Coaching a Manager Who is Too Easy

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The Plant Manager was becoming increasingly frustrated. His production manager was struggling to meet plant performance targets and was not getting his team to take ownership of achieving results. The initial diagnosis was that the production manager was being too easy on his team.

As with most management problems, only two or three behaviours cause the majority of aggravation and frustration.

Using feedback from a Leadership Style Inventory, we determined that the production manager was passive-defensive. He did not have a clear idea in his mind on what he wanted to achieve each day in the plant. He wanted people to like him and tended to either have no goals, or set the goals too low. He was overly rigid with policies and procedures and tended to jump in and do the work himself instead of delegating tasks to others.

As part of the coaching process, I offered this prescription for performance:

  1. Clarify what you want to see happen. I suggested that he list his frustrations (the things that happened that he did not want) and the corresponding list of things he did want to see instead. It is like driving a car. When you look over the hood, the road is always bumpy and jerky and when you look to the horizon you will tend to move more smoothly in that direction.
  2. Be specific in communicating expectations and directions and give a reason. I suggested that when he gives direction on the shop floor he should use the word because and give a reason. The reason can be part of his vision. People tend to do what you want when you give them a reason.
  3. Ask for a commitment. When we teach communication skills, we encourage managers to ask for a commitment when they make a request. Asking, “Can I count on you to take care of this?” gets the individual to enter a verbal contract and makes it more likely they will do what you want.
  4. Take action. Passive leaders tend to enter a state of paralysis, fearing to make the wrong decision in case it offends an individual on the team. My prescription was that the production manager should take action when he noticed himself slipping into a passive mode.

Do you have a manager who is not able to achieve the same level of results with their team as they did as an individual contributor? Perhaps a coaching session or two might be just the trick to get them back on track. Click here for the approach.