Tag Archives: manager once removed

What’s So Important That You Can’t Do This?

Management Myths and Time Span
The Research of Elliott Jaques
Public Presentation
October 6, 2016 – 8:00a – 12:00 noon
Holy Cross Hospital Auditorium
Fort Lauderdale Florida
More information and registration
From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I can’t do it. I just can’t do it. We are growing fast. I am the manager-once-removed with three managers that report to me. Between the three of them, they need to hire five people. You say that I should be the quarterback, that I am accountable for the quality of the hiring decisions made by my team of managers. I have more important things to do than to screen resumes and conduct interviews. I say that is their job.

Manager-once-removed – O

Hiring managers – O O O

Open Roles – O O O O O

Perhaps you are right. You can’t do it. Maybe your role is overwhelming. Or maybe you think all that other work is more important.

What more important thing do you have to do, than to build the infrastructure of your teams?

Look, I know you are busy. And I know it seems like a lot to ask of you, to hire five people. So, let me pose this question. If you had to hire, not five, but fifty people, how would you do it? And I am not asking you to just open the flood gates, but make fifty effective hires, how would you do it?

The answer is, you would enlist the help and support from your hiring managers, your HR department, your technical person, your culture person. You cannot do this alone, but you are still the quarterback.

The central document in the hiring process is the role description. I don’t think you could write fifty role descriptions fast enough to keep up, so how would you do it? You would gather your team together and delegate out the pieces. You are still accountable for making sure quality role descriptions are written, but I would not expect you to personally do the writing.

And what is that other stuff you are doing, that you think is so important? -Tom

Why They Don’t Want to Help

“But how can you hold the regional manager accountable for a hiring decision made by the supervisor?” Regina complained. “That’s what my regional managers will say. That’s why they don’t want to help. Helping gets their fingerprints on the hire. If it’s a poor hire, they get dragged into mess.”

S-III – Regional Manager
S-II – Hiring Supervisor
S-I – Technician Role (open)

“Exactly!” I replied. “Except, I don’t want to simply drag the regional manager into the mess. The regional manager is accountable to drive the whole process. Just as the supervisor will be accountable for the output of the technician, I hold the regional manager accountable for the output of the supervisor. If the regional manager is accountable for the quality of the decision made by the hiring supervisor, what changes?”

Hiring As a Matter of Opinion

“I still don’t think this is going to work,” Regina pushed back. “My regional managers don’t see this as a priority for them. They think the supervisor should be able to handle their own recruiting.”

“What do your statistics tell you?” I asked.

“Well, out of a workforce of 500 technicians, this past year, we had 176 leave, 83 percent left on a voluntary basis.”

“And your regional managers think your supervisors are capable of driving their own recruiting effectively?”

“Yes,” Regina politely replied.

“I think they are mistaken. The biggest mistake most companies make is, they underestimate the level of work in the task assignment. Underestimate the level of work in the task, and you will select the wrong person every time. In this case, your supervisor is appropriate to be the hiring supervisor, but the supervisor’s manager (the regional manager) is the manager-once-removed from the open position.

S-III – Regional Manager (Manager Once Removed)
S-II – Supervisor (Hiring Manager)
S-I – Technician Role (open)

“It is the regional manager who is the quarterback. The Regional Manager is accountable for the output of the Supervisor. That includes the quality of the hiring decision. Only when you make it necessary, will you get the attention of the regional manager.” -Tom

Pay Now, Pay Later

“I have to tell you,” Brett started, “in the urgency of the day, dealing with all the systems in my department, there is never enough time to really focus on hiring. It may be important, but it ends up as the last thing on my list and never gets started. That’s why we hired someone in HR.”

“The breakdown of any system in your department can almost always be traced to a lack of competence in one or more roles on your team. This shortfall of competence eats up your time, creates unnecessary meetings, literally sucks the life out of your team.” I stopped. “And it can be prevented.”

“How?” Brett wanted to know.

“How do you think? You can prevent a lack of competence in the role before it happens, or you can deal with the mess after it happens? How do you prevent a shortfall in competence on your team?”

“Well, I think that is what we hired the HR person to do.” he flatly stated.

“Here’s the problem. As the manager, I hold you accountable, as a matter of contract, for the output of your team. All crumbs lead back to you. I cannot hold the HR person accountable for any lack of competence on your team. It is up to you and your manager to field a competent team.”

How to Fill the Hole on the Team

From the Ask Tom mailbag – This discussion of the manager once removed in the hiring process has sparked a bit of controversy.

The complete problem/false belief here, as I have seen and continue to read the the supposed solution is:
If the hiring manager or others in many of the situations are making poor decisions, all this comes down to poor training from the higher ups in the first place. So if you were to form a logical assertion that the higher ups are just as poorly trained (if only because they cannot or do not OR fail to train their subordinates) then why would you even assume that the MOR will fix the problem?

