When The Management Policy Is “Don’t Come To Me …

Orange lifebelt ready for deployment

… with your problems; come with your solutions.”

I hear this style of management quoted often as being great practice; after all, a manager’s job is to coach.

An orange lifebelt ready for deployment by management.
When someone is drowning they don’t need a coach; they need a manager who jumps in.

And I would like to raise an alarm bell. If someone is drowning, they need you to throw a line, or even jump in with them. They don’t need you to coach them to swim.

How Would This Management Policy Work Here?

A few days ago, someone came to speak to me about a very current and desperate issue that they had been struggling with for days. They were at the end of their tether with a problem and were close to tears. If I had said

“and what do you think you should do about that? What are your options? What has worked before?”

I rather suspect that would have finished them off.

They didn’t need coaching. They did need someone to listen but they also needed some help. I wasn’t the expert but I was in a position where I could offer some ideas because I wasn’t the one drowning. I jumped in and offered a life belt. It was just enough to give them some space, take hold of their emotions and see a way through.

So What Is A Great Management Policy?

A manager’s job is to build the environment where individuals can thrive. Sometimes they need telling how to do stuff. Sometimes they absolutely do not. A blanket policy of “don’t come to me with your problems” means you never get to hear about their problems. And that’s not great either. So a policy that decides how you reply before they have spoken is no good. It doesn’t work for them and it doesn’t work for the manager.

Instead, dial up the empathy, listen carefully and then choose the right approach:  Tell, Teach, Mentor or Coach. Be the manager that people can come to and get what they need (which may not always be what they want.) You can only do that if you are empathetic enough and flexible enough to choose how to respond.

If you say don’t come to me with problems, what you are saying is “Don’t come to me, particularly when it’s really difficult” and no employee wants to hear that.

You can find other thoughts on great management practice here:

A Good Manager Asks The Target For Feedback

Help Your Team Find Some Solid Ground

What is Beyond Appraisal?

Management or Leadership Development?

What’s best, management or leadership development? Where should I put my energies?

Good leaders are really important. They give an organisation drive, focus, spirit and hope. But good leadership can’t make up for poor management. If the boss is terrific at cheering on the team, but incapable of dealing with an individual’s poor performance, then the whole team suffers. Or if the boss is great at inspiring followers but hopeless at communicating what actually needs to be done, then nothing gets done. An inspiring vision wont help a team that is at loggerheads.

Peter Drucker is quoted as saying

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Management is often seen as a poor relation to leadership – certainly the price tag of leadership training and coaching would suggest that. But fundamentally managers need to manage well; to do things right. The right things, yes, but in the right place, in the right way, at the right time.

And they need to be able to manage themselves; manage their time, their critical thinking, their communication and their assertiveness.

What’s the Answer for Janet Webb Consulting?

Excellence in management can have a significant impact.

So I have nailed my colours to the mast and decided to concentrate on helping managers be great managers.

Yacht masts decorated with colourful bunting.
Yacht masts decorated with colourful bunting.

How I do that I’ve written about in various places, including here.  They’ll almost certainly pick up some good leadership skills along the way; if they are concerned about managing well, then they’re half way there.

I’ve worked for really amazing managers who were shy and unassuming. And I’ve worked for poor managers who had an excess of charisma and passion. I know which I preferred and I know which environment I thrived in. It certainly wasn’t the one where we got a daily dose of guano; manure is really only good for the roses.

A Good Manager Asks The Target For Feedback

How does a good manager know that they are?

Imagine you were an archer. You fire your arrow and you get feedback immediately; either you hit the target or you don’t. You can adjust your technique and get instant feedback on those adjustments. In time you become better and better as an archer.

Suppose that you can’t see the target; it would be very difficult to hit and you would have no idea of the result.  The only way you could tell how well you were doing was if someone, like a coach, told you.

Archer gets help from a good manager
A medieval archer helps a modern man to hit the target

Now suppose that they also can’t see the target – how can they give you feedback? All they could do is share with you some data about how often you fired the arrows or whether your technique looked OK or not. You might tell them how you felt; probably you would be frustrated.

Eventually the coach would stop talking about it because nothing helpful would be happening.  In turn you would stop bothering and just fire off arrows in the right direction, probably as fast as possible, to get it over and done with.

Now let’s look at managing and coaching staff. How do you know if you hit the target? You probably try various things and look for feedback through outcomes and whether the member of staff looked happy or not. You might even have a discussion with your manager about how you think it is going.

But not directly paying attention to the member of staff and getting their feedback is as hopeless as firing arrows at a board and not knowing whether they hit or not. Ask your direct reports how well you are doing if you really want to improve as a manager.

 

Of course, if you don’t care whether you are a good manager, then that is a different problem altogether.

Welcome…

… to Janet Webb Consulting. I’m an independent learning & organisational development consultant, specialising in developing leadership and management skills, in the secular and spiritual arena.  I have a number of streams to how I provide this:

  1. Mentoring senior leaders who don’t need management training but do need some help.
  2. Developing new managers who are exploring a whole new skill set.
  3. Working with those called to spiritual ministry, who have been trained well in interpretation of spiritual texts but struggle with being assertive, running a meeting or managing staff.

What I am interested in is how our brains work and therefore have an impact on how we behave.

Headshot of Janet

Leadership and Management Development

What I chiefly focus on is developing understanding:

  • for those members of staff who are just great at what they do and so get promoted OUT of what they do well and into a job managing a team. My job is to help them make this transition.
  • or for those who have the technical expertise to do the job but need help with understanding human behaviour (their own and others’.)
  • and for anyone who needs help performing more effectively

Consequently, together we make ripples; ripples that affect lives, businesses and communication.

My job is to help you and your team to do your stuff, by doing my stuff.

And so what is my stuff?

  • Supporting leaders and managers at all levels through transition
  • Learning design & delivery
  • Team building events
  • Coaching people in public speaking and other high octane situations
  • Psychometric testing for development and stretch
  • Sometimes, it’s helping people to do the things that they thought that they couldn’t.

You can find out more about me here.

My LinkedIn profile will give you more information about my professional background.

My blog, which is about all sorts, can be found here on my Damp Ink Page.

And my occasional spiritual blog is found here.

What do you need? Share your story with me and let me help you explore where you are and where you are going. Call me for a chat and let’s see where it takes us.