When Your Organisation Overtakes it’s Staff

A new client of mine told me about a blog he’d read which had made him recognise a potential issue that lies ahead. It struck a nerve and had a very positive effect on my client by getting him to anticipate and begin thinking about handling this scenario. However, there are some important considerations the blog didn’t highlight. This is the blog he referred to- http://bhorowitz.com/2012/04/24/demoting-a-loyal-friend/.

This is all about how to deal with the scenario that during high growth, the competence required by the organisation may be above and beyond the capability of your current team- and more to the point, this can include co-founders, best friends or family members. There’s an obvious dilemma here- do you appoint the right person for the role, or allow someone who isn’t up to the requirement to continue?

The blog told of one business owner’s experience, when he’d realised that he needed to appoint someone else above his loyal friend. He had come to the conclusion that he needed to consider everyone in the organisation when to role had to grow, and decided on promoting someone else above his friend; the focus of the blog was on how to manage the transition and maintain the friend’s loyalty.

But, there are other things that should be considered here. First, you’d do better to widen your options beyond other employees- if there’s a job that needs doing, the right person might be already employed, but if the role is critical to growth, then you need to consider external recruitment too.

Next, one important strategy for handling the potential kickback from the loyal friend and other staff seems to have been overlooked. It’s essential  to communicate clearly the context of organisational development to all staff. To me, this seems better handled as developing the organisation rather than “demoting a loyal friend”. If the business owner considers it to be demotion, he’s missing the bigger picture. As well as creating new roles now, set and share a vision of how an enlarged structure may develop long-term, so that you and employees and your loyal friend can see what progression opportunities may lie ahead. Couple this with a commitment to support personal development too, and for some the reality that they need to play catch-up in the context of an exciting, fast-growing organisation can be highly motivational- they’ll step up to the mark given time, but can’t change overnight. If people don’t get excited by stretching and growing themselves, you have to answer the question “are they right for the organisation?”

Finally, the way a business owner decides to progress will depend on emotion. Does the ambition for growth outweigh sensitivity to other people’s embarrassment or feelings or betrayal? Only he can decide.

I’m looking forward to helping my client deal with these challenges and more as we begin a growth coaching project.

How Do I Get My Hands Off?

A coaching client asked me early in the new year to focus on getting her hands off the business. She’d heard all the cliches of course (haven’t we  all!) , but hadn’t accepted she was too hands-on until getting some pretty strong feedback from a manager who was on the verge of throwing in the towel before Christmas.

Our initial exploration of the problem confirmed it was indeed a problem- in fact, she was probably well and truly hands-in, not just hands-on. We explored why it was a problem, why she ought to become hands-off. Yes, you’ve heard it all before- it demotivates and undermines managers, stifles their innovative potential, and worst of all, prevents you as the leader from working on the direction and goals rather than looking after detail. Pennies dropped- recognition was complete, but what to do about it?

We went for a three-stage solution:

1. Log how time is actually spent. A record was kept, for two non-successive weeks, as a snapshot of how time is spent. Not too much detail, but enough to be revealing!

2. Reflect on how wisely that time was used, and choose what should NOT be done personally in future. In this case, there was almost 50% of the total time logged up for grabs- on the high side, but not completely off the scale in my experience.

3. Implement change. This was a combination of several actions, which included starting work later in the mornings, working away from the office at least a day a week, delegating  more effectively and requiring structured feedback (reporting) from all (3) managers.

So, early days so far, but initial results are good. All managers now say (privately as well as directly to the client) they feel more trusted- and in two cases, far more challenged; the client herself still feels in control, mainly because she’s getting prepared management reports and sees how the business is developing regularly, and she has more time to herself. Strangely, that’s the part we’re working on now- there’s a lingering “guilt” to be dealt with.

What Can I do about my Under-performing Manager?

An old client called me this morning with a frustrating challenge. She had realised that one of her managers isn’t pulling his weight, but didn’t know how to handle it.

This manager has been in post many years, and is the most senior of three in the company. Something seems to have changed; he hasn’t always been a problem, sounds like he isn’t coping with change, or is resisting change.

This isn’t uncommon. Many businesses need to adapt to tougher market conditions, often changing processes and introducing improvements out of necessity stand still and you’ll be overtaken by the competition very quickly! That’s why under-performers can’t be ignored, especially when they’re a key cog in the machine. This guy needs to immediately be made aware of the problem; in his position he’s either on board or he’s a saboteur.

There are two strategies to deal with this:

  1. Manage him out of the business, or
  2. Manage him back into the business.

She went for the second option, and because he can (and should!) be so important in managing and implementing change it’s worth the effort. She knows he’s capable after all.

People in similar situations need to consider if they have the capacity to provide the necessary support internally, or use an external facilitator to coach the stray manager back into the fold. The question is- how precious is your time?