We were in a heated discussion recently, which entailed the various methods for training staff. It became heated because of our contention that no matter the staffer, “mistakes will happen.” Easy enough, wouldn’t you say? (Not so easy!..lol) Nevertheless, we went on to beg the question, at which point do the mistakes become too much to handle? Meaning at some point, the continued mistakes of the staffer no longer becomes their fault. It becomes the fault of their superior.
Earlier, we mentioned that we have all been in a situation where it would be much easier and better for everyone around to just terminate a challenging subordinate. However, it’s not always that easy, and sometimes not even an option. For many reasons such as nepotism, history, budgets, lengthy processes, upper management that does not like to fire, etc…, a manager may not have the immediate ability to terminate. For this reason, we have to find other techniques.
First, let’s provide some M302 thoughts…
- Never give your power or leverage away
- Sometimes we want more for people then they want for themselves
- At some point, apologies mean nothing, and it’s no longer the fault of the subordinate, but that of the superior
We once had a subordinate that was very challenging to supervise and manage. Basically, he didn’t like us, was not afraid to say so, and felt very comfortable in his tenure. (A leader of any length of time has had to deal or endure at least one…)
Over time, he changed his ways as he realized that we were not going anywhere, and instead of being very challenging in obvious ways, he became more covert. (Tried to hide his hatred.) Openly, he agreed with us and pretended to be on board, but covertly, he was politically a volatile staffer that was doing his best to cause as much trouble as possible. Assuredly, most if not all managers would have easily chosen to fire this individual. Again, our hands were tied, so we could not move in that direction.
1. Never give your power or leverage away – (As a Manager, Supervisor, Leader, and even as a parent, never ever give it away!) (If you do, at least get something for it, such as conformity, cooperation, or a least a task completed…)
If you are in a situation where you can’t fire, never threaten to fire. It’s a lie, and you know it, and you will loose your credibility. Don’t say that you will fire them, or that they won’t have a job, or anything similar, because when they find out you can’t fire them, you lost all power and leverage over them. (And this information is not one you want spreading around.) Leadership Power is a thin line as it pertains to staff that should not be part of your team. (And in most cases, many of us are not the best liars and that so-called trusted employee may be better at it than you are – They will laugh at you in the end.)
Instead of verbal threats, preferably find ways to work with the individual. M302 dictates that we, “treat people the way we want to be treated.” It’s the Golden Rule, the 11th Commandment, and it’s the best rule in managing human talent correctly. That is, if you want to be a great leader, and lead in a way where people generally like working for you, and will work for you anywhere; it’s the best rule to add to all the others that you already use. (We will discuss more in future posts)
What comes around goes around, and as long as you protect your backside, expressing threats won’t get you far and will work against you. From experience, we are confident that there exists methods of creating a connection and engaging that difficult individual. Furthermore, If done properly, challenges you create for that difficult or incompetent staffer may eventually provide them with the realization that they are not in the right place and will resign…on their own.
The real question then, is not IF you can, but whether or not you have the time and or energy to put into this individual. The answer is “yes” – (remember that your hands are tied with this staffer) So… the answer is yes if their performance is tied to your success; yes if they can do damage to the rest of your team; and yes, if their performance affects your bottom line in any way. (There may be more yeses, but do we really need them?)
Therefore, the key here is to maintain your power at all times. Stay calm and use your decorum. (indoor voice…lol) Do not make idle threats; instead offer training, have lots of meetings and lots of discussions, do observations, ask a lot of questions, discuss family, objectives, goals, find some common ground, etc… but do not give your power away. Wear them down with love, (see #2) so you can build them back up to perform better. (That’s the G-Way) If they know your hands are tied, then don’t discuss it. It should not be part of your discussions with them. Meaning, all discussions should be about improvements of performance, moral, and making a strategic connection that will assist either your relationship with them, or the team in general.
We assume that we are not referring to a completely unstable person – Many Managers believe that staffers who are the most challenging tend to be somewhat unstable or mentally challenged…Lol So be careful how much time and energy is placed towards creating a working foundation with those you eventually deem unstable, because at some point, you will realize that you have done all that you can do. However, there still must be a point at which you both come to some sort of level of understanding. (It may mean different tasks, or that you stay out of each other’s way, etc… This doesnt sound like good leadership does it, but most important is your success and the success of the team as a whole; especially if your hands are tied).
