How to stop managers ruining talent!

Case Study for people management: encourage talent, don’t strangle it

(the lessons in this post are evermore relevant to organisations in the current recruitment for talent – consider people you currently employ for your vacancies)

I met up with Jeff at an industry seminar.  After the usual pleasantries, I asked him how his job was going.  A cloud passed across his brow. “Not so great at the moment”, he said, “I’ve got a new director and I’m really not enjoying work any more.  I’m considering my options”.

My friend looked very glum at this point and we went for a coffee where he spilled out his heartache.

Now, I’ve known Jeff for a good few years.  He had an enviable reputation  for being highly skilled in his field, loyal, widely experienced.  I knew that he was not someone who is easily upset.  So I was concerned to hear his story and I will share it with you as a cautionary tale.

(I wish could say that this was an unusual situation but, sadly, I am coming across it frequently in different guises when I coach managers).

Jeff’s story

You would probably describe Jeff as being in the middle of his career.  Technically hot and well qualified, he had spent some years as an independent business consultant. That was before he got his ideal job in a senior position with a small manufacturing company. They produced expensive luxury goods and Jeff worked hard, expecting a bright future.

He ran a small department successfully for a number of years and was looking forward to gaining a position on the board.  However, the global recession went into full swing at that time and the company went into liquidation. So, my friend and his colleagues suffered redundancy and needed new jobs.

Jeff worked in several temporary jobs until he landed a job at his current company.  Whilst he knew that it wasn’t at the level of his previous permanent role, he saw it as an opportunity to join a company that was growing and securing world-wide contracts.

The CEO decided that he would strengthen the board and brought in an external person to head up Operations. This  included Jeff’s growing department.  Deciding not to advertise the position, the CEO engaged local head-hunters.  They eagerly introduced the CV of an external candidate  who showed extensive board level experience in international companies.  On paper it looked that she would excel at handling the new international growth.  Jeff had little international experience, however, he hoped to learn this from his new boss, whilst continuing to grow and nurture his UK operation.

Trouble ahead

Reality kicked in within a couple of months as Jeff found himself under more and more pressure.  He was no longer included in strategic meetings where he had previously contributed ideas. Neither was he instrumental in planning.  Instead, he received instructions from his new boss as a series of random tasks.

Constantly micro-managed, he had to undertake re-work frequently because his boss changed emphasis erratically. These tasks were often given to him late in the day being described as “urgent, urgent, urgent”.  He seldom saw his boss at other times.

Increasingly,  the new boss took over major areas of Jeff’s UK operations as part of “stream-lining”.  Frequently, his attempts to offer suggestions and request for involvement in project work were turned down.  He endured comments from his manager that his suggestions were “Not really in your pay grade”  or “haven’t got time to discuss it right now”. Insult was added to injury when his boss took over a project that he had painstakingly progressed.  He found out later that she had presented the results as being her own, with “a little help from her team”.

Not surprisingly, Jeff was feeling stressed. He had lost his confidence and felt not a little insulted by the lack of respect for his capability.  However, he acknowledged that his boss might still be finding her feet.  Perhaps she was uncertain about whom she could trust?  He admitted that he didn’t have the expertise to handle the international work.  However, his requests for training and development in that area had fallen on deaf ears.

What to do?

I asked him what outcome he wanted and what he planned to do?

He said that he would leave “tomorrow” if he could, but the salary and benefits package was very good.  He worried about “having to start again” in a new company.  Clearly, he was still haunted by his previous experience of unemployment and anxious about being able to provide for his family.

We talked some more and looked at the choices that he had.  By the end of our meeting, he felt strong enough to look at his situation face on and start making decisions.  We agreed to meet for some more sessions.  He wanted to review his CV, discover his true career aspirations and not least his perceived barriers and opportunities. Additionally, he wanted to look at ways of boosting his confidence levels.

He decided that he would make an appointment with his new manager to share his feelings and see if there was any route to salvaging his career with his current employer.  He would also talk to some recruitment agencies to gauge the marketplace for his skillset.  I suspected though that the damage was done and he had lost faith in the CEO and his new manager and would walk out the door as soon as it was feasible.

What lessons are there in this true cautionary tale?

First let’s look at the new manager’s situation.  Why had she “strangled the talent” in one of her team? Was she even aware of the effect that she had?  Was she a “good fit” for the company culture? See if you agree with my list below.

Had the CEO done sufficient homework into her background? Had he really thought about developing the talent that already existed in the firm and considered succession planning?  Was this an isolated case or were there other people about to jump ship, taking their experience and special company knowledge with them?  As the company grew, had the CEO thought about the impact on his workforce? We’ll explore the CEO’s actions under another case study as I want to discuss the actions and attitudes of Jeff’s new manager.

