My client had faced the same challenge, which was frustrating as well as intimidating for him as well - yet he was determined to break the mould.
With my background in a similar business, I have faced this several times.
In fact there was almost always an underlying individual who seemed to ‘run the place', in spite of there being a manager before me! The challenge was to wrest control back and manage myself. And deliver the results which had been missing on every occasion.
Over time, I found a distinct pattern which went as follows:-
- Build Relationships
From day one start building relationships with every one of your team. By getting to know them, showing a keen interest in who they are as real people, you will forge genuine alliances which will help your case (checkout this article to help accelerate this).
- Agree Business Standards
By working directly with the people in the business, agree the standards of how your business operates; identify absolute priorities that everyone clearly understands, in order of value to the business and that you authorise them to behave in this way.
- Deal with Facts
When you are trying to get control back, you may be faced with a lot of hearsay and a lot of exceptional behaviours of one or more people. So it is vital to have hard factual evidence around performance and non-delivery of objectives. Being woolly will hold your case back here, so take the time to be very SMART about what you expect.
- Be Transparent and Consistent
By having standards around people which are rigorously the same for anyone, including yourself, there will be a lot less wriggle room where those trying to undermine you will try to make gain. If everyone is treated fairly and equally, more will come onside with you and make your position far stronger.
- Stick to Your Guns
Bullies; those who intimidate and employees who get off on power will push hard to try to break you. After all, where you come in is on what they perceive as their territory And it is territory which they have seized from weak management, even though they themselves are either not up to that responsibility or find it much easier to heckle from the sidelines.
Personal story? I once worked in a retail business where the amateur leader kept shifting a merchandise display where I quickly decided that I didn't want it.
Early on, I asked her to move it, which she didn't, so I asked her again and advised her that I wanted it doing immediately. It still didn't happen, so I took her on onside and explained that I was the manager and that I made decisions, was there anything she did not understand about that.
She did not argue and she moved the piece of fitting. It seemed a tiny thing to be pedantic about, but it was a metaphor for far greater battles, but my stake was in the ground - and step-by-laborious-step, I succeeded and made the business viable. The first step was the most important though.
- Praise Success
In everyone, whenever you can. Including anyone who might not seem to be on your side. If you do this consistently and when it is justified, everyone will stick by you. Actually just saying thank you works, it's just that most managers fail to realise the power of it.
- Tackle Underperformance (and other things)
Once your standards are clear, many of your people will welcome that clarity. But if these rules are broken, then you need to act to make them stick. By being firm at the start, using whatever disciplinary processes are appropriate, then the message gets home quickly. Do not be afraid if this includes anyone who might have been a problem for previous management.
Don't pick on them unfairly, just equally.
- Seek Acceptable Solutions
When all else fails, it is sometimes necessary to subtly offer solutions that will work for those who don't fit any more. This comes out of them failing to achieve clear standards and objectives and a focused way of reviewing these. Firmly making it clear that this is how it is and that your resolve is consistent, there may be a moment for a discussion around whether they will be able to meet the requirements.
Yet making sure that they realise that any change in their circumstances will be their decision and you will be happy to help them make it. But be clear, their ‘poor fit’ is not going to become any easier.
- Relax and Have Fun
With your followers. This really will make sure that anyone who is ‘off message', gets very clear on the direction of your management. It continues to isolate not them, but the behaviours and attitudes they are expressing. They are choosing to act that way and it is, however hard they may find it, a conscious decision.
So others will soon move on - to someone who is fun, fair, clear, focused and above all capable - whether a disruptive influence decides to step back and join the team or leave is up to them. Whatever their decision, your actions need to be fair and as quick as you can, however unpalatable confrontation is.
If left too long you will suffer, as will your business and in fact so will they.
It's actually quite fun, once you get going! To get you back down to earth, remember, in the challenging business world we live in, it's them or you, because undermined performance of a business reflects on a manager, and not some amateur pretender!
Copyright 2005 Martin Haworth is a Business and Management Coach. He works worldwide, mainly by phone, with small business owners, executives and corporate leaders. He has hundreds of hints, tips and ideas at his website, http://www.coaching-businesses-to-success.com . (Note to editors. Feel free to use this article, wherever you think it might be of value - it would be good if you could include a live link)
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