Tag Archives: role

The Internal Change in a Manager

“I used to have passion for the output of the project,” Miriam repeated. “Now, it’s a matter of placing value on the development of other people.”

“We often focus on managerial tools,” I replied. “Give me a template, give me a technique, but being an effective manager has more to do with you than a managerial tool. Transitioning from an individual technical contributor to a managerial role requires self-reflection. It’s more than a change in role, it requires internal change.”

“I can feel it,” Miriam said. “It’s a bit scary. I look at a problem in a project and I want to fix it. But, I have to stop and move the team to fix the problem.”

“It is a change in you. You have to ask yourself reflective questions.

  • What is the value of my new managerial role?
  • How does my new role fit in with the output of the team?
  • What do I care about? What is important to me?
  • Is there connection between what I care about and the value of my new role?
  • What new behaviors and habits do I have to develop to be effective in my new role?

“It will take some time,” Miriam replied. “I still feel an allegiance to solve the problem, I just have to do it in a different way.”

Someone in the Wrong Role, How to Reassign

“But he has been doing a terrible job, as a Manager,” Cheryl observed.

“So, do you want him out of the company? Should he be gone?” I asked.

Cheryl shook her head. “No, Harold has too much knowledge, he knows everything about everything, he is just in the wrong position for our company. What he is doing now, works against us. But he could be so valuable in a different role.”

“Right now, you have Harold in the role as a Senior Manager, which you say is the wrong place for him. But you don’t want to fire him, just reassign him. How do you think that will work, in Harold’s eyes?”

“He’s not going to like it,” Cheryl replied, still shaking her head. “He might quit and we really do need his technical knowledge. I am afraid he is going to be embarrassed in front of his peers, in front of his direct reports. This move is going to be very touch and go.”

“So, what is the one thing you have to do, to make this move successful?” I pressed.

“Somehow, we have to allow Harold to save face in front of the company. I am just not sure how to do that.”

Is It Beyond the Capability Required in the Role

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

In our company, we have a Stratum II (S-II) sales role, 3-12 months time span. In that role, we have a person who has demonstrated solid S-II effectiveness at around 9 months in the role. Our lead time on proposals along with the length of the sales cycle feels about right.

In the past year, I have been trying to get our salesperson to think out a bit further. Sometimes, we find that we are not on the short list for some RFPs because our competitors have already established a better relationship. In some cases, our competitors have been courting the prospective client for three to four years, way before a project was even on the horizon. I am thinking about adding a Key Result Area (KRA) to our sales role called Client Development and calibrating it at a three year objective. To create client relationships up to three years in advance of a prospective project. It’s a really small industry, so we know who the real players are across the country. We just need to get to know them sooner.

When I proposed this to our salesperson, I didn’t get outright rejection, but she said she would be more effective focusing on projects that were real instead of wasting her time on something that might never happen. Problem is, when they do happen, it’s too late to establish the relationship. We are already off the short list.

I can see Client Development as a valuable KRA for this role. And I can see the time span of the objective as appropriate to accomplish what you want, to create the kind of long-term relationship to ensure you make the short list. If you examine your competitors, that is exactly how they are defining the relationship work and they are beating you to the short list as a result.

Understand, however, when you define the level of work at 3 years, you have moved the level of work from S-II to S-IV. That is a totally different level and may be beyond the capability of your solid S-II salesperson. Your observation of push-back would make me suspicious that simply changing the role description is going to elevate the behavior.

Moreover, if establishing the prospective client relationship is a 3 year time span task at S-IV, you also must consider that the person you are establishing this relationship with, is also thinking 3 years out. It might be a more appropriate time span task, a more appropriate client relationship for you.

What It Takes to Move from Supervisor to Manager

Joel was not shaking, but he was certainly shaken.

“I just don’t know,” he said. “Since I was promoted from being a supervisor to a manager, things are different. It is certainly not as easy as I thought, a bit out of control.”

“Being new to management is tough. No one prepared you for this, they just promoted you and expected you to figure it out,” I replied.

“And what if I don’t figure it out?” Joel asked.

“Oh, you will figure it out. But that is no insurance that you will succeed. There are a number of reasons that managers don’t make the grade. The first reason is commitment. This is harder than you thought it would be. Being a manager requires interest and passion for being a manager. Being a manager is a lot different than being a supervisor.”

