About twenty years ago I was working as the director of the Small Business Development Center at a community college. I was also the only staff member of the SBCD so it was a one person show and my only personal problem was me.
One day I was contacted by the director of the local Chamber of Commerce and asked to come by and talk with her. In my conversation with her she indicated to me that she had an employee who was failing and she did under stand why. The employee was a recent college graduate, articulate and wanted to do a good job but the director was getting feedback from several of the board members the employee was not meeting their needs. She was not getting their requests met or was late, or they did not like what she gave them. They wanted her gone and replaced. I ask the director if I could spend some time with the young woman to see if I could get a better understanding of the situation. The director did not have a problem with that so I sat up an appointment with the young staff member for the next afternoon.
What I gleamed from my time with the young person the next afternoon was the following:
- She did not just have the chamber director as her boss but all the board members too.
- When she would be asked by a board member to complete a task for them and she would ask when they needed it done they would usually say something like “When you get the time or no hurry.”
- Quite frequently the board member requests seemed vague to her.
- Frequently this staff member had several requests from board members and the director to complete projects at the same time (overlapping projects and more than one boss).
Having read and trained others in Ferdinand F. Fournies’ book, Coaching for Improved Work Performance, I could see several reasons why this young woman was failing at meeting the board member’s expectations and why her job was at risk.
In chapter 6, “A Practical Approach to Managing People in Business” of the small paperback book, Fournies’ survey data listed the following 13 reasons why employees are failing.
1. The don’t know what they are supposed to do.
2. They don’t know how to do it.
3. They don’t know why they should.
4. There are obstacles beyond their control.
5. They don’t think it will work.
6. They think their way is better.
7. Not motivated-poor attitude.
8. Personally incapable of doing it (personal limits).
9. Not enough time for them to do it.
10. They are working on wrong priority items.
11.They think they are doing it (no feedback).
12. Poor management.
13. Personal problems.
He states on page 79 of his book that managers are operating with the wrong definition of communications. I suggest that you purchase the coaching book and read and learn it. The material in it will make you more successful as a manager. Based on the survey findings above I put together the following “communication tool” for the employee and covered with her the importance of each question.
The Communication Tool, – is a series of questions used to insure that a particular job or project will be completed as needed. It involves asking yourself a few important questions about the project prior to having the face to face discussion with your subordinate. The following is an example of the minimal information a subordinate needs to have in order to perform the project/job successfully for you (meets your expectations).
If you are the person on the receiving end of the stick/project, and the delegator does not give you enough information to complete “all” of the form, be sure and get it from them by asking the right questions. There may be a need for additional information.
- What needs to be done? ___________________________________________
- Why is it important to do it? ________________________________________
- Who will do it or who will do what? ___________________________________
- When does it need to start? ________________________________________
- When does it need to be completed by? ________________________________
- Do I need a status report? _________________________________________
- What will it look like when finished? __________________________________
- How to do it? __________________________________________________
- What happens next? _____________________________________________
If the subordinate has multiple projects (or bosses) you might need to help them prioritize the projects or demands on their time. One of the jobs of a person who has subordinates is to help them be successful. Remember the 85/15 rule.
I like to include good examples from Youtube.com to reinforce my blog material. But, in this case, I quit looking before I found one. I did find this funny communication video. It’s always nice to end with a few chuckles.
Note: If you find a video that fits this blog please share it with me.
The video below was suggested by my son and illustrates one of the problem areas. Having more then one boss.