How to Manage Non-Managing Managers

When Do You Mentor, When Do You Fire?

Have you worked with someone like this?

I was talking to a business owner this week. He was lamenting the pain and agony caused by one of his top managers.

“Every meeting, he dominates. He over explains his viewpoint so you are too exhausted to say anything in return!”

“When he meets with his staff, he can’t say a good thing about any of his own people’s efforts. There is always something wrong. You should see the looks on his team’s faces. He loses great people. The company loses great people.”

“But here’s the thing. He thinks how he manages is brilliant. He prides himself on being able to spot problems and prevent them with this ‘tough love’ approach. And he makes sure I realize this fact on a daily basis.

Then the owner sighed and shook his head. “But I can’t get rid of the guy. He knows too much. His performance review shows he hits his milestones. But at what cost to everyone around him?”

“I should just fire him, I know. That’s the right thing to do isn’t it?” The owner is hoping there is an alternative so he doesn’t have to have a big confrontation.

Let’s examine his situation.

When you have someone who knows the job technically, obviously has contributed to the business but has poor leadership skills, ineffective communication skills and alienates those he leads, it is time for a change regardless.

There are a couple of ways you can deal with this situation. One solution, offered by the Gallup Organization provides you with a tool to measure how well a manager captures employee engagement and use the result as evidence for making required changes. You can find out how that works here.

The second method will produce a change faster. However you may be out of your comfort zone because this is not your habit… yet. Tolerating this kind of behaviour, to the detriment of your company, is the zone you’ve grown accustomed to. Which zone do you want to be in?

Business owners we’ve taught this to sleep better at night once they’ve tried it out.

Here is the formula:

1) Provide a factual, non-adjective laden observation; what doesn’t work, what works, what you need instead.

2) Make an offer.

3) Allow a choice.

The formula in action sounds like this:

“I notice that the morale on your team is consistently low. Exit interviews show people who have worked for you don’t feel acknowledged and worse, they are uncertain about your motivations and expectations. I also notice that it can be hard to discuss things with you when you have a strong opinion. This isn’t working for me.”

“What is working well is your incredible attention to getting things done. What I need is for you to work well with people and get things done. If you are interested in learning how to lead more effectively, we’re willing to pay for coaching.”

“It’s your choice. What would you like to do?”

Then wait to hear his or her choice. It is essential that you don’t defend your position or listen to justifications. In a neutral yet friendly tone of voice, restate your offer and ask for their choice by a definite date. End the conversation.

When we teach this strategy to our clients, the managers who are committed to becoming star performers accept coaching. The ones that would rather be right than change choose to leave. Our client doesn’t have to play the bad guy to get the desired end result… badly needed change.

What other techniques have you tried in this kind of situation. What worked and what did you learn in the process of helping your people become more effective leaders?

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