Managers - what's first on your to-do list today?
Posted on 14th February 2019 at 12:15
You worked really hard to get your promotion. You were so proud the day your boss told you that your efforts had not only been noticed, but now they were going to be rewarded with a new title, new responsibilities, and a new salary that means you can finally upgrade your car, have a decent holiday this year, and maybe, just maybe, get enough together for a deposit on a house in a couple of years’ time.
You’ve also got a new team.
Well, actually, they aren’t so new. In fact, a month ago you were a member of that team. You loved being at work with them. The targets were a bit of a challenge, but you could all have a laugh and the team’s natural competitiveness meant everyone worked hard and drove each other on. You also had a great social life together. You were mates for life.
But the last month, since you got your promotion, you sense that things have changed. You’re not quite sure how, or why really. I mean, you’re still the same person you were before you became the team leader. And they are still the same people they were. But it all feels a bit odd. There are conversations that stop as you walk back to your desk. The odd furtive look in your direction as you ask someone to do something. The old drive to compete has all but disappeared, and team performance is dropping. Not by a lot, but it’s dropped every week since you started your new role, and you’re starting to worry about it.
What’s on your desk this morning when you arrive at work? Here’s a sneaky peek – which one are you going to do first?
1) Chloe – a team member - has just returned to work after illness. It was only a short illness, but you have to carry out a return to work interview with her. You’ve never done this before, and actually, as you have never taken time off yourself since you’ve been with the company, you don’t really know what you are supposed to say or do. All you know is that last time Chloe was ill she was really upset by having to have a return to work interview, as she thought it was unreasonable when she had been genuinely ill.
2) A customer has complained that Robert was rude to her on the phone, and she wants a call from you to tell her what you are going to do about it. Unfortunately the person who received the complaint was your boss, and they also want a report on how you have dealt with Robert.
3) Three prospects have got back in touch, wanting to proceed with sales you began negotiating 6-8 weeks ago. When you started this job you passed the prospects over to another team member, but if these prospects could be converted into sales you would go a long way towards meeting your target for the month.
4) Becky and Emily want to see you because they don’t think work is being allocated fairly in the team, and they are getting more than their fair share of difficult, time-consuming tasks, which mean they are struggling to hit their targets.
5) Three team members are required to work additional overtime this week to meet a deadline. No one has volunteered so you now need to tell people they have to work.
My guess is that you’re going to do task number 3 first.
You know how to do task number 3. In fact you’re already planning it in your mind. If you can make the calls early you can book them all in this week, go out to see them all, take them out for lunch. That’s at least three days out of your week already. It'll put pressure on you because of all the other things you need to do this week - but that's being a manager isn't it?
Task number 3 is easy - you can do it with your eyes shut. It’s in your comfort zone. For you, the danger or risk of task 3 is minimal. You will tell yourself that task number 3 is money in the bank, sales in the bag, it’s what the company needs most of all from you today.
You will tell yourself, for all those reasons, that it’s the most important thing on your desk this morning, and it needs your personal, undivided attention...
Except it isn’t, and it doesn’t.
You have a team for that task. You handed over responsibility for those prospects to your team member when you were promoted. Converting those prospects is now their job. All you need to do with those calls is pass them back to the team member and let them do their job.
If you take that job on yourself, your team can’t do what they should be doing. Their jobs become less interesting, less challenging. You waste the time and capability within your team. Their productivity drops – not because they are slacking, but because you aren’t giving them enough to do. The problems they already have won't go away, because you aren't there to resolve them. Becky and Emily will get more upset. The overtime won't get allocated (or you'll do it in a hurry and upset everyone). Robert will continue to be rude to customers because he doesn't know it's a problem. Chloe will decide that moaning about having a return to work interview has excused her from any further discussions about her absence.
And when you do come to deal with all the team issues, you'll rush them, still not really knowing what you should be doing or how you ought to be managing these situations. The stress of being overworked means you'll snap at people, and you'll impose your solution because you don't have time to listen to their concerns.
You'll have turned into the kind of manager no-one wants to work for. And you'll hate it.
It's not inevitable, and you totally have the power to stop it from happening, if you remember this.
Your job is to manage the team.
It’s to support your team members, in line with your company’s procedures where applicable, and remove all the barriers that stop your team from doing their job and achieving their targets.
Others can handle the calls. It's up to them to do the "day job".
You are the only one who can have conversations with team members about their absences, or about undesirable performance.
You are the person responsible for allocating work in the team fairly, and in line with the team’s skills.
You are the person who has to make tough decisions - such as allocating overtime when the team don’t volunteer.
That's YOUR day job.
You can’t delegate any of that.
And if you don’t do it, it won’t get done.
So what are you going to do this morning?
I offer unique, bespoke 1:1 coaching for accidental managers, to help you feel in control of your team. See my Be a Better Manager programme for more information, or call me 07902 903086.
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