Employees promoted above their peers will walk tightrope

Before the old supervisor finally retired, her work group used to talk about her behind her back and make jokes about her overbearing style. Now that she was gone, the dynamics had shifted.

Several members competed for the open position and Jackie was awarded the job. Most of the group supported Jackie, since she was a hard worker and well liked. The day Jackie was promoted to supervisor, some of her former co-workers stopped in to her new office to congratulate her. "We know you won't be like our old supervisor...you understand what it's like to be on the other side of the desk." Jackie pledged that she would be a caring, understanding supervisor.

A year later, all of her excitement had faded. Her employees were fighting with one another, charges of favoritism had surfaced and her personal relationships with the group had evaporated. "I've tried to be nice to them...give them what they wanted...and this is the thanks I get! Maybe I should have been a mean old ogre like our last boss."

Pat is a different kind of supervisor. He was promoted one year ago, too. As he thinks back to his former boss he says, "He was well-liked but he couldn't make a decision to save his soul. He was always so afraid of making a mistake or stepping on someone's toes we'd wait forever for him to make up his mind. He drove us all nuts."

Pat vowed that he would be decisive and quick with decisions. And because he was younger than most of his employees he was worried that they wouldn't take direction from him. He wanted his former co-workers to know he was a leader in charge. Except that it didn't work. He heard his employees laughing in the hall about "the little general" and he noticed that in meetings they'd give each other knowing looks across the table while he was speaking. Like Jackie, he felt unappreciated and angry.

Like most of us, Jackie and Pat learned their management styles by watching their mangers. They saw the mistakes their former bosses made and went in the opposite direction--with much the same results.

In Jackie's case, she thought all she had to do was to be nice to people and give them what they wanted. The problem was that by giving in to one, she was being unfair to another.

In Pat's case, he tried too hard to act "like a boss." He thought that asking for input would make him look weak and indecisive. Instead, his commanding style made him look even more foolish and insecure to his experienced employees.

So what is a new manager to do? Here are some guidelines that will get you started on the right track. They are designed to build mutual respect, the essential quality leaders foster with their teams.

·        Ask for your employees’ help.

·        Use a "we" mentality.

·        Involve everyone in establishing the vision and goals.

·        Let groups build performance expectations together.

·        Encourage ideas and encourage them to act on them.

·        Share everything you know.

·        Don’t be afraid to say "I don’t know (but let’s find out)."

·        Ask your most experienced employees for advice and give them independence.

·        Be sincere and open with praise and thanks.

·        Step aside and let your employees get the credit.

·        Discuss problems openly and stand by what the group’s decision is.

·        Let problem performers know what’s expected and hold them accountable.

·        When you’re not sure what would be "fair," ask the group.

·        Notice everything your employees do right and tell them immediately.

·        Be quick to admit your mistakes.

·        When a mistake is made say, "What can we learn from this?"

·        Talk about their behavior not their attitudes.

·        Ask people how you’re doing and hear what they say.

·        Tell the truth – always.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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