You may already be familiar with this quote (and it’s painfully true):

“People leave managers, not companies”

― Marcus BuckinghamFirst, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently (available on Amazon as Kindle, Hardback, Paperback and Audio)  http://amzn.to/2fC35Dw

I’ve listed 13 pain-points this new boss could improve:

  1. Understand the capability of your team (respect)
  2. Allow skilled people to do their job without interference (trust)
  3. Understand current departmental and company culture
  4. Plan and properly delegate tasks/projects
  5. Share as much information with your team as possible (inclusion)
  6. Involve your team in decision-making
  7. Welcome suggestions and consider implementation
  8. Adopt a collegiate style with team; understand the human dimension
  9. Publicly acknowledge work done by your team; never take the credit for other people’s work (integrity issue)
  10. Discuss and plan for career aspirations
  11. Develop people for current and future work demands
  12. Be visible and approachable
  13. Be humble enough to ask for help from your team

Do you have any other solutions?

I hope that you found this interesting and I would love to hear your comments.

Have you experienced a similar situation?  What solutions do you suggest?

© Christine de Caux 2021      All rights reserved

Secret Mistake Many Managers Make

Have you ever told your team that you are always available for them?  And you genuinely believe it? Why could this be a mistake?

“My door is always open”, except that is when it is closed, I have visitors, I am out of the office again, taking an important call……

Hmm, is  this your dilemma?  Do you want to do the best for your team but find yourself pulled in lots of different directions.  Result?  You worry about not having the time to complete your own important targets, feel harassed, frustrated and like a hamster on a wheel going round and round.

Do you sometimes wish they would all go away?!

Now in some respects being constantly available isn’t necessarily the best thing: it could be a barrier to people using their own initiative.  After all it is much quicker and involves less effort for the boss just to tell them what to do.  Pity, as giving them directions all day stops your employees’ growth.  And being constantly available could land you in being referee to sort out pettiness when people can just work it out for themselves.

Getting the balance right

Do you find it difficult to get the balance right and be sufficiently available for your team?  Do you feel pressured by your own duties?  Perhaps you need to analyse and create reports, undertake policy matters or  direct client liaison and so on.  It is no wonder that you want to retreat into your office.  Has it become normal for you to stay there?  Have you become remote, losing that essential human connection with your team…

But here’s the rub: your team will perceive your availability quite differently from your intention.  Your actions shout loudly when they are different from what you tell your team.

“Well we never see him down here.  How can he possibly understand what’s going on?” complained some operators to me about their manager.

They felt that their worries and suggestions were being sidelined and that they were not important enough for the manager to walk around the plant even once a day.  Result: some disenchanted employees who never got to sound out their great ideas for plant improvement, squashing their natural enthusiasm.

Why not try Management By Walking Around (MBWA)? 

Well, my manager friend, this involves you randomly checking in with your team members about how things are going.  And you need to see them at their work station frequently, as well as at any scheduled meetings that you may have.  See them doing their work in a natural way.   MBWA is not a particularly new concept but it still does have merit.

Employees often view their “closeted” managers as aloof, even intimidating.  Consciously take the opportunity to connect with your team.  You will be amazed at how much you can learn from them and find out what is really going on.

OK, so you have a desk full of work that you need to attend to and deadlines to meet.  But it is very important to really get to know your team well.  Get a clear understanding of their strengths, abilities and, of course, get to know when people need explanations and help.

Sound time consuming?  Actually this method to reduces your workload and frustration whilst you gain a perspective on individual performance.

Don’t just walk through the office or plant on your way out to the car park.  You need to really engage with people and actively listen to what they have to say.  Avoid the method beloved of some military types “Any complaints?”

Be approachable, informal and be genuinely interested in each of your team members.

Your employees’ ideas are valuable

Use their grass root perspective to help you with ideas for improvements.  You can gain valuable insight into what actually happens, how plant and systems really work and how customers and suppliers behave.  Ensure that you follow up any concerns and listen to negative comments as these give you valuable insight to morale.

Remember too that a great idea doesn’t mind who thought of it.  Your team members can have some excellent ideas for new products, system modifications and are more likely to share them with you if they are able to talk to you informally during the day.  You probably won’t implement all of the suggestions that come your way, but you will encourage your team by talking things through.  In this way, you encourage their involvement. Ultimately this will improve motivation and performance.

Be careful to talk to everyone at some point  

MBWA is more than chatting to people with the same interests as you.  Talking about football or fashion, is easy but remember that the quiet person is also deserving of your attention.  Walking around gives you the chance to share company vision and values in a practical and natural way.

Equally, make sure that you aren’t in anyone’s face and definitely avoid micro-management!

When you use this technique, you have the added bonus of identifying people to train up to do some of your tasks.  Delegating in the right way enhances your team’s development, a step towards succession planning and not least takes away some of your work burden so that you can MBWA!  You will also gain the trust of your workforce and develop great team spirit where everyone can enjoy their job.

I love Dilbert: look at this!  http://bit.ly/2eWMbOu

©Christine de Caux 2016 All rights reserved

Why not sign up to receive news and posts from Fantastic Managers and be the first to hear about additional material, complimentary mini courses and full expert courses.

www.Fantastic-Managers.com

is the online home for CdeC Solutions, created by Christine de Caux, HR Consultant Coach

Mailing address: CdeC Solutions, The Apex, 2 Sheriffs Orchard, Coventry, CV1 3PP, United Kingdom