“You are right about that. Being a supervisor was fun, fast paced, things were always changing and I had to respond quickly. Being a manager, things move slower. I have to think about things. And the worst part, most everything I do is accomplished through other people. Other people are hard to control. They don’t always show up the way I want them to.”

“So, you are facing the first challenge of a being a manager. Do you really want to be a manager? Do you have a passion for it? Just saying yes doesn’t make it so. Why do you have a passion for it?”

Chocolate Mess, Related to a VP

From the Ask Tom mailbag:


I was hired into the company six months ago, in a managerial role. One of my team members, a supervisor, was promoted beyond his capability. It’s a mess, but a mess that I inherited. This guy is not a bad person, he means well, just over his head. Oh, did I mention, he’s related to one of the Vice-Presidents?


You are doing no one favors by leaving this person in a role where they consistently underperform, no matter who they are related to. This person may be doing their best, but pace and quality suffers.

The fix is managerial work for you. Your options range from modifying parts of the role to a complete reassignment to a different role. If you intend to modify the role, you will need to break it down into Key Result Areas and determine which parts of the role are done well, reassign the rest to someone else. In your assessment, take a look at the history of this person, what were their previous positions and how well did they do? Everyone has competence, somewhere, you just have to find it.

The political part, being related to a current VP, will require some finesse, but will likely be easier than you think. If you truly have a chocolate mess on your hands, everyone already knows it, they just don’t talk about. And yes, the VP knows it, too. You will be doing the VP a favor if you can determine a more suitable position.

Things Fall Apart

“I don’t think you have an attitude problem. I don’t think you have clearly defined the accountability and the authority that goes along with that dotted line. That’s why dotted lines are so dangerous,” I said.

“So, what should I do? This Key Result Area is not a high priority, but the work still has to get done,” Megan explained.

“You are shooting yourself in the foot when you describe -it’s not a high priority-. If the work in this area is not done, what happens to its priority?” I asked.

Megan thought. “You’re right, the tasks will take about five hours a week, but if they are not completed, all hell breaks loose, other things begin to fall apart.”

“So, what should you do with that dotted line?” I pressed.

“Get rid of it, change its color, make it bold,” Megan retreated. “I guess I have to specifically define what I want, how much time it should take and what the result should be.”

“You guess?”

Problem Fixed, System Broken

“You have two out of five manager positions in place on a daily basis, so when you have a problem, you fix the problem, but not the system,” I offered.

“So, the problem is fixed,” Derrick insisted.

“Yes, the problem is fixed, but the system is still broken. You are missing three of five Managers, so you are not paying proper attention to your systems.

“You see, Derrick, when you have a problem, everyone scrambles to fix the problem. Even experienced Managers put on their superhero cape and leap in front of their biggest customer to save the day.

“What your managers need to focus on,” I continued, “is the system. Why didn’t the system prevent that problem? Or at least mitigate the damage from the problem? Their role is to fix the system.”

Evidence, Not Hope

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

How do you un-do some internal promotions that probably shouldn’t have happened? The person is just not effective in their new Stratum III role?

Troubleshooting effectiveness in a role can be traced to one of these four factors –

  • Capability
  • Skill
  • Interest (Value for the work)
  • Reasonable Behavior

I rely on the manager’s judgment to determine which of the factors may be in play. In my Time Span workshop, I describe a team member with the following characteristics –

  • Worked for the company – 8 years
  • Always shows up early, stays late
  • Wears a snappy company uniform (belt around waist, cap on straight)
  • Knows the company Fight Song
  • Makes the best potato salad at the company picnic

And yet, is under performing in his role. Put that list against the four factors and I arrive at capability mis-matched for the role. To do a thorough inspection, I would examine each of the Key Result Areas in the role to see where the underperformance occurs. It is likely there are parts of the role that are done well, and parts where we observe underperformance. The mis-match is likely to occur on those longest Time Span task assignments.

In your question, you describe a Stratum III role. I would examine each of the KRAs and task assignments to see which is the culprit and modify that specific task assignment. The modification might be to break the longer task into a series of shorter tasks with more oversight, or to shift an analytic step to another resource.

All of this can be avoided by assigning project work to team members BEFORE they receive promotions. Successful completion, evidence is what I look for, not hopes and promises.