Tag Archives: accountability

Sidelined by the Team

Nathan, a new manager, had been sidelined by his team. “What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I was giving orders for the day and a couple of the guys wandered off and before you know it, I was in the room by myself.”

“What do you think happened?” I continued.

“Well, Troy had been on my case since I was first made manager. Seems he thought he was in line for the job. But the company picked me.”

“So, now, what do you think your challenge is?”

Nathan was quiet, then finally spoke, “Somehow, I have to get them to trust me.”

“Nathan, it’s a long road, to get your team to trust you, even if they have known you for a long time. Where do you think you will start?”

Nathan was still quiet. I poked my head out the door. His team hadn’t abandoned him. They were all at their workstations, doing their work, but it didn’t seem like Nathan was having his way.

“Nathan, I think your team will work okay for the rest of the day. The schedules that were posted yesterday haven’t changed that much. Let’s take a hike down to the coffee shop and talk about a new strategy. It’s tough being the new boss.”

System Solution

“So, the Supervisor’s solution to fuel pricing cost more money in overtime and extra travel distance to the cheapest pump?” I nodded. “What would have been a Manager’s solution? You’re a Manager, what would you have done?”

“I actually did step in. It took us three months to figure out the problem was getting worse. The solution wasn’t in finding the lowest pump price for the day. We had to look at our system and think in a longer time frame. The Time Span for this task wasn’t a day, or even a week, it was 12 months.”

“What was the long term solution?”

“I got a fuel price, not the cheapest one, but one I could lock in on a 3 month contract for a tanker to be parked in our truck yard. I got three options going forward that capped a price escalation. That sets us for the year.

“We have a night security employee in the yard who now has something to do at night. He drives the tanker around and fills the trucks with fuel. The drivers come in at their regular time and the truck is all ready to go.

“The Supervisor’s solution about find the cheapest fuel price wasn’t the answer. It was looking at our system of fueling trucks.”

Not Looking for a Quick Fix

“What could you have done to test him before the promotion?” I asked.

Before the promotion? But it wasn’t his job before the promotion.” Gerald protested.

“That’s the point of testing. Find a task with a longer Time Span and test him. Test him before the promotion.”

Gerald was thinking. “Okay, here’s a task we gave him after the promotion. Fuel prices are up. We need some solution to get fuel costs down. We need someone to look at the way we purchase fuel and come up with a better system.”

I stopped him. “What is the Timespan associated with this task?”

“We are not looking for a quick fix, in fact, his quick fix cost us more money. He looked at the internet every night for the lowest fuel prices, had his guys show up fifteen minutes early everyday so they could drive there. Often, it was a little out of the way. But the price on the pump was cheaper.

“That’s what I mean. He is a great scrambler,” Gerald continued. “I know he searched every night and indeed came up with the lowest price.”

“What was the problem?”

“It was a Supervisor’s solution. Actually cost us more money. Every day kicked in 15 minutes of overtime per driver and the extra distance to the pump burned more fuel than the savings.”

Works Well in Chaos

“What is different about being a Manager?” I asked.

Gerald was quiet. His new Manager had been a great Supervisor, but was having difficulty.

“You have a great employee, team player, always shows up, works well under pressure, your go-to guy in a pinch. What is so different about being a manager?”

Gerald began slowly, “The things he is failing on, are things that go more slowly. He works well in a bit of chaos, but as a Manager, I would expect him to prevent some of that chaos. It’s almost as if he allows the chaos to emerge, so he can show off his stuff. I want him to work on a system, so things are anticipated, projects get routed automatically, conflicts are resolved on paper before they happen.”

“And did he demonstrate any of that behavior before you promoted him?” I asked.

“Well, no, but we thought he would be able to figure that out.”

“Did you ever assign him tasks, management tasks, to test him on his capability to handle those assignments?”

Gerald narrowed his eyes, before his short answer, “No.”

“So, you promoted him to a Manager level, without evidence of Management capability, based on his success at a Supervisor level?”

But, He Was Always a Team Player

“Are you having fun with all this?” I asked, smiling behind a very serious intent.

“Hell, no,” Gerald replied. “I’m ready to just ditch the guy. But he has eight years of good performance in his file, easy enough to get along with, always shows up as a team player. I don’t know how I would document his deficiencies to fire him. I can’t even get his production reports.”

“Let’s think about the problem, again. Let’s go over the facts. You have an eight year employee, always a team player, positive attitude that you promoted to Manager.”

“Yes,” Gerald agreed.

“Before you promoted him, did he ever display behavior that demonstrated competence as a Manager?”

Gerald’s face turned puzzled. “What does that mean? He was one of our best supervisors. He could make things happen in a heart beat. My top pick if we ever got in a jam. He could handle two walkie-talkies, a cell phone and drive a fork-lift at the same time.” Gerald stopped. “Well, not that we allow people to talk on the phone and drive fork-lifts, but you know what I mean.”

“So, in a pinch, when things get hectic, he’s your guy?” I confirmed.

“What is different about being a Manager?”

The Trouble with Benchmarks

“When did it start?” I asked. Gerald stopped to think. A long time employee, recently promoted to Manager, had gone zombie, mentally absent in the role.

“The timing is a little tough. When we promoted him to Manager, we knew there would be a learning curve, so we gave him a little space and the benefit of the doubt. But after four months, my patience is wearing thin.”

“Why have you let it go so long?” I asked.

