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Monday, March 30, 2009

Management 5

Q: Alright; I've reviewed all of our discussion so far and I admit I am feeling a little better about my Manager now. I do see that he did some good things in my situation.
I also realize that my criteria for “good management” aren't necessarily the ones his boss uses.
But what is this stuff about him being my “best customer”?

A: Well, before we get there I'll leave you with a little research: What is the Golden Rule as expressed in “The One Minute Manager”?

Q: Geez, I have to do some extra work? I thought I was going to get to ask all the questions and have you supply the answers.

A: Hmmm... If you think that learning doesn't involve work we have bigger problems than this discussion.
But anyway, there's some other loose ends to tidy up. One was your concern about what your Manager would do with a new employee who needed more help than you.

Q: Right! You dodged that one conveniently.

A: As you like; however, it's usually better to understand the optimum or normal path before we get into exceptions that require even more managerial skill.
Such as firing an employee.

Q: Hold on! How did we get to having to let some one go? We're only talking about a new employee.

A: Yes; but let's look at some more aspects of “executive, administrative, and supervisory direction”.
It's pretty clear that you expect your Manager to provide some contribution to you and your group producing their result. And you expect that your Manager will therefore help a new employee who is struggling.

Q: Right...

A: So it's reasonably straight forward in most organizations to arrange for help – training, mentoring, coaching, etc. - for an employee who needs it. That might even be provided directly by the Manager. At the very least it is initiated by him.
But how long should a Manager wait for a poorly performing employee to become effective?

Q: I don't know. That's his concern.

A: Is it? What happens in a group that includes a poor performer?

Q: Well, we all have to pick up the slack, and if there's time, try to help that person out.

A: So it does become a problem for you too – if we only look at the extra work involved (ignoring missed deadlines, effect on performance bonuses, quality, reputation, your personal life, stress in the group, etc.).
Pretty soon your Manager's boss is noticing that the group's results are suffering. Hopefully, before then, your Manager is acting to deal with this and has already alerted her and the Human Resources department.
And what would you like the Manager to do?

Q: Fix the problem, but without throwing that person out on the street.

A: And that's what a good Manager wants too. But if the “happy” solutions don't work out, he has to be prepared to let that employee go.
The Manager's job includes trying to find a productive solution – e.g. another job suitable for that employee. That's some of the “office politics” you noticed before. But at the end of the story, everyone's job – yours and mine – is a fair exchange of work-to-results for money. And if the results aren't there for the money paid to the employee, then the contract is in default.

Q: Whoa; I'm not liking where this is going.

A: Right – this isn't a happy time for anyone involved. And in a professional organization with professional Managers this situation is taken very seriously and requires all possible due diligence to get the employee's performance back on track.
Nevertheless, as explained beautifully in “Good to Great” every company needs the right employees “on the bus”. If there is a mis-match in performance, values, vision, etc. then some employees should not be on the bus. Some will realize that for themselves; some will need Management intervention.

Q: So we are just going to dump people who can't cut it?

A: Ideally Managers hire people who can perform well in several jobs, or who are trainable, or can be coached, mentored, and advised as necessary. Firing someone is a last resort and represents a failure, often in the hiring process.
But in a professional organization this isn't dumping people over the side of boat to the sharks. There should be support for those people to find a different bus going where they wish to go.
If the situation is actually very ugly, then there are other factors and variables at work that we can't solve here.

Q: Great. I'm suitably depressed now. How did we end up here?

A: By realizing some fundamentals about a Manager's job. That it includes the “life-cycle” of hiring, supervising, measuring, and maintaining or promoting or firing. It is acting on behalf of the company owner(s). It's about the “Golden Rule”. It's being your best customer.

Q: Oh, yeah! We didn't get back to that idea.

A: So do your research, and we'll continue next week. :)

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