Tag Archives: manager once removed

A Well Argued Decision

“Let’s take meetings,” Pablo suggested. “Lots of managers AND their teams work hard to gain concensus, avoid conflict, at times even attempt to make decisions democratically.”

“I have seen that,” I said.

“And that manager of the team, also has a manager, let’s call that role, the manager-once-removed, the manager’s manager,” Pablo described the setup. “If the team and their manager engage in democratic decision making and make a bone-headed decision, who does the manager-once-removed hold accountable?”

Manager-Once-Removed (MOR)
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Manager
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Team

“Well, I assume it would be the whole team, manager included,” I observed.

“Who is the manager-once-removed going to call into the office to discuss this bone-headed decision, the whole team? If we are going to call in the whole team, what do we need the manager for?”

“I’m listening,” I said.

“And, what of the dynamics in the decision meeting? If the decision is to be democratic, then team members will lobby their own agendas, sometimes hidden politics emerge to gain support from other members, perhaps a little arm-twisting. The manager almost becomes a bystander. And, yet, at the end of the day, it is the manager called to account for the bone-headed decision.”

“And?” I asked.

“It is only when the manager becomes accountable for the decision, that we can make headway,” Pablo described. “Team members now show up to provide feedback and support to the manager, who will make and be accountable for the decision. The team will play devil’s advocate, argue this position or that position, in short, create conflict. The point of the meeting is not to manage conflict, but create it, for the benefit of the decision. Don’t manage conflict, manage agreement.”

“And, the benefit?”

“A well argued decision,” Pablo said. “This only happens when we understand the working relationship between the team and the manager, with the manager accountable for the output of the team.”

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)
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Hiring Manager (HM)
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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.”

The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was in your workshop last week and suddenly realized why I feel frustrated in my position. In the course of a project, I solve problems and make decisions, submit them to my manager for review, and then, he sits on them. People who depend on those decisions, one way or the other, ask me, “what gives?” The decision sits on my manager’s desk in a black hole while the project gets delayed. In the end, my decision survives, but the project is late, time and again.

Is it possible my manager is in over his head? He gets credit for my decisions, even though the project is late. I am worried that I will be stuck here under my manager for the rest of my career.

Response:
There is always more to the story and I cannot speculate on the capability of your manager. I do know that your manager’s goals and objectives set the context for your work. Keep your head down. Keep making decisions and solving problems on your assigned projects. Continue to give your manager “best advice.” That’s your role.

Your biggest fear is that your career may be in a dead-end under your current manager. It likely appears that your manager is, indeed, not focused on your professional development. Not his job.

Look to your manager’s manager, your manager-once-removed. Your manager is specifically focused on a shorter term set of goals and objectives. Your manager-once-removed is focused on a longer term set of goals and objectives. Some of that longer term focus is the professional development of team members two levels of work below.

Manager-once-removed
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Manager
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Team member

The working relationship with your manager is different than the working relationship with your manager-once-removed. The relationship with your manager is an accountability relationship filled with task assignments, checkpoints and coaching. The relationship with your manager-once-removed is a mentoring relationship filled with discussions about professional development, career path, working environment, challenge in your role.

It is likely that your company does not recognize the importance of the manager-once-removed relationship. It is possible your manager-once-removed has no awareness of this necessary managerial relationship. You do. You are now aware.

What to do
Pick two or three professional development programs that you find interesting and that could help you bring more value to the company in your role. Don’t pick something that pulls you away from your current role or something with an unreasonable budget. It could be something as simple as three different books you would like to read that will bump up your skill level.

Ask your manager-once-removed to schedule a short fifteen minute conference to ask advice. Don’t ask for advice, ask for a short fifteen minute conference. This is not a casual conversation in the hallway. You want undivided attention across a desk or a table.

This fifteen minute conversation is your first of several meetings with your manager-once-removed to talk about longer time span issues related to your professional development. This is not a time to talk about the accountabilities in your current role, those discussions should be with your manager. This is the time to talk about your long term development and contribution to the company over time.

Take baby steps and build from there. A reasonable routine to meet with your manager-once-removed would be for 30-45-60 minutes every three months. Keep in touch. -Tom

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
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From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
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
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Hiring managers – O O O
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Open Roles – O O O O O

Response:
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
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S-II – Hiring Supervisor
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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)
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S-II – Supervisor (Hiring Manager)
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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.

Question:
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?

Response:
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.
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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 –

Question:
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.

Response:
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.
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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 –

Question:
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.

Response:
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.
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Orientation for our online program, Hiring Talent, opens next Monday. Register at this link – Hiring Talent.