You just can’t take it anymore.
You’re a manager with a supervisor whose work group is in shambles.
You’ve had multiple performance discussions with the supervisor and recorded deficiencies in his/her performance review. Every time there’s another incident, you call attention to it.
You know the situation is out of control. Deep down, you know you let it happen.
Now you’re feeling the heat. The embers are ever closer to your door.
So you’re ready to call in the fire brigade.
When work group problems get gnarly, it’s because someone in leadership didn’t lead. The supervisor was increasingly ineffective. And the department manager didn’t intervene. Now everyone is paying the price.
Panic drives the manager to look for a quick fix because s/he wants the problem to go away, the noise to stop, the complaints to cease, and the fallout to disappear…fast.
Making matters worse.
Many managers believe that by hiring an outside consultant to address the problem, they will come across as take-charge, decisive leaders.
They often overlook (even deny) the fact that, as leaders, they:
- Made a poor supervisory hire or promotion
- Weren’t engaged enough with employees to recognize discontent
- Didn’t intervene soon enough when there were signs of a problem
- Failed to communicate clearly their concerns and expectations for improvement
- Obtained no formal commitment from the supervisor for change
- Didn’t provide essential training in skill areas needing improvement
- Failed to establish consequences for not turning the situation around
If the manager had addressed the supervisor’s deficiencies early on, the situation wouldn’t have escalated.
We can’t forget that supervisors want to do a good job. They don’t intentionally make a mess of things. Situations get gummed up one misstep at a time.
You don’t completely fix situations like these with outside consultants. But you can surely make them worse.
The consultant trap
I feel free to say these things because I am both a performance management consultant and coach.
Consultants are geared to take an aerial view of workplace/business conditions. Coaches most often provide individual support.
There is a place for both, but managers need to fully understand what service they’re buying and how it will be perceived and received.
When you bring in a consultant to “fix” a supervisor, you’re announcing, directly or indirectly, to the workforce that:
- Your supervisor’s performance problems are excessive
- You are incapable of addressing them
- Employees were right to believe that they’ve been subject to ineptitude
- The consultant will try to fix your supervisor and you will all get to watch, albeit by peeping behind the curtain
- If the consultant can’t fix him/her, then something serious will happen
What are the chances are that the supervisor will survive this gauntlet? Or even the manager?
Provide a fair chance.
I believe strongly that struggling supervisors (managers, executives, team leaders) deserve legitimate help and support. It’s good business and fair.
When managers don’t know how to help a supervisor overcome performance issues, hiring a coach/consultant can be a great idea, just keep them out of sight.
A coach/consultant is a tutor, someone who helps the supervisor and the manager figure out what went wrong and how to remedy it…together.
Once a manager knows the breadth of the issues, they’ll know what kind of coach/consultant they need. If it’s just about supervisory skills, a coach might do. If it’s about how to deal with and navigate internal politics, a consultant may be the choice. If it’s both, then a coach/consultant.
You don’t use outside resources in ways that demean or humiliate your supervisor…or anyone. It’s hard enough for anyone to turn a personal performance issue around, so you don’t make someone’s efforts into a side-show.
Being a manager or a supervisor is a hard job. It takes a long time to get really good at them. Everyone stumbles along the way. Over time we learn that early intervention is the gift that helps us get better. Outside help is a plus when it’s carefully and effectively done.