Peter was a rookie CEO 9 months in and according to Chief of Chiefs ‘not waving but drowning,’ I had been sent to help him. We had discovered the cause of his problems was some managers were not managing….with little or no feedback from their managers about the not managing. At our next meeting Peter asked me to test his thinking; his summation and solution was breathtakingly simple, not easy. He said;
“To improve engagement we have to improve management performance; there is no alternative.
The journey needs to begin with me publicly committing to raising the bar, defining what good leadership and management must look like; and provide sufficient funding for the journey to be made”.
Adequate and appropriate resource will be deployed. But there must also be an equal commitment that if following investment an individual is still only ‘OK’; they must be removed from their current management position.
We must identify the generic ‘must have’ qualities, and the ‘must do’ activities, that every manager in the organisation, from me to supervisors, must display and deploy every day in the workplace.
The organisation will produce, with help of all of its employees a document that defines The Role and Responsibilities of a Manager. This will define the attitudes, behaviours, interpersonal skills and process understandings required to be a fit for purpose manager. I propose to set a target that 80% of our extended management team meet this requirement in 12 months.
What gets recorded gets measured; what gets measured gets managed.
He then asked for help. He said “I have defined the ’what’ that needs to be done, but am not sure on ‘how’ best to do it”. The following is our output from a long discussion.
Having defined the required competences for a management role individual measurement could begin. As a consequence of this measurement each manager would have a bespoke development plan. Progress against the plan would be discussed as an agenda item at a regular operational progress and performance review that would occur, as a minimum, 6 to 7 times a year. These meetings would review progress made on mutually agreed objectives; and create a mutually agreed record of discussions. These meeting records would be used to create annual appraisals on progress made throughout the year. Peter started to look pensive and said “this is an awful lot of new stuff for our managers to grapple with; how can we engage and educate them so they are ready?”
Essential foundations for the new road to travel.
We agreed new learning, and the development of skills, would be best acquired by small workshops supported by coaching and mentoring. Engagement with the new review culture would be one step at a time, top down and progress through the management team over a 90 day period.
Peter proposed that each team leader would run a ‘this is what a regular one to one review will look like, what concerns you, how can we allay that concern?’ workshop. The first session would be with Peter’s direct reports and his expectation was that the coaching would be the best format for on going support.
However Peter said “I am confident that we can sell the benefits of this change but the challenge is the creation of a drum beat regular review culture. I need to know that meetings are taking place, they have meaningful content, and there is a mutually agreed record of the discussions.” I responded with ‘no involvement, no commitment’ why not ask your managers how it can be best done; which is exactly what he did.
As this all happened 30 years ago the meeting output was mostly handwritten and kept by managers in individual cheap brown cardboard folders. But the process was so successful that it continued to evolve and is available in real time in the cloud, 24/7. Peter’s career continued its upward progress and a few years later he left us to run a business larger than our group, still being a ferocious over achiever but always believing ‘it’s the managers….stupid’