Case Study in Leadership – Part 2
Now for the rest of the story…almost.
If you remember last month’s blog (see June 2016), you will recall the dilemma of the company department; One supervisor struggling to be an effective leader, a manager that did not know how to manage that individual, and a directive from the VP to turn the department around.
We received several comments and suggestions from readers on how they would handle this situation if they were to advise this department. Many of those comments were similar in the central theme of behavioral change. Bad habits take time to change and even longer to sustain. Impossible task in 90 days? At first glance, it would seem so. This project appeared to be overwhelming. There were a lot of moving parts, all occurring simultaneously out of necessity. Most of the time the answer or quick fix is to fire the leaders and start over with new, improved leaders. However, I am a firm believer that given the right guidance and opportunity, people may surprise you and step up to become stronger leaders. Most of the time, when that does not happen, it is because clear expectations with rewards and consequences are not provided. Often they are “sugar-coated,” and even when there is an implied consequence, rarely are they carried out and accompanied with accountability. Most of us fear that being direct about such things would be perceived as “being mean,” so we would rather avoid dealing with situations that require holding others accountable. The truth is, all of us are hired to do a job and when we are not reaching our team goals, the sense of urgency needs to increase, accountability for performance needs to be addressed, consequences clearly stated, and follow-through consistent. What we have found is most people will rally around this type of leadership. Most employees want to be successful and when a breakdown occurs and there is no clear direction, it is easy to become overwhelmed, running around doing busy-work, focused on the wrong things, trouble-shooting, or doing the same things over and over again with increased intensity, hoping for better results. This leads to chaos, confusion and disorganization. When there is a breakdown, something HAS to change. There has to be a new norm (way of doing things), a new philosophy (attitude) and a new culture (in that particular operating environment). The challenge? Making that happen throughout an entire team.
In our leadership case, the problem was not with one person. The problem started with the managers not being able to lead or manage the supervisors appropriately, who in turn, could not lead or manage their teams. It always starts at the top; the good, the bad, and the ugly. In this case, it had turned very ugly for many reasons; loss of staff resulting in a mindset of “we are shorthanded,” blaming others or circumstances which led to excuses versus finding solutions, an increase in unclear directives that led to team frustration, repetitive broken commitments, lack of trust and respect at all levels, and so on. Morale had dropped to an all time low and excuses and blaming to an all time high. The buck stops here!!!
The manager and I had a direct conversation about his reality and the urgency he needed to have moving forward. We listed four distinct items for him to address immediately and report back to me (accountability). One: get clarity from the VP on his authority to implement his ideas and to hold others accountable, to the point of write-ups or dismissing altogether. The VP in turn needed to get HR on board. Two: make sure the co-lead was involved and committed to making changes. If you are not with me, you are in the way and failure is not an option. Three: Talk with the supervisors and let them know changes will be coming and attitudes need to be left at the door. Each of them would be held accountable to the success or failure of the next 90 days. Four: Pull Don (supervisor) aside separately and have a direct conversation about him being on board and supporting the initiatives.
Once those were done, the following week was spent on letting the team know changes were coming and everyone would attend a team meeting to provide input on what new processes needed to be implemented and how that would happen, who was accountable for each process and by what date. The team would clearly understand the expectations and consequences (good or bad) and that poor attitudes and blaming were not acceptable.
The result….a 90 day celebration for all.
See next month for the Blueprint for success followed by this team.
Contact us if we can help turn your team around in 90 days. firstname.lastname@example.org.