Managers – Take Responsibility for Employees – Look in the Mirror

Whenever I hear a manager talk about personnel in a complaining tone that focuses on their lack of motivation, sloppiness, and all the other shortcomings that managers so frequently speak or or think about, I am reminded of a central fact about business.((1)) Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. this actually applies to any organization where there is a hierarchy, non-profits, education, government, and more []

Podcast – Three Counter-Intuitive Steps to Becoming a More Effective Manager

Be a More Effective Manager – stop answering those questions, seize your time, and it’s your fault

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Three Counter-Intuitive Steps to Becoming a More Effective Manager

Become a More Effective Manager – Three Counter-Intuitive Steps

In the world of planning and strategy, there is a truism that too much planning, too much detail, too much analysis, leads to inaction, to a loss of opportunity. Along the same line of observation, in the world of learning to becoming a more effective manager, there can be too much study, too much thinking, too much integration of the many many skills and aptitudes required to become more effective. In both strategy and management skills action is almost always preferable to another round of study. Action bumps you up against the real world and provides the real basis for improving skills and results.

But, that still leaves us with the nagging question as a manager, especially for rookie managers and supervisors, how do I get started?

Based on many years of personal work as a manager and many years coaching managers, here are three steps you can take that will get you into action and guarantee striking results. These results will come in your personal effectiveness and in of the results of the organization you manage.  Remember,  by results, I am referring to the three meanings Drucker defined: (1) direct business results (usually measured in $s); (2) improved organizational culture (values); and (3) development of people.((1))

1. Stop Answering Questions

If most managers could listen to themselves, the proverbial fly on the wall, for just a few hours, they would discover that they are chronically enabling dependency all around them and undermining whatever formal delegation systems are in place. How is this happening? Just listen and you will hear a stream of questions coming at them followed by answers in response. You are enabling the following the reflexive pattern: ask the expert and be rewarded with answers. Ask the boss, get an answer, and be safe from responsibility for the answers.

If you want to get people to take responsibility and be involved in the business, you can’t go on answering all these questions. They will just go on asking whether they need to or not. And, you are spending an enormous amount of your time, your most valuable resource, to answering all of these questions.

What should a manager do to break this pattern? Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. see Chapter 2 – What Can I Contribute? in his book The Effective Executive []

Podcast – Early Intervention Is Key to Employee Success

Early intervention for new hires and promotions is key to success.

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This podcast is 4 minutes 59 seconds long.

A text version is available here.

It’s Always Your Fault – taking responsibility for personnel

Attracting, selecting, training and mentoring, and pruning human resources are among the most important tasks a manager confronts. Almost everyone agrees that, at the top level of organizations, managers need to be devoting a significant portion of their time addressing the people needs of the firm. Without the right people in the right positions, no strategy, no matter how clever, can succeed.

To be truly successful in meeting these responsibilities, a manager must embrace an all important management rule: “If an employee is working below expected or required performance it is always the manager’s fault.”

The first place to look is at the manager. After all, the manager hired or selected the person. The manager defines the work, provides tools, training, and all other resources required for the job.  The manager is responsible for the success of every person they supervise.

An important effect of this rule is that it prevents you from entering the whinny land of thinking, or worse, saying:  “Why doesn’t Joseph pay more attention to detail?” “Mirabelle keeps making the same errors over and over in these quotes.” “Walt just doesn’t get the big picture of where this project is going and he is heading down the wrong track, for the umpteenth time.”

Embrace your responsibilities and powers to make your personnel successful.

  • Make sure that you really have well thought out and planned jobs.
  • Are job definitions focused on results?
  • Are the task definitions actionable?
  • Do the skills listed actually match up with the results you want to achieve?
  • Have you provided the training required?
  • Do your personnel understand where the company is going strategically and is it clear how the results of their jobs connect with these strategies?
  • Have you acted promptly to provide feedback and take corrective action to support performance?
  • Do you have a company culture that embraces, supports, and demands full participation by everyone?

Selection and promoting personnel are management tasks with a high error factor. Every manager needs to acknowledge that their judgments are not always perfect, nor even close to perfect, in selection and promotion. So, faced with a weak performance from a new hire or newly promoted person, managers must ask the question early, “Did I make a mistake here?” If you come to that conclusion you need to act promptly to correct the error.

The central point is that you selected your personnel, you set the conditions and environment of their work, your provide the tools and training, you set the expectations, the results required. If you are not getting top performance from your personnel, look to the basics, look to your own responsibilities as a manager first. After all, if you are really holding yourself accountable for these responsibilities, you will achieve equal or better performance from everyone in your organization.

Managers – Early Intervention Is Key To Getting Your People Right

After you hire or promote a person, there is a tendency to walk away with a big smile on your face. “What a smart person I am. I hired the right person and now my job is done.” Six months later you realize that the person has drowned in their new post, everything is in disarray. But, now it is too late. The damage is done.


To correct this managers need to practice a little humility and be attentive, supportive and alert during the early stages of a new hire or promotion’s tenure. The humility arises from recognizing that more than at any other point in the life span of a manager-supervisee relationship, the early stages require the most intense application of an all important management rule: “If an employee is working below expected or required performance it is always the manager’s fault.” The first place to look is at the manager. After all, the manager hired or selected the person. The manager defines the work, provides tools, training, and all other resources required for the job.  The manager is responsible for the success of every person they supervise. By focusing on the results achieved and understanding how to move the performance towards the desired results, you can focus on tools, training, support resources that will allow your new person to succeed.


Beyond this principle, we have to acknowledge that the hiring and promotion process is one of the more flawed management practices. Some claim that in a third or a half of the cases we make the wrong decision. This merely emphasizes the need to be very observant of the performance of new hires a and new promotions because we need to be ready to act when it turns out that we’ve made a mistake.


So, when you have your new person in place and have given them clear instructions about their initial tasks, set up a time, within a week or so, at which you will have a meeting to review performance and see what further support needs to be provided. This is especially valuable in environments where you have a new hire or promotion in a new position where the variables of the goals and tasks are inherently unclear. There’s nothing like having a quick meeting to take the pulse of the new tasks and make course corrections immediately. And, remind your new person that you are readily available to discuss their work at any time.


If you find yourself in one of those rare positions where your decision to hire or promote a person turned out to be fatally flawed, don’t let the situation just linger on. If you follow that strategy, you will end up with a lot of poor performance and unhappy people. It is almost always true that other people in the organization will readily recognize that your new hire is not performing well and is in fact in the early stages of drowning. When you let a person linger in this manner, you are demonstrating to others that you are not a very competent manager, nor a caring one. And, your new hire or promotion know themselves that they’re having deep trouble performing their job. You are doing no one a favor by allowing a failing person to linger on. If you’re in a larger organization, you should seek out alternative positions where this person could perform well for the company. If such a transfer is not possible, you have to face up to it and terminate the person’s employment. When you act promptly in such situations, everyone around you sees that you are a competent manager who is facing up to an error in judgment. And, in my experience the employee involved is grateful that you dealt with the situation in an objective, fair, and caring manner.