Your question acknowledges the failure of most organizations to even consider the value of the MOR in the hiring process. Most organizations, indeed, leave the hiring manager to twist in the wind. The hiring manager is down a player on the team and has a short term focus to replace the player. Any player who fogs a mirror is better than the open role covered by overtime, hole-plugging or work that is simply not being done.

You are also correct that most MORs are also not trained in their role as the quarterback in the recruiting process. Most MORs sit idly by, along with everyone else and watch the struggle on the part of the hiring manager.

So, why is my focus on the MOR as the solution to this dilemma?

You assume that the failure of the hiring manager to make a good selection decision is a lack of training and that if hiring managers were effectively trained, then the MOR could go back to reading a book or drinking coffee. Here’s the rub. It is NOT a matter of training, it is a matter of capability and focus.

A stratum II supervisor is playing a role to “make sure production gets done,” using schedules, checklists and conducting short huddle meetings. The longest time span tasks in this role calibrate out to twelve months and include seasonal fluctuations of production throughout the course of a year. Managing seasonal fluctuations, building to order, building for stock, increasing raw material inventory, decreasing raw material inventory according to the ebb and flow of production are within the capability of the stratum II supervisor. Identifying personnel requirements in this ebb and flow are within the visibility of the stratum II supervisor, but beyond the capability to effectively select. The stratum II hiring manager will struggle and needs the active coaching and perspective of the stratum III manager-once-removed (MOR).

It is not a matter of training, it is a matter of capability and focus. The MOR is playing a role to “create the production system,” using flowcharts, schematics, efficiency studies and longer term planning. The longest time span tasks in this role calibrate out to 24 months. The stratum III MOR is concerned, not only that production gets done, but that it gets done efficiently, predictably and profitably, all the time. The MOR knows that fogging a mirror may plug a hole in the team, but its temporary relief may only bring more problems later. The MOR knows that the creation of an effective recruiting system is more important than filling the one open position.

The hiring manager has no patience for this because their role is focused on shorter term issues, like filling today’s orders. The MOR is focused on longer term issues like making sure there is a consistent and predictable system for filling orders, forever.

Sending the hiring manager to training will not change the focus of the role, nor the time span capability of the stratum II supervisor. In some cases, training may actually frustrate the stratum II supervisor, fidgeting in class, knowing that today’s orders are not being filled.
Orientation for our online program Hiring Talent will be released late today. There is still time to sign up at this link – Hiring Talent.

Manager Once Removed Has More Important Adult Things to Do

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

The MOR is a tough idea to implement, since the MOR is so busy and would like to delegate all of this important and time consuming role. Plus, in our company, those in MOR positions would say they want to completely empower the hiring manager to choose his/her own people. I mean, I agree that the MOR is responsible for this hire. But, they are awfully busy. What is the specific role in the hiring process for the MOR.

Of course the Manager-Once-Removed is going to push back. “It’s not my hire. I have more important adult things to do. I have management issues. I have motivation issues. Besides, I need to empower the hiring manager. I am an effective delegator and I choose to delegate the hiring process to the hiring manager. Good luck.”

And, what we end up with is a short-cut process, with a selection decision made in desperation, by someone who is barely qualified to recognize what is really required in the role.

My response to the MOR is, what more important thing do you have to do than to build the infrastructure of your team? In fact, the reason you are so busy with your management issues and motivation issues is because you did a poor job of this in the first place.

Delegating the process to the hiring manager may sound noble, but delegated tasks must pass the time-span test. Only those tasks within the time-span capability of the team member may be delegated. There are some tasks that must be self-performed because they are more appropriately within the time-span capability of the MOR.

Specifically, what is the MOR accountable for, what is the contracted output? The MOR is accountable for creating a quality system, with carefully constructed elements that yield a sound selection from the candidate pool by the hiring manager. The MOR is accountable for the output (the selection decision) made by the hiring manager.

  • Determine if the open role is a necessary role.
  • Identify the core work (decisions to be made, problems to be solved) in the open role.
  • Ensure that a role description is properly written, with tasks organized into Key Result Areas (KRAs).
  • Assemble an interview team and create team assignments for each member in the interview process.
  • Review with the team, the critical role requirements.
  • Ensure that a bank of written interview questions are created, approximately ten questions per KRA.
  • Ensure the hiring team practices asking questions and listening for responses related to the critical role requirements. This involves role play and practice. Most hiring teams don’t practice enough to get good at the interview.
  • Coach the hiring manager through the selection process. The hiring manager must understand the role requirements, create and ask effective questions.
  • Coach the hiring manager in the final decision, using a decision matrix to effectively compare candidates.