2. It’s important to know that often, we want more for someone than they want for themselves. You can’t make them drink the drink, as the old adage states, but you can provide them with sound reasoning that will guide them in that direction. Here is another M302 thought… if your hands are tied, and they don’t want to leave, then find out what it is they care about, and use that as your motivator. Hence the “Love.” (of “Care” – if you choose)
The G-Way dictates that treating everyone the way you would want to be treated is just about loving everyone and expressing care for all, even the most challenging or challenged…Lol It almost sounds easier than it is to do. It’s not an easy task when staff who are just supposed to do their job, cant or wont, and seem to go out of their way to make it difficult for everyone around. How do you continue to Love that individual? (Lol- sometimes you can’t – but don’t tell them that…) Here is where Managing human talent becomes YOUR job!
For example… a Sales Manager we once worked with, would eventually ask his poorest performers, “What are you going to tell your spouse if you were to lose your job? Are you going to tell them your manager is a jerk, or the company is bad and that you can’t work with us, or are you going to tell them the truth – That you won’t put in the work that is being asked of you, and that you were fired because of it?” (He didn’t use the work “jerk,” btw. lol)
He would quickly continue with, he knew that they could perform at higher levels, and that he wouldn’t even be asking these questions if he didn’t care for them and didn’t believe they could perform as requested and as promised. He also went on to say that when they were hired, they said that they could do the job… and that he believed them… “Was that a lie? Did you lie to me then? – because you promised me that you could do this job, or are you lying to yourself now?” I’m sure you can imagine their answer? (He was very good as a Sales Manager / Trainer – his teams where always number one in the company)
The statements above do not directly infer to immediate termination. They do not discuss being fired, and or WHO would fire them, just that performance is the key. See…Everyone cares about something. The example above portrays a spouse and possibly family as a motivator, and it’s that motivator that must be invoked when attempting to work with difficult / challenging individuals. (Granted the example may not have been for politically difficult subordinates, but again, it does not matter because if someone affects your performance or your bottom line, they all fit into a similar category.
BTW – We would not suggest facing off against a team this way unless you DO have the power to fire. You build TEAMs as a group using other techniques. Always face challenging individuals, their discussions, and thier strategy… individually.
3. Finally, if the issues continue, at some point one must beg the question or come to a reality check. Meaning… at some point, it becomes the fault of the Manager (YOU), not the staffer.
Whether it’s continuous mistakes or the behaviors of rebellious individuals working for you, one cannot continue to just blame them. You must take ownership and thus deal with it as it’s hard to avoid it… because your boss will give you the ownership anyway.
Example – Imagine your boss asks you a question about the completion of a project. The project is incomplete because of the individual in question. Your boss accepts your excuse. Next week, you are asked about another task, and you again have to tell your boss that it’s incomplete because of the misgivings or incompetence of the same employee. Again, your excuse is accepted. How many times do you think your boss will accept this excuse? Even if that incompetent employee is related to them, your boss will not accept your excuses for long. At some point, your boss will ask YOU, “What are YOU doing about it?” (And you would ask the same questions of him if you were in charge!) Apologies & Excuses become unacceptable!!…
(We always find it very interesting how our management will expect us to fix something even though they tie our hands and do not allow us complete control over the situation… Shouldn’t we be able to make certain decisions and accept the responsibility for those decisions when we are being held accountable for the outcomes anyway?”… oh well.. another discussion…)
In time, it becomes a strategic decision that you must make in order to survive and succeed, and as you build and maintain relationships. The path you choose is really up to you. What we are saying is that a good Leader, Manager, and or Supervisor, will find a way to portray power without being threatening, without being disrespectful, all while focusing efforts on performance and the tasks that are most important. (Remember – this discussion is about difficult subordinates) We all know there is a time to maintain decorum, a time to be harsh, a time to be soft, a time to be strong, etc… A good Leader must understand the differences, watch for the different scenarios and situations, and strategically choose the best path for the outcome desired.
Similar to the Situational Leadership theory which states there is no single best style of leadership because every situation is different and requires a different method. Good leadership is task-relevant, and the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the human talent of the individual or group they are attempting to lead or influence. Effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it also depends on the task, job, or function that needs to be accomplished. Hersey & Blanchard
We wish you Peace…