“Well, we figured it would take a quarter to get up to speed, so we set some benchmarks that he needed to hit by the end of six months. I don’t know if we can wait until then.”

“So, this is management by results?” I pondered.

“Yeah, that’s the way we normally do things. But he’s not even close, and when we do try to pin him down, there is always some excuse about something not being in his control, and that we should wait for the six months we agreed to measure the benchmark.”

“How are you liking your approach?”

Ever Since the Promotion

“I am not sure where the problem is,” Gerald said. “He has been with the company for eight years, so he knows the ropes, how things are done, what the culture is. But ever since we promoted him four months ago, he has been different.”

“In what way,” I replied.

“Well, he seems dedicated enough, shows up early, stays late, though, during the day, I can’t seem to find him.”

“What about his performance. How effective do you think he is, based on what you expect from his position?”

“That’s the thing,” Gerald sighed. “I don’t think he is effective, but you can’t ever pin him down to find out what the problem is. His department never delivers on time, and when they finally do, it’s incomplete. They always have to scramble to finish the job.”

“What problems does that create?”

“Morale, for one. His team’s enthusiasm is pretty low. They complain about having to do the same job twice, or get halfway through something and have to stop, tear it down and start over on another ‘more important’ project.”

“And?”

“And, it’s having an impact on customers. Some of the phone calls are getting all the way up to me. When they get to me, something is wrong.”

“So, what do you think is happening?”

Nailing Jello

Gerald was getting impatient, up and down from his chair, pacing the floor. “But that’s the way we work. Management by Objectives.”

“I can see that,” I responded, nodding. “You gave him six months to hit his objectives, but you can already see that his behavior, as a Manager, is not effective?”

“Well, yes. And even trying to pin him down on his objectives. He’s just slippery. We are trying to measure the benchmarks and we can’t get the information. He has a production report that is due every Friday, but I never get it on time. And then, when I do get it, there is something screwy with the numbers, like a formula is wrong, or the columns don’t foot with each other. So I ask him to fix it and it’s another week before I see him again. Meanwhile, another Friday report is due and late again.”

“So, he can’t succeed based on his effectiveness, but he can succeed based on his ability to manage the data that you don’t receive about his performance?”

Who Makes the Hiring Decision

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
You talk about the Manager Once Removed (MOR) in the hiring process. Our company followed that advice, but now our Hiring Managers are stuck. It seems the MOR is now making the final pick without input from the Hiring Manager. The Hiring Manager is now using that as an excuse to blame a new team member, saying, “Well, I didn’t hire that person.”

Response:
To recap, the Manager Once Removed is the Hiring Manager’s manager.

Manager Once Removed (MOR)
————————–
Hiring Manager (HM)
————————–
Open Team Role

Each, the MOR and the HM have specific purpose and specific accountability in the process.

MOR Accountability
The accountability of the MOR is to improve the quality of the decision made by the HM. The MOR is ultimately accountable for the decision made by the HM. This does not mean the MOR makes the decision, but coaches the best decision from the HM.

The process starts early, when the HM states that a new team member needs to be added. It is the accountability of the MOR to question the need and ask the HM to put together a (business) case for the new hire. This decision may go back to the annual workforce plan that contemplated an increase in production volume, or it may be an emergency because a team member quit to go to a competitor.

With agreement that a new team member needs to be recruited, it is the accountability of the MOR to ensure that a proper role description has been created. The HM, desperate for a new team member, may attempt to shortcut the process and use a substitute for the role description. The MOR must insist that a proper role description be written or an existing role description be updated. Note, the MOR is insisting, AND the HM is doing most of the legwork.

With a proper role description, it is the accountability of the MOR to ensure a proper set of interview questions be written, in both quantity and quality. A proper role description will contain several key result areas (KRAs) and sufficient questions in each key area should be documented. Again, the MOR is insisting, AND the HM is doing most of the legwork.

A large part of the role of the MOR is in screening for the candidate pool. Unqualified candidates should be screened out, qualified candidates should be screened in. The end result should be a pool of qualified candidates. If the candidates in the pool are qualified for the role, the possibility for a mistake goes down.

In the end, it is the HM that must pick, with minimum veto authority for the final selection. The last thing I want to hear is, “I didn’t hire that person.”

Is it a Personality Conflict?

“You would think at their age, they would know better,” Phil complained.

“What makes you think that?” I asked.

“The sales manager calls a meeting with the marketing manager, and the marketing manager refuses to attend. I ask why? And, all I get is how the sales manager is pushy, always with opinions about the way sales runs and it’s not even his department.”

“So, what is the sales manager to do?” I prompted.

“It’s annual budget time, and I told the two of them to get together,” Phil continued. “I need sales and marketing to coordinate. What I get is a big, fat personality conflict.”

“What would you say, if I told you, I didn’t think you had a personality conflict,” I replied. “But, rather an accountability and authority issue?”

“What do you mean?” Phil looked skeptical.

“Do each of them have an accountability to publish an annual budget coordinated with the other?”

“Yes,” Phil nodded.

“Is coordination something you would like, or is it a requirement?”

“It’s something I would like, but I don’t want to be pushy. They should be able to figure it out,” Phil defended.

“And, if they don’t coordinate, then they miss the accountability?”

“Well, yes,” Phil looked puzzled.

“I don’t think you have a personality conflict, I think you have an accountability and authority issue.”