sam Mewis, and will be trick or treating with our dog, Honey, who will also be wearing a US Women’s Soccer Jersey.  Tonight we will see many wonderful costumes….the simplest of which is the Ghost.  Anybody can put a sheet over their head, cut out two eyes to see with, and transform into this iconic Halloween costume.

A ghost is defined by several things: scaring others, wreaking havoc in your house and with your friends, flying in and out with little regard for others, and basically being a nuisance.  In my 20 years of leading others, I have seen many managers who resemble the disruptive nature of Ghosts, and I have called them Ghost Managers.  What are the characteristics of the haunting Ghost Manager?

  1. Their primary focus is on the success of themselves and not the team they work with.
  2. They “fly” in to work with you and after they leave, neither you nor your customers want to see them again.
  3. When they come work with you, they promise all sorts of good things to you and your customers, many of which are not realistic and you don’t see or hear from them again for a long time.
  4. Ghosts are characteristically invisible, which many Ghost Managers are with their teams.
  5. Ghosts are meant to appear out of nowhere to scare you. Managers who don’t involve their teams in decision making and force their surprise ideas on unsuspecting teams are Ghost Managers.
  6. There is very little substance to a real ghost, typically just a sheet with nothing behind it. Ghost Managers also have very little substance to them with their words meaning much more than their actions.

So how do we know if we work for a leader, someone who is invested in our development as an individual and the team for the betterment of the company and its customers?

  1. Leaders respond to your emails and calls in a timely manner.
  2. Leaders listen to understand or ask questions to understand before making judgments or responses.
  3. Leaders involve you early on in decision making and do not try to force their opinions on you. Example – they ask your opinions on situations before a solution is decided on.
  4. Leaders challenge you in a fair and specific way to improve your personal performance. Sometimes this means delegating their responsibilities to team members for insight into what a promotion into their role will look like.
  5. Leaders promote the members of their teams for different assignments, even if there is a short term loss to the leaders’ individual performance.
  6. Leaders ask you about what’s important in your life vs their own personal agenda. They talk about you more than they talk about themselves
  7. Leaders challenge you to take time away from work and try not to bother you while on vacations. Recovery time is important to high performing individuals or teams in any aspect of life.
  8. Leaders get in the weeds with you. They are visible to you and your teams and don’t ask you to do something they are not willing to do themselves. Leadership and talent assessment cannot be accomplished only by Skype, Text Messages and Phone Calls.
  9. Leaders spend more time building relationships with their team vs strategic thinking. Both are important but the best working environments come from positive relationships with your teams. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
  10. Leaders provide recognition to you and your team when warranted and provide solutions to challenges when times are difficult.
  11. During difficult times, the blame falls on the leader and not the team.  During times of prosperity, the credit all goes to the team.
  12. Leaders don’t make promises they can’t keep. They are transparent with situations and consistent with feedback.
  13. Leaders do not get caught up in rumors and gossip.  They will form opinions on their own personal experiences and not those of others.

Here are two suggestions on developing your leadership skills:

  1. Work on performance management of your teams. Unfortunately, many companies define performance management only for their bottom performers, which is critical when you identify people who are not bought in to the current purpose of your organization.  Spend more time with your high potential team members who define what good looks like.  Develop action plans for them, ask them what they want to do in the next steps of their career, send them a handwritten note recognizing their contributions…whatever it takes to keep these top performers engaged so that they stay with your company.
  2. Develop a culture of accountability with your team. A culture of accountability cannot be forced or mandated to your team. Being held accountable must be a choice that each team member makes. If you try to force high accountability without purpose and process, then your culture will slowly evolve into a directive culture, whose decisions and actions are directed by one person. Leaders make suggestions based on what they think is best and team members make decisions which ultimately define culture. When team members are involved in the decision making process before suggestions are made, chances of alignment are far greater which ultimately leads to higher levels of accountability.  People are more accountable to plans they provide input to.


Well Done > Well Said