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Judge Simon Cowell attends the party for the 12 finalists of the television show "American Idol". (MARIO ANZUONI/MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)
Judge Simon Cowell attends the party for the 12 finalists of the television show "American Idol". (MARIO ANZUONI/MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)

Lessons from TV land: Viewer discretion advised Add to ...

When Simon Cowell critiques an American Idol contestant or Tina Fey deals with her staff on 30 Rock as the character Liz Lemon, you can learn a lot about how not to manage. On his blog, consultant Aubrey Daniels points to the management mistakes of five popular TV figures, and offers his take on how to avoid their blunders.



MICHAEL SCOTT (STEVE CARELL), THE OFFICE

The blunder

When he created the Dundies, an annual awards show in which he presented awards to various members of the office based on their job performances, he was following what is considered wise management practice. Although the goal was to motivate all employees to deliver superior performance, Mr. Daniels says the Dundies, like other programs of that ilk, ended up angering or humiliating the majority of the office staff. "The problem is that only one employee can earn the accolade while the others are left with performance that goes unrecognized -- violating every known principle of effective positive reinforcement," he notes.

The better way

Set measurable criteria for your staff and reward and recognize everyone who meets or exceeds the goals.

LIZ LEMON (TINA FEY), 30 ROCK

The blunder

When it became known she was intending to downsize staff by 10 per cent, everyone tried to please her to avoid being laid off and she ultimately based her decisions on irrelevant factors, even firing a romantic rival.

The better way

She should have tried to avoid layoffs by involving all employees in alternative solutions such as eliminating wasteful expenses or taking salary cuts or furlough days. If layoffs were inevitable, she should have treated those being terminated fairly and generously in order to demonstrate to those remaining that she cares for her employees.

Most importantly, Mr. Daniels says, with the survivors of the downsizing now working harder to get everything done, she must make sure that she increases positive reinforcement for those who remain.



SIMON COWELL, AMERICAN IDOL

The blunder

His critiques sometimes combine both positive and negative comments as in his comments on Idol winner Taylor Hicks: "You're like every dad who's ever got drunk at a wedding … got on stage and sang. The difference is, you can sing." Inevitably the recipients of such statements ignore the positive comments and obsess on the negative -- it is a prodding, nagging style that in management does not motivate and is more often a punisher.

The better way

Separate compliments from negative criticisms. Give the positive reinforcement first and at a later time deliver the corrective feedback.

WILHELMINA SLATER (VANESSA WILLIAMS), UGLY BETTY

The blunder

This bullying, backstabbing boss may strike fear in her employees, but she is ultimately only able to hold onto her position through scheming, rather than inspiring great work among her team. Bully bosses create toxic workplaces.

The better way

For Mr. Daniels, "the first test in promoting someone to management is whether people would want to be around this person. If the person does not have good social skills, look for someone else."

ARI GOLD (JEREMY PIVEN), ENTOURAGE

The blunder

We hear a lot about the value of stretch goals -- those lofty, hard-to-attain ones -- these days. We get a better idea of their disadvantage when Hollywood agent Ari Gold puts pressure on his staff to develop a presentation and strategy that will put his client Vince Chase's brand on par with Microsoft and McDonald's. The presentation flops, appearing rushed, thoughtless and unsympathetic. The problem with stretch goals is that they are typically set too high and people fail to reach them much of the time.

The better way

Set a series of achievable mini-goals to take you where you need to go.

 

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