Effect change by example

Dear Joan:
I am in an upper management position with a large corporation. One of my managerial strengths is that I am a facilitator and a team builder. I recently made a career move within the corporation. This move left me with roughly half of my direct reports still reporting to me, and an ongoing professional involvement with the other half-who no longer report to me. 

Those who have assumed my role in managing my former departments are mostly task oriented with little in the way of "high touch" capabilities. When they have accomplished a task, they feel that they have achieved their mission, regardless of the consequences or impact their actions have on the larger organization.  

During my tenure, I concentrated on building relationships with my associates and creating a team atmosphere, where people were able to function semi-autonomously and accomplish a great deal. In my absence I have observed a loss of communication, team spirit, and productivity.  

I have received requests for help from associates ranging from "How do I deal with this person's behavior" to "Help, we need you to come back and straighten out this mess."

The tasks that these mangers are taking on are easily visible and easy to quantify. The problem is that the negative impact on the organization, which often has a greater effect, is not so easily measured. How do I as a manager quantify the effects of this behavior in order to justify corrective action? How would you proceed?  

Answer:
Whether you are an upper level executive or a supervisor on the plant floor, meddling in your peers' affairs can be a political powder keg. However, it's easy to understand why you'd like to rush in and "rescue" your former employees from their fate. Team builders like you invest a lot of time and energy building a motivational climate. A good team builder takes great pride in helping their employees grow and helping them achieve results. It must be very difficult for you to sit on the sidelines watching these managers kill the garden you planted.
 

The seemingly obvious solution may be the worst strategy of all: going to their boss or to the Human Resources Department to report on the poor management capabilities of these peer managers. Let's play this out: Their boss just promoted them in their new roles to replace you. Then you go and suggest to this senior manager that his or her judgment is flawed for putting these incompetent people in your place? And then perhaps this manager tells these task-oriented managers that you don't approve of the way they're handling "your" people? Bad idea. Telling the human resources department? Ditto. You could look like a meddling, naive, holier-than-thou.  

But your hands are not completely tied. First of all, you can still be a mentor to your former employees even though they no longer work for you. When they come to you for "help" give it to them in the form of advice and coaching on how they can work better with their manager. Be careful not to undercut or take sides. Simply give them some straightforward advice about the political realities they must deal with.  

You may have influence as a "customer" of your former departments. If you receive services from any of these areas, you can tell these managers how you prefer to work with their employees and you can request specific people to work with you. This could modify the negative impact these managers are having on your former employees as well as the organization as a whole.  

Because the tasks these managers are taking on are visible and easily quantifiable, their results will be seen by many. Over time, if employees complain or leave, it may become evident that these managers are squelching their effectiveness. Unfortunately, if the managers' results are good enough, senior management could be tempted to look the other way with regard to employee satisfaction.

This is probably an organization-wide problem, or these new managers would never have been promoted in the first place. Chances are, your organization still promotes the technically competent doers into management jobs instead of identifying the new "skill sets" required to be promotable as a leader. If the organization's culture isn't ready for this new thinking, your suggestions could fall on deaf ears.
 

However, since you are in upper management, you have the responsibility and the influence to begin lobbying for these needed changes with the CEO, colleagues and the human resources department. For example, if the organization uses "upward" performance reviews, where the employees evaluate the boss, this and other problems could become obvious to other parties. This is something you can begin and then suggest it to other peers and executives. Lead by example while lobbying for change. 


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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