The MOR is the quarterback of this process. The MOR does not have to personally do all the leg work, all the writing or all the analysis, but the MOR is accountable to make sure that all that happens, no shortcuts.

Do this job well and life, as a manager, is wonderful. Do this job poorly and life, as a manager, is miserable and for a very long time.
Pre-registration for our online program Hiring Talent continues through Friday. Orientation kicks off on Monday, April 18, 2016. Here is the link for pre-registration – Hiring Talent.

Most MORs Sit on the Sideline

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I was in your workshop and I was intrigued with the concept of the Manager-Once-Removed in the hiring process. Indeed, we have been disappointed in the last several hires from our Hiring Managers. Now I understand why.

You were leaving your Hiring Managers to twist in the wind without so much as a word of encouragement. The single biggest change I recommend in the hiring process is to design and implement the role of the Manager-Once-Removed.

The Manager-Once-Removed is the Hiring Manager’s manager. All managers are accountable for the work output of their team, so the Manager-Once-Removed is accountable for the work output of the Hiring Manager. This means, I hold the MOR accountable for the quality of the decision made by the Hiring Manager. This accountability changes everything.

Most MORs sit on the sideline and watch the Hiring Manager make mistake after mistake. What is the sense of urgency on the part of the Hiring Manager to select someone from the candidate pool? When does the Hiring Manager want to hire someone? Try yesterday. The Hiring Manager is missing someone on the team and needs that role filled ASAP, even at the expense of shortcuts in the process.

The MOR, however, is not missing a team member and has better perspective on what is required for success two layers below. AND, most importantly, the MOR is accountable for the quality of the selection decision. The MOR is less likely to take shortcuts, is more likely to insist on a carefully crafted role description, in short, makes a much better quarterback for the process.
Orientation for our online program, Hiring Talent, opens next Monday. Register at this link – Hiring Talent.

Next Class – Hiring Talent – April 18, 2016

We are gathering the next group for our online program Hiring Talent which kicks off April 18, 2016. As the economy recovers, your next hires are critical. This is not a time to be casual about the hiring process. Mistakes are too expensive and margins are too thin.

Purpose of this program – to train managers and HR specialists in the discipline of conducting more effective interviews in the context of a managed recruiting process.

Candidate Interview

How long is the program? We streamlined the program so that it can be completed in six weeks. We have also added a self-paced feature so participants can work through the program even faster.

How do people participate in the program? This is an online program conducted by Tom Foster. Participants will be responsible for online assignments and participate in online facilitated discussion groups with other participants. This online platform is highly interactive. Participants will interact with Tom Foster and other participants as they work through the program.

Who should participate? This program is designed for Stratum III and Stratum IV managers and HR managers who play active roles in the recruiting process for their organizations.

What is the cost? The program investment is $499 per participant. Vistage members receive a $100 credit, so $399.

When is the program scheduled? Pre-registration is now open. The program is scheduled to kick-off April 18, 2016 with Orientation.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week. This program is designed so participants can complete their assignments on their own schedule anytime during each week’s assignment period.

Pre-register now. No payment due at this time.

April 18, 2016

  • Orientation

Week One – Role Descriptions – It’s All About the Work

  • What we are up against
  • Specific challenges in the process
  • Problems in the process
  • Defining the overall process
  • Introduction to the Role Description
  • Organizing the Role Description
  • Defining Tasks
  • Defining Goals
  • Identifying the Level of Work

Week Two

  • Publish and discuss Role Descriptions

Week Three – Interviewing for Future Behavior

  • Creating effective interview questions
  • General characteristics of effective questions
  • How to develop effective questions
  • How to interview for attitudes and non-behavioral elements
  • How to interview for Time Span
  • Assignment – Create a bank of interview questions for the specific role description

Week Four

  • Publish and discuss bank of interview questions

Week Five – Conducting the Interview

  • Organizing the interview process
  • Taking Notes during the process
  • Telephone Screening
  • Conducting the telephone interview
  • Conducting the face-to-face interview
  • Working with an interview team
  • Compiling the interview data into a Decision Matrix
  • Background Checks, Reference Checks
  • Behavioral Assessments
  • Drug Testing
  • Assignment – Conduct a face-to-face interview

Week Six

  • Publish and discuss results of interview process

Pre-registration is now open for this program. No payment is due at this time. See you online. -Tom

Who Needs to Be Fired Today?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

I am a manager, and I understand that I am accountable for the output of my team. My team is accountable for showing up every day with full commitment to do their best. But, I feel stymied by my colleagues, my manager and his colleagues. I know I am accountable, but my authority is constantly under pressure to keep members on my team who should have been terminated long ago. The trouble is, it’s so difficult to get rid of anybody around here. Yet, I am accountable for substandard output. My manager points to HR, HR points to policy, policy points back to me and my hands are tied.

