Managers, Setting the Tone

In an earlier post, I detailed Operations Management, and the importance of those who lead your team. I'd like to speak directly to the importance of the team leader, and the manner in which they can directly influence your company's performance.

It goes without saying that Managers are directly in charge of the operations over which they preside, and the staff which they direct, however, the incorrect person ill-suited to perform the functions they are assigned can destroy an operation in very little time. As destructive to your operation, or perhaps even more so is an inconsistency in the position, whether from turn over or general vacancy.

When I took over as an operations manager for one of my previous employers, I walked into a situation where the previous two managers had been less than outstanding. The most recent manager had been injured on the job and out of the office for several months by the time I started. The manager previous had seen the operation through a corporate restructuring, but was hesitant to accept the new direction from a reorganized corporate office and fresh blood in the Area Vice President position. We'll deal with the two managers and their approaches individually.

Most recent manager:

  1. The most recently departed manager had been injured on the job and had been out of the office for several months prior to my transition into the managing position. During his tenure, money was missing out of the cash drawer, family members of current employees had been hired, and not least of all, subordinates had been screamed at and belittled in front of customers and other employees. In the interest of full disclosure, I never met this person, and have no animus toward them what-so-ever. That being said, they definitely made my task more difficult. The damage done by a manager can be more difficult to repair than some sort of problem caused by any other staff position, especially to a young or inexperienced team or individual team member. The effect that missing money had on the dispatcher (an hourly employee and relatively inexperienced employee) was apparent immediately. As I began to dictate new cash drawer policy, specifically placing the cash drawer under my supervision with another exempt employee providing audit support, the dispatcher challenged. Several hours of coaching and reassurance were required to gain the trust of the dispatcher.

  2. Nepotism. There is not necessarily anything wrong with nepotism within the work force, however, when the two individuals work within the same office space, and are incapable of separating their home life from their work requirements, there is a problem. In this case, the two individuals would bicker, as children and parents do, but they had also teamed up against other employees in a long standing interpersonal conflict. Again, several hours of coaching with the employees both individually and together was the answer. Even after coaching and hours of team work, the employee relationship was never as professional as it should have been and team morale suffered.

  3. Staff discipline must be a very delicate matter, even if the entire team must be addressed. In the circumstance mentioned above, an employee was screamed at and belittled in front of other staff members and a customer. Needless to say, the company lost the business of that customer, never to be regained. The employee developed a distrust of all managers within the company. The employee felt that they had been unfairly disciplined, as both the manager and the employee were asked to leave for the remainder of the day in question. It took several months of coaching and individual work effort with this employee to gain their trust, and make them feel as a member of the team. Belittling a staff member is never okay, especially in front of other staff members and customers.

Previous Manager

  1. During this manager's tenure, the company was bought out by a private individual who changed the direction of the company and refocused their sales support and customer service efforts. Prior to the buy out, managers had been 'left alone' to run their operations as they saw fit with little interaction with the corporate office. During the transition to the new customer centered focus, daily interaction with the corporate office increased significantly. This manager, instead of accepting the new direction, became 'withdrawn' making himself a 'Henry David Thoreau or Ted Kaczynski (less the bombs). He was an island. It was impossible for the staff to buy into the company's customer focused business initiative when the manager failed to communicate direction to the staff. As a result the staff got used to doing things their own way. When the most recent manager before myself came aboard, he initially attempted to get the staff to embrace the company protocols, however, quickly gave up his effort and acceded to the 'easier to do it our way' mentality. This made it very difficult to get the staff up to speed with company procedure when I finally came aboard. The only real blessing was that I was learning the procedures and policies at the same time as my staff was.

You must have a manager who is capable of understanding the company's procedures and capable of selling that message to the staff under their direction.The manager must be able to coach and direct your team, and be able to gain their trust. It’s imperative that your team all be pulling in the same direction, and an ineffective or under-experienced manager can fail to provide the proper direction for the employees. You need an individual who is experienced in dealing with different types of personalities, and capable of handling personality conflicts. You need a manager who has a proven track record. The great news is, that I have that track record which you will find in my résumé! I look forward to speaking with you about my experience, and what I can bring to your team!