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Manager needs help finding new ways to reach goals

Coach's Corner--February 16, 2009

The Client
Name: Colleen
Age: 50
Title: Owner
Industry: Food processing
Issue: Reining in the "reorg" urge
Q. The leader of one of my company’s major operational units sees reorganization as the solution to all of the challenges we face. How can I get her to broaden her management skill set and find other solutions?

A. It’s up to you to define parameters for her management decisions while providing the mentoring and training she needs.

The inner game
Check your baggage. What’s your reaction to the situation? You may feel like taking over out of anger or frustration. You may be feeling helpless and resigned. Reactions like these interfere with your ability to help your manager, so proactively identify and address them.

Understand your role. People tend to model their behavior on what they observe — so look at your leadership style. Uncomfortable as it may be, consider whether you employ a versatile set of problem-solving techniques. Think about how others would describe you, or ask someone you trust to be caring and candid. Take ownership of any aspects of the situation that you’ve created.

Think broadly. This manager is one part of your management team. How does the entire system fit together? Gaining insight into the team’s strengths and weaknesses will help reveal ways for your  operations manager to improve. In particular, assess the communication style and risk tolerance of the group as a whole.

Have a vision. Know how far you think this manager could grow, how much you’re willing to invest in her, and the outcomes you’d like to see.

The outer game
Share your perspective. You owe this manager a candid assessment of her leadership skills, delivered in a way that helps her be open to advancing her skills. Find a location where you’ll have fewer distractions, such as a conference room or even a coffee shop. Be specific about times when her reorganizations have led to less-than-optimal results, and suggest strategies that may have been more effective. Make it clear that you expect her to focus on developing her problem-solving skills.

Recognize her successes. Reorganizing a business unit or department is sometimes the right step. If this has been the case, acknowledge it to her. This will demonstrate that you are not opposed to the strategy, as long as it fits the situation.

Provide resources. Consider a 360 feedback assessment, which will give her feedback from you, her peers and her direct reports. Help her find a mentor who has the right skills and temperament — it could even be you. Working with a coach could also be useful. Classes or workshops may be helpful, especially if combined with a mentor or coach.

Provide ongoing feedback. Now that you’ve opened this topic, continue discussions in your regular check-ins. Be observant so that you can offer specific comments, and be constructive and concrete. Notice her successes, even small ones, as well as areas that need continued attention.

The last word
As the boss, it’s your responsibility to rein in managers who are going down the wrong strategic track. Understanding your vision and building more in-depth communication will help you build this manager’s and the team’s success.

Liz Reyer, President RCC - Posted February 15, 2009
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