There is a type of manager/leader who masters the art of listing what you don’t have. We don’t have the money, we don’t have the size, we don’t have a strategy, we don’t have proper systems, we don’t have governance, etc. It is an art in itself, the art of negative accounting.
These Negative Inventory Managers are dangerous because they hardily provide an answer to the questions, or a path to ‘having’ all those things you don’t have. But they are good at the diagnosis of the obvious. By repeating the negative, they create a bigger negative conversation.
I have met many Negative Inventory Managers in my life and, consistently, they have never succeeded in their organizations. Or at least not for long.
I have seen them in small or medium size entrepreneurial organizations which have hired people with all skills and track record on paper, all achieved in a big company with a big support system. They joined because of the entrepreneurial flavour and ethos offered. They knew the difference. They got very excited. The employer got very excited. Six months later the love affair falls apart because they can’t navigate in the new environment. They have spent those six months as Negative Inventory Mangers: we don’t have this, we don’t have that, so I can’t do a ‘proper job’. Goodbye. They leave behind negative vibes.
Negative Inventory Managers are the anti-builders. Building is hard, diagnosing the gaps and the ‘lack of’ is easy.
The worse thing you can do with Negative Inventory Managers is to give them an audience. And they often hijack the entire organization particularly if there is a little bit of morbid tendency to feeling a little bit miserable. And some organizations like that.
The best thing you can do is to challenge them. Reframe the conversation: how can we make X,Y,Z happen? How can we build A,B,C?
The occasional Negative Inventory Manager may be inevitable, but the permanent role type is pure toxicity. Their toxicity is spread by paying too much attention the them. No attention, no chances for the negative to spread.
The treatment is either protection, quarantine, or surgery.
Protect yourself if you can by perhaps having a better recruitment process, more sophisticated, of higher predictive value.
Isolate them if they are already infecting many with the ‘problem-is -that-we -don’t-have’ virus. Don’t provide an audience or air time.
When all fails, well, send them back to the Land of Milk and Honey that they left in order to join you. They are really missing them over there.