Eliminating Management Derailers

More and more is being asked of managers in today’s business world.  And because of that the importance of their success is even more critical to any organization.  It’s easy as a new, reassigned or just overwhelmed manager to get lost in the shuffle of all the activity.  In this month’s newsletter, we will address some very common, well-documented management derailers courtesy of a case study provided by the PI Research Institute.

Alleviate management derailers to become a better manager
Because managers carry more responsibility than any other position in most offices, their personal development is sometimes forgotten. Over time procedures can become routine, and managers can unconsciously begin to derail. How can your leaders become effective managers?

There are three symptoms a derailing manager may possess: resistance to change, inability to deliver expected results, and inability to see beyond their own functional silos. It is crucial to treat each of these symptoms immediately in order to ensure that the manager and organization stay on track and continue to be productive.

Derailer #1: Resisting change
A manager “at risk” of derailing due to resistance to change may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

  • Expresses frustration at the suggestion of change
  • Is preoccupied with reminiscing about “what was” versus “what will be”
  • Continues to do things the same old way yet expects new results
  • Discomfort with ambiguity and lack of openness to discovering better ways of doing things
  • Team members complain about mixed messages from leadership and their manager

There are several ways to remedy this manager’s resistance. The first step is to understand the manager’s appetite for change. People are “wired” differently, and this influences our appetite for risk and challenge. Some find change exciting and embrace it, while others find it threatening and reject it. A balance of both is healthy for an organization. Knowing how someone will respond to change helps you tailor your communication and get him on board.

A second way to assist a manager is to help the manager understand his natural aversion to change. If a manager has a natural tendency to resist change, then it is important to make him aware of this tendency. This will enable him to develop his own way of helping himself adapt to change. When possible, have him think through the process for you so that you can demonstrate how the change will benefit both the organization and the individual.

Finally, when trying to develop a manager resistant to change, ensure that the manager is focused on the new priorities. There are many ways to communicate change, but words are not enough. You need to translate this change into meaningful actions and goals for the manager, and then you need to inspect what you expect. Ask the manager and his people what they believe the manager’s priorities are, especially after a change event. This reveals disconnects and opportunities for realignment.

Derailer #2: Unable to deliver expected results
Another type of manager with potential to derail is one who is unable to deliver expected results. If the manager in question meets these symptoms, they are “at risk”:

  • Results are consistently below goals, especially those that are measurable
  • Manager blames others or makes excuses for his own failure
  • Manager avoids discussions about setting, tracking, and progressing toward goals
  • Manager spends too much time, energy, and resources on low-priority activities
  • Team is unaware of how they contribute to the manager’s or organization’s goals

To “cure” this type of management, first clarify the expected results and goals. It is difficult to hit a target when the target is moving or you’re shooting through fog. Don’t assume that your managers have a clear understanding of the results they need to achieve and how they’re going to achieve them. When possible, go beyond the “what” to the “how,” and challenge the manager to translate goals into subgoals  and activities that must be achieved.

Next, attempt to understand the manager. Not everyone is naturally goal oriented. For those who aren’t, the notion of setting, tracking, and achieving goals can be extremely intimidating. This is especially true of new managers in roles where measurement is difficult. If the manager fits either of these criteria, then expect to spend more time coaching him so that he can achieve his goals. When possible, include him in the goal-setting process to get his buy-in.

Finally, inspect what you expect. Once goals are clear and you have the manager’s buy-in, establish a process for tracking the most important goals. Use these goals to create a personal “dashboard” that helps the manager set his own priorities that drive results. Require the manager to update his goals weekly, and use his progress to facilitate a coaching discussion. Finally, check back with the manager on a periodic basis to ensure that his priorities are properly aligned.

Derailer #3: Missing the big picture
The final type of manager with potential to derail is a manager who cannot see beyond their own functional silos. Symptoms of a manager “at risk” of derailing include:

  • Unwilling to communicate or collaborate with others outside of his unit
  • Makes decisions that benefit his unit but clearly hurt the overall organization
  • Resists change that impacts him but clearly benefits the organization
  • Hoards information that might benefit others outside of his unit
  • Co-workers complain that the manager is out of touch with the organization’s mission

The first step in developing a manager with high silos is to establish clarity. Don’t assume that the manager understands how he and his people fit in and interrelate with other units to achieve the organization’s greater mission. This should be spelled out explicitly, especially if the manager has spent little time outside of his functional unit. Be sure to include the manager in at least one cross-functional team. Have the manager experience firsthand what it means to contribute to a broader team and depend on others to achieve a significant common objective. Ideally, he or she should work under an experienced team leader who can provide both coaching and a positive experience.

Establish at least one cross-functional goal for the manager. While similar to the previous point, this requires him to participate in an ongoing operation of the organization rather than a special project with a defined endpoint. In this situation, the managers who share the goal should report to someone higher up who can monitor progress, facilitate discussion, offer advice, and drive accountability.

Finally, monitor the manager’s progress. This is more than just an annual performance review; it’s about holding the manager accountable, ensuring that he is aligned with the company’s priorities and changing his behavior. This is done by monitoring his progress and offering coaching and additional development. Input from multiple sources such as the manager’s managers, peers on cross-functional teams, and subordinates is valuable.

These three types of managers are more common than they should be. And these symptoms don’t just occur in newly minted managers or old and grizzled ones – they can surface at any time, so monitor your people regularly. Encourage your leaders to know how to be effective managers. Enable your organization to excel by developing your managers to exceed expectations. Don’t allow management to derail because of their own faults, teach them how to be successful in their position so that they can develop the rest of those in the organization.

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Want to know how to become an effective manager? Call Goranson Consulting, Inc. at (309) 645-7100 for the full report on Management Derailers and learn more about management development solutions.