It is not unusual for an organization to be fuzzy about hiring and firing practices. Upper management does not trust lower management to make sound decisions, and this lack of clarity creates a malaise of inaction that is allows underperformance to continue, simultaneously debilitating the morale of the rest of the team.

Elliott Jaques was quite clear that managerial accountability also requires managerial authority. Organizations underperform because this issue remains unresolved with managers, at all levels, passing the buck.

For a manager to be held accountable for the output of the team requires the manager to be given, minimum, veto authority in team member selection. Likewise, that same manager must have authority to de-select an individual from the team.

There are two implications. No manager can unilaterally make hiring and firing decisions in a vacuum. There are considerations of budget, work flow, work schedule, capacity. These circumstances create the context of the hiring and firing decisions. The second implication is the role of the manager-once-removed. The concern of upper management about the decision-making of lower management is not without merit, but, for Pete’s sake, get clear about the authority that goes with the accountability.

Hiring manager
Team member

In hiring practice, the manager-once-removed is required to create a slate of qualified candidates for the hiring manager to select from. The manager-once-removed should be well aware of the context of the hire, including budget, work flow, work schedule and capacity planning. In this way, the manager-once-removed can be assured the hire is proper in context and that the hiring manager has a qualified slate to select from.

In firing practice, the manager-once-removed is required to be an active coach to the hiring (firing) manager. The hiring (firing) manager may de-select an individual from the team, but terminations from the company require the agreement from the manager-once-removed. Again, the manager-once-removed should be well aware of the context of the de-selection and/or termination related to budget, work flow, work schedule and capacity planning.

Most organizations leave this authority fuzzy and suffer the consequences. For a manager to be accountable for the output of the team, that manager must have the minimum veto authority on team selection and authority to de-select after due process.

So, why would the manager-once-removed want to get tangled up in this mess? Because the manager-once-removed is accountable for the output of the hiring manager. The manager-once-removed is accountable for the quality of the decision made by the hiring manager. This accountability changes everything, overnight.

How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of a Manager

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

First of all thank you for your help with understanding Elliott Jaques methodology. I am interested in applying it in one of the banks where I’m working currently.

Could you please advise a practical tool of installing a simple and reliable system of performance appraisal based upon the principle that it is the direct manager who is accountable for the results of his/her subordinates?

There is a good example in Social Power & the CEO of how to arrange personal effectiveness evaluation system of rank and file staff. However it does not say anything about how to evaluate managers.

The distinguishing factor between most performance appraisals and Jaques personal effectiveness appraisal is that it requires the manager to use judgement in considering all the factors surrounding a team member’s effectiveness. This requires the manager to look at ALL the variables surrounding output, only one of which is the team member’s performance.

Jaques uses the example of concrete pouring. In some companies, a performance appraisal considers only the output, how many yards of concrete were poured during an 8-hour shift. Irrespective of how direct labor shows up to work on time, uses their best effort to locate the truck properly and guide the concrete into the forms, the actual output may have more to do with the moisture content of the mix in the truck. Sometimes, travel time between the mixing plant and the pour site delivers a HOT batch, where the chemical setting up is already occurring before the truck even arrives at the site. Or the moisture content of the sand/rock mix may be too high and creates a slurry mix. All of these variables will have an impact on output in spite of the best efforts of the pouring crew.

A personal effectiveness appraisal requires the manager to take all those factors into account when asking the simple questions – Is the team member as effective as someone in the top half of the role or the bottom half? And in that half, top, middle or bottom?

Now, how to translate that to managerial roles? It’s the same.

The problem with managerial roles, is that we seldom define the work. What is the WORK of a manager?

Most managers receive no guidance related to the WORK of a manager. That is why the role description is so critical. But, most role descriptions are poorly organized, a list of non-sequitur tasks that provide no guidance to priority or objective.

An effective role description takes that list and groups the tasks that go together and separates the tasks that don’t go together. The tasks are now grouped into key areas (Key Result Areas – KRAs). The effective role description now clearly defines the output (goal, objective, accountability) in each KRA. The process is no different for a managerial role, but the KRAs are different and include a different level of work. Here are some typical managerial KRAs found in most managerial roles.

  • Team selection
  • Production system
  • Team training
  • Output planning
  • Quality control
  • Resource coordination (equipment, materials, tools)
  • Capital equipment budgets
  • Workforce planning

An effective role description will describe the required tasks/activities and state the accountability (output, goal, objective).

With this role description, in each KRA –
Is the manager as effective as someone in the top half of the role or the bottom half? And in that half, top, middle or bottom?

If you would like to receive by email, a template that organizes this review, just Ask Tom. A detailed discussion of KRAs in the role description can be found in Hiring Talent.