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Problem: “How can I get my ‘stuck’ manager to change?”

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There was a discussion recently at a networking group about how to get an embedded manager to be more effective.

This is a problem faced by many professional practices and businesses – ever heard of the phrase “a concrete layer of management”? How do you get a “stuck” manager to change?

This is always a tricky one. It’s also a fairly typical problem faced by a lot of line managers. You’ve got someone who is steady, reliable and has been doing the job for years. But time has moved on and their role and responsibilities need to move on too, for them to keep pace with how the job, marketplace and business has changed.

1. The first thing to do is to check how you’ve been communicating with this manager.

Have you actually told them what your expectations are for them in this role? Have you asked them what they believe that the role has now become? Or what they want to get out of the role? Be specific and use examples to demonstrate what you require from them. Very often, this conversation, combined with some support, will be all you need to get them to be more effective.

2. If this conversation has already happened, then you need to sit them down and talk about what you require from them.

Do write down SMART objectives, which are quantifiable and easily measurable. For example, “handling customer complaints more effectively” is very woolly. What do you actually mean by handling customer clients more effectively? Be specific, have examples, and ask them what help and support they will need to make the change. Stress that they need to change and you want to help them to grow and make the change.

3. Diarise regular one-to-one catch-ups with this member of staff to help them make the change that you require.

When I say regular, definitely a minimum of weekly to begin with. Take the time to give praise where praise is due – particularly if you are seeing some positive attempts to improve their effectiveness.

And ultimately, if you’re not seeing any change despite the effort that you have put in, you will need to move to a formal disciplinary procedures.

Heather Townsend, Britain’s queen of networking, is the founder of The Efficiency Coach, a company that helps professionals achieve better business results for less effort. Follow her Joined Up Networking blog for more useful tips and tricks. Look out for her FT Guide to Business Networking, out next year.

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