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Challenging the status quo or derailing your strategic plan?

Are you allowing a senior leader to coast while organizational results and revenues are suffering?  Most likely, this manager is getting enough accomplished to get by and satisfied by his performance. But, you face three major problems when your direct report is allowed to maintain the status quo. First, although this individual may hold the title of vice president, he is not a leader. Leaders continuously bring innovation to their team with one goal…to improve the organization. Second, you and the rest of your team are not satisfied by this team member’s performance and the negative impact he is having on overall organizational productivity. And third, other members of your team have lost respect for this team member, and possibly you, for not holding the team member accountable for the results that will make the team or organization fully successful.

Some of the common complaints we hear from CEO’s in this situation are that the coasting manager: avoids innovative changes or change altogether; justifies or negates constructive feedback; band-aids system or process issues rather than creating a better process; doesn’t solicit or appreciate feedback for improvements.

Often, when we provide executive coaching in these situations we find the coasting manager has been in their position for a long time. In the past, they brought significant value to the organization because of their knowledge or they had an exceptionally strong relationship with the company’s largest customer. Unfortunately, these contributions never make up for the lack of results in other areas.

As the leader of a manager who is leading the status quo, you know you need to do something other than pray they will significantly change tomorrow or leave. Although prayer is a good thing, in this situation, it also requires intervention. You know you need to do something before they derail your strategic plan, but, what do you do?

Ask yourself an important question. Is it in the best interest of the organization, team and customers to continue to let this manager maintain a status quo culture? If it is not, you will need to take action. Here are 6 tips that, if implemented, will make a difference.

  1. Set measurable goals. In situations where team members are coasting, most times they tell everyone else what their goals are and when they can be accomplished. This time it needs to be different. As the leader, clarify the vision, set very clear expectations, establish a timeframe to accomplish the goals, hold the manager accountable to meeting the expectations, and schedule regular follow-up meetings to review the manager’s progress in meeting the goals.
  2. Determine Competence and Motivation Levels. It will be important to find out whether the status quo manager is competent and motivated to lead change. A manager may be competent, but lack the motivation to get the job done. Or, lack competence, but be highly motivated to gain the competence. When motivation is present, you may be more willing to give the manager time to develop a higher level of competence and make the needed changes. If the manager is not motivated or most likely will not gain the competence in the needed timeframe, strategize an exist plan and start interviewing.
  3. Have the performance discussion. Be direct and honest. Share your concerns about the manager’s inability to raise the bar and meet or exceed the needs of the organization and customers. Then listen to the manager and see if you can learn why he is unable to lead the necessary changes to improve the team. If the manager believes he can achieve the goals, outline solutions and an action plan. Schedule follow-up meetings to review progress.
  4. Review progress. If the manager is making significant improvements for the team, great, just don’t take your foot off the gas in maintaining accountability. Praise and recognize this manager for the improvements that benefit the organization. If significant progress is not being made, move to Step 5.
  5. Establish an exit plan and start interviewing. You will know quickly if the manager is capable and motivated to lead the needed change. If they are not, decide upon an exit strategy and start interviewing. The new leader joining the team will only have two questions for you and the team, “What are the goals and how quickly do you want them to happen?”
  6. Conduct a leadership assessment. In some cases, we have found it best to hire an outside consultant to conduct a 360 assessment. If the manager is in denial about the need for change, there is nothing better than a hard-data report that all their peers, direct reports, and manager have participated in to bring reality to the forefront and open-up a conversation.

As the CEO or senior leader in your organization, you need to make decisions that will improve the condition of your team. Direct reports who manage the status quo need to be coached, counseled, and trained. Give them every opportunity to improve, but when that does not work, share them with your best competitor so they will have a status quo strategic plan.

If you have a leader who is just managing the status quo, we can help. Peter Barron Stark Companies specializes in Executive Team Building, 360 Leadership Assessments, and Executive Coaching.

(1) Comment

  1. Would love to hear your views on how to cope when the coasting senior manager is a peer, not a team member.

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