Seagull Management: 4 Ways to Stop Dumping on People

Seagull managers fly in, make lots of noise, dump on everyone, and fly away.* You might say a seagull manager is full of crap.

The seduction of problems makes you a seagull.

Stay away if all you’re going to do is dump on everyone.

Image of wide-mouthed seagull. Stay away if all you're going to do is dump on everyone.

Seagull management is seen when:

  1. You only show up when there’s a problem.
  2. People scatter like coach roaches when you walk in.
  3. Heads automatically nod yes to every ‘brilliant’ suggestion you make.
  4. Everything is going great when you ask how things are going.

4 ways to stop dumping on people:

#1. Take action after reflection.

When to spend time alone:

  1. Before big decisions. Seek input and then grab solitude-time.
  2. After major accomplishments. The last thing you need after major accomplishment is addiction to adulation, from yourself or others.
  3. Prior to major change or big projects.
Image of a person standing alone by a mountain lake.

#2. Row-with.

Shouting instructions from the sidelines never feels good to people in the race. If you do anything from the sidelines, cheer but don’t correct.

Ask yourself if your intervention helps OTHERS get things done.

Focus on real-time development.

#3. Show up when things are going right.

It’s better to cheer success than complain about failure.

Momentum is a series of small wins. If you did more cheering, you might have less to complain about.

#4. Ask questions before giving instructions:

Open curiosity is welcome. Know-it-alls are seagulls.

Image of light through tree branches.

Back off:

Successful people concern themselves with ‘getting er did’. But quick interventions often feel like painful meddling.

Back off when your team is competent, committed, and clear on their goals.

Intervene when people’s frustration turns to exasperation. A little frustration is motivation; too much is distracting.

How might managers stop dumping on people?

*Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson propagated the concept of seagull management in their classic book, “The One Minute Manager.”