Today's Leadership Solutions

Workplace solutions that work

Avoid these surefire ways to ensure your managers fail miserable and ruin your business (and do this instead)

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We’ve all got our war stories about the boss from hell, the narcissist who made our job torturous or even that one supervisor who could probably be legitimately classified as a sociopath. This article is not about them, it’s about YOU – a manager or business owner who is neither evil, stupid, or sociopathic. To the contrary, you’re probably above average in intelligence (actually, you don’t necessarily agree, but a lot of people describe you as ‘brilliant’) and yes, you might be a little intense, but you care deeply about your business and the people who work for you. You know there are some people who are threatened by talented subordinates but you’re not one of them. You want your people to be successful, and you definitely want to grow your company, earn more money, and be able to provide some unique perks for your employees.

And now, your business is at the point where all these great ideas can’t come to fruition until you can get some of the responsibility off your shoulders and distributed to those chosen few…your management team! This is an exciting place for you to be so let’s look at the 6 ways to GUARANTEE your managers will fail miserably…so you can be your brilliant self and avoid these things like the plague. Ready?

  • Avoid ‘insulting’ them by explaining what you expect leaders to do in your company
  • Never explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments – they’re managers, not accountants!
  • Don’t waste their time with touchy feely stuff like missions, visions, and teambuilding nonsense that won’t help them do their job better.
  • Always assume they know how to have difficult conversations and just trust that they are taking care of performance problems
  • Assume that because they’re decent human beings they are fully capable of understanding and adhering to state and federal HR laws
  • Expect that they are smart enough to know when they need help, and that they’ll ask you if they’re unsure of anything. The last thing you want to do is micro-manage a new manager and make them think you don’t trust them.

Some of these points might seem a little contradictory. After all, isn’t the current wisdom du jour that we should just hire smart people and let them do what they do best? All I can say to that is that an unmet expectation always leads to frustration, and an unstated expectation almost always becomes an unmet one. Of course, you didn’t start a manager training company so you don’t necessarily want to spend all your time on this, but rest assured the investment you do put into setting expectations, training, and providing feedback to your managers, will pay exponential dividends in productivity, employee engagement, retention, and morale. So, here’s how to avoid setting your managers up for failure and fast-tracking this next stage of growth and success for your business.

1) Provide clear written and verbal descriptions about what you expect leaders to do in your company.

Not everyone gets to be a leader, so take some time and effort to make the designation special! After all, if these folks are doing it right, they’re going to be giving of themselves constantly for the betterment of the employees and the company. This is not a job for the faint-hearted, so it’s a good idea to not only celebrate the position, but really go the extra mile in describing why and how leaders are chosen and what you expect.

I recommend leading with a brief explanation of what leadership means to you (and it will be different for everyone), why it’s important, and what you want leaders to be known for. If you have a code of conduct that’s important, you need to specify that as well (for example, when I ran HR departments, I made sure people understood that they were held to a higher level of accountability in their position).   This sets the tone and the pace for the role, and also will allow people to opt out if this isn’t what they had in mind. PS…if they do opt out, don’t hold it against them.  A lot of people say they want to be managers because that’s the only path they see to earning more money. It’s important to explain what it’s really like, and often you can use creative compensation to reward individual contributors who will not thrive in a leadership role.

2) Explain the P&L basics and how it applies to their business segments. This will help them make better choices, empower them, and increase their value.

Your managers are in charge of your largest most controllable expense…labor. It only makes sense to educate them as to what this means. If you want your managers to treat your money as if it were their own you have to educate them. I’ve seen very well-meaning managers put $30/hour people in charge of sweeping to get the sweeping done, while $12/hour people were sent home early. Your labor and overtime will be managed much more intelligently and effectively if you explain why and what it all means.

3) If you don’t have a documented company mission and vision, it’s time to get one!

No, I’m not talking about the corporate buzz-wordy mission statements of the nineties that everyone made fun of (for good reason), but the best teams are ones where the people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Everyone needs a ‘why’, and ‘earning a paycheck’ or ‘meeting revenue goals’ doesn’t really cut it. What is your dream for you company? Where do you want to go? Don’t be afraid of being unrealistic – be afraid of not dreaming big enough.

4) Always assume they DON’T know how to have difficult conversations and are NOT addressing performance problems.

As I’ve stated before, your new managers were probably once your highest performing individual contributors. They probably haven’t ever had to be coached or disciplined for poor performance. Not only that, I’ve found that even seasoned managers often would prefer to just terminate someone rather than have uncomfortable performance talks. You’re better off assuming your managers have no idea how to have these conversations, and then make role playing them a fact of everyone’s life from here on out. The ones who need help will appreciate it, and the ones who are great at it can give everyone some ideas.

5) Assume that common sense and fairness means nothing when it comes to employment law

Even if your managers all operate on the right side of grey and have the best of intentions, this does NOT mean they are ‘safe’ to represent your business. One of the most intelligent, and well-meaning young managers I’ve worked with earnestly informed me that he always asked people how old they were and if they had kids, because that affected how well they could do the job. AAHHHHH!!  The point is, we can have biases and not even know it. Not only that, HR law does often not correlate with common sense of even fairness. Everyone needs to be updated and refreshed on what the courts are telling us these days.

6) Set up regular one-on-ones to talk about expectations and questions, because they won’t ‘just ask’.

It’s not fair to expect something of someone and not tell them what it is. Neither is it fair to assume that someone has the wherewithal to determine when they need help. Most of us are very leery to ask our boss for help because we assume she thinks we already know it – that’s why we were hired. Not only that, none of us know what we don’t know. So don’t throw someone into the snake pit and tell them to let you know if they have questions. They won’t. And I’m not saying your company is a snake pit, but you get the idea, right? State expectations, check in, YOU ask Them questions, and follow up. Repeatedly.

It’s a wonderful thing to have grown to the point where you need managers, so pat yourself on the back…but don’t think that withholding expectations, support, and communication will be doing them any favors!

I hope you found this article useful. If you are interested in learning more about training first managers, please visit us at www.todaysleadershipsolutions.com for more information or click here for a free ‘new supervisor’ assessment.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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Author: Carrie Maldonado

Carrie Maldonado, is an organizational development consultant, author, and speaker. Carrie's eclectic mix of professional interests include writing, speaking, coaching, and consulting on topics ranging from organizational behavior management to spiritual transformation in and out of the workplace. Carrie lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her patient and long-suffering husband and their three children.

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