Stuck at Sign-Off – Readers Contribution



“Hey Dumb Leaders Handbook, we have a dumb leader where I work. We’ve ground to a halt. She has her hands on everything”

We have all had those bosses that insist on having sign-off on everything. It’s frustrating and mostly unnecessary.

This story was shared by a Sydney reader, as he regaled this Dumb Leader story about her CEO. The business is a national retail chain that is “stuck at sign-off”. The DL insists on having sign-off on everything. They have built a young and vibrant team in the marketing department ; they have product professionals in the buying team ; they have experience in sales and operations: yet everything that actually happens hinges on sign-off from the time-poor and stressed DL. Now that’s dumb!

It appears to be a completely dysfunctional company meandering through a rapidly changing landscape without foundation of strategy and aligned team implementing. Stories of Monday morning meetings, strategies on the run, reactive execution and rushed implementation abound in this chain and the desire for short-term results becomes dominant.

How frustrating is that environment. A national chain, stuck at sign-off.

Now for those in retail, you will identify with these stories.

“The stores tie-up our marketing catalogue based on the yearly calendar provided by marketing. Our winter catalogue date was nearing and the store network were sending numerous requests for more information. Requests focused on product and pricing were prominent. Stores had been told that all marketing advice, products and ticketing would be sent to stores at least two weeks before the catalogue live date. Here we were just days away from our live date and stores didn’t have products, inventory, ticketing or even copies of the catalogue. The catalogue was finally signed off by the Dumb Leader just two days from live date, pushing the team to still hit the live date. The result was a shithouse tie-up in stores; a rushed production of the catalogue with errors in it; stores that didn’t have stock that customers came in for; ticketing that came in a week after the live date. I could only imagine the increased costs, but I can attest to the poor sales and the resultant blast from the DL when our sales targets were missed.”

“The deadline for the placement for orders for our European supplier was nearing. The DL had been involved every step of the way, looking over the new product briefs, assembling the range and the product quantities. Now, however we had reached the stage of needing final sign-off to place the order. And that’s where we got stuck. The sign-off didn’t happen, we missed the deadline for the order and we lost the place in the manufacturing process. The order was placed a week later, at an increased cost and with a delayed production time of three months. Needless to say, we missed peak selling and the line was a flop.”

The above stories may have some of the details changed but the impacts are real. Leaders get into positions where they require final sign-off for a couple of main reasons.

• They don’t trust their team and won’t empower them.
• They hoard power (but complain about the resulting stress it causes)
• Often, it’s a lack of confidence in the leader that brings about this behaviour.

The Scenario

Based on what we have heard, our DL may be hastening the demise of this business. The additional costs are one thing, but the impact of the team is one that will take some to re-build. It’s a tough situation but one that isn’t unrecoverable. We go to great pains in not passing judgement or knowing more than we should, we look to utilize readers contributions in a learning capacity. This is how we create a great learning tool for you.

Your 3- Step Strategy for Success

Being able to reflect on your own behaviours is a key component to not being a dumb leader. If you are serious on becoming the best leader you can be, take regular reflection time and do some honest reflection on your own behaviours.

In this situation, if the DL had done some honest reflection, they should have been able to identify the key components of what had gone wrong.

The simpler strategy is also to never get into that situation.

1.Build the Team You Want from the Team You Have
Good leaders spend time developing the team they have. They take the time to communicate clearly their strategies and align them to the vision of the business. They have development plans in place and help coach and support the team, and take great pains not to micro-manage them

2. Build Your Own Development Plan
Leaders who understand themselves and have a plan for their own development will outperform those that don’t. Often the behaviour they see in the team; the weaknesses and opportunities are apparent within themselves. It’s important to have a process of regular internal review and an inner-circle that provides the feedback needed for you to succeed.

3. Set the Agenda
An annual plan is not just something that is written down, stored in a drawer and left to gather dust. Your plans set the agenda and it needs weekly review, but it doesn’t mean daily micro-management. It does mean healthy management, and holding people accountable for their role in the plan.

There Comes a Time.

There comes a time in this situation where it does become too late. If your business, your team are hamstrung as they wait for your final sign-off, there will come a time when the business goes beyond stuck and becomes stuffed. Learn the lessons from the DL, you can do this.

Our Resident Expert Advice

Our Resident Expert, Kevin Gammie from Growth Mentors, advises on how to deal with the Dumb Leader. “When you work with someone like this, it is best to get clarity around tasks, roles and projects being assigned to you. Ask questions like, What would successful completion look like? Then all you have to do is deliver that. In time you will build trust and autonomy will grow.”

This has been written to provide some simple steps to help you become a better leader. This advice comes from our experience and is general in nature. Leadership development is best when it takes into account your specific skill-set and circumstances.


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