THIS is where most problems occur in the workplace.
And when those problems occur it’s YOUR responsibility to sort them out, you have to own the situation.
It’s the fundamental thing we do as we progress though our career to ensure the team works to its potential.
And yet nobody seems to talk about how to do it well.
Of course you may have underperforming staff but in my experience almost nobody comes to work to do a bad job. If they are trying and working hard they will succeed but they need your help.
Yet too often staff fail to get that help.
I’ve seen (and experienced) too many line managers who
- Give no clarity over what is expected
- Fail to turn up to meetings
- Use meetings to talk about other things
- Show no interest in the work to be done
And yet they persist in thinking they are great managers so it must be the staff member who’s failing.
SO what are the principles for building an effective line management practice?
1. CLARITY: Don’t be the line manager who does not know what they want their staff to do.
What is it that needs to be done? This is indispensable.
Define success. Write it down, share, discuss and agree. You can’t be vague and say we’ll know it when we see it because your definition of success may be very different to what the team member defines. Draw a clear line between what they are doing and the big strategic impact you are trying to make.
2. LET THEM GET ON WITH IT
Trust them but understand HOW they intend to do this work. If that approach doesn’t feel right then talk it through BEFORE they get started. Do not micromanage (see last week’s article). It’s debilitating for you and them and forces you into doing a lot unnecessary work.
3. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE THE TOOLS THEY NEED FOR SUCCESS
This may be a budget or access to other team members or knowing the system. I know this is obvious but it is so easily forgotten. Things change over time so the budget may not be enough or unforeseen problems arise so talk about this regularly. Advocate your team member’s work to the rest of the team or the wider stakeholder environment to reduce the obstacles they face.
4. MEET REGULARLY
Again obvs but I have had line managers I barely ever saw which left me in the dark over what was actually required. Make sure the agenda is focused on moving plan forward.
This will help you understand what is really going on and build the mutual respect essential for a successful working relationship.
6. ACCOUNTABILITY: The 50/50 balance
Your job is to give guidance, monitor, support and problem solve. Their job is to do the work to the standard agreed. Again this requires clarity about your role in all this. Don’t do too much or do too little to keep the relationship in balance.
7. INVEST IN THE RELATIONSHIP
This does not mean fluffy expressions of concern but treating the individual as the unique and capable person they are. Talk about the future positively, identify developmental opportunities and give them belief that their work is properly and professionally valued.
8. TALK ABOUT THE NEGATIVES EARLY
Any negative stuff should be done face to face. If milestones or outcomes are not being met talk about why as soon as possible. A straight line manager is an effective line manager because they build trust as they call the positives and the negatives in a consistent manner.
If a disciplinary is ultimately required then you can at least demonstrate you have managed the situation professionally and your butt is covered.
Follow this framework and it should not come to that.
Good luck and I hope you found this helpful.