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Managers who want better employees, must be better leaders.

November 4, 2020

By Randy Hall


I came across some research recently that said managers spend 17% of their time dealing with problem employees.  That’s pretty much one day a week that they feel is lost to the time associated with people who are doing a poor job.

If you have a management role and I asked what you would choose to spend one day a week on that was job related, what would it be?  I don’t know what your answer is, feel free to capture some thoughts in the comments section below if you have some ideas.  I am betting though, that it would not be dealing with what you might refer to as problem employees.

We are left with a few possible causes for this kind of outcome.  One, there are a lot of terrible employees out there, and this is just a circumstance we must deal with as a manager.  Two, we made bad hires, and we need to fire these people and make better ones.  Three, the people could be better, but we have not been successful at helping them improve their performance as an employee.

If we think we are destined to spend a day each week dealing with poor performers, because there are just that many out there, and there is no escape, management might not be the role for us.  I’m being serious when I say that.  If you find yourself in this category, pursue something that makes you happier, is more fulfilling, and lets you go home at night feeling good about your progress and your achievements.  Not everyone should lead other people, and that doesn’t make them bad or less valuable at all.  Leadership means that you believe you can have an impact on the people you lead, and if you struggle to get to that belief, you are going to hate the job.  Do something you enjoy.

If you think that you have a number of people on your team who are simply not performing well, and you are not in that first category, then you either hired the wrong people, or they can get better, and we haven’t helped them make that transition yet.  Two of the things every successful leader does is hire good people and coach them effectively.  And that means we simply need to work on our hiring or coaching process, or both. 

If we hire the wrong people, we will spend a lot of time challenging ourselves with big coaching mountains to climb.  If we hire the right people and don’t coach them well, we will end up with a team of disengaged underperformers who will likely leave over time. They had potential, we just didn’t help them develop it.

Here is the challenge many managers face.  How do we know if they were the wrong hires, if we haven’t effectively coached, trained, or developed them?  There’s really only one way to answer that question.  Become a more effective coach and you will eliminate that as the reason people are not succeeding.  I’ve watched many managers assume they hired the wrong people and then hire different ones, only to end up in the same place because they didn’t hire differently, or coach more effectively.

Coaching and hiring are core fundamental leadership skills that no manager can succeed without.  And the better we are at them, the more success we will have.

There are other things we can learn that will continue to build on those fundamental skills and make us even more effective leaders, but without these two, we are always going to struggle.

It might be this lack of skill development among managers that creates a world where 3 out of 4 employees say that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job, and 58% of people say that they would trust a stranger more than their boss.  Only 26% of workers say that the feedback they get helps them improve the work that they do.

So that brings us to these questions.  Do you teach the managers in your business to coach effectively?  Do you teach the managers in your business to hire effectively?

The additional question to ask if you are managing others is: Am I spending time each week getting better at things that will make me a more successful leader?

Many managers want better people, and they don’t want to spend a day each week dealing with the constant challenges created by those who perform poorly.  Employees want a leader who can help them develop, grow, learn, improve, and become more successful.

The real question is, who goes first?

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