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Hello,

This is my first post, a friend suggested this site a few weeks ago to me to help me with my job. I am currently failing as a manager and don't know what to do.

I took a new job about two months ago, joining a department that has been mismanaged for the last few years. They let the previous manager go and brought me in.

During my tenure here, I have started O3's (not sure if I am doing them correctly even though I have listened to the podcasts several times - need advice on my 10 minutes and coaching) and started a bi weekly staff meeting to make everyone aware of how their roles effect everyone else in the department.

I have had some turnover issues, 1 lady quit due to previous issues before my tenure, her replacement moved out of the area when her husband relocated. This turnover has placed a great strain on the department's ability to reach it's weekly goals.

Feedback - I have tried to implement the feedback model, starting with positive but I am finding it difficult to find anything positive about their performance (harsh statement but what I am truly feeling). We just keep falling farther behind no matter what solution we try. I have changed job duties, brought in additional contract staff to help (suffering turnover issues here as well, 1 lady did not work out, her replacement found a full time position and currently on the third lady who started last week). This is adding to the strain due to the constant training and retraining of staff.

When I implemented weekly goals, I have received no direct feedback from my staff, but have heard through the grapevine that my expectations are too high, hence we have not even come close to making the targets. I do not think the goals are too high, they are what is needed to be on track ( goal is to have all the invoicing done on a weekly basis, last weeks charges billed by the end of this week).

I am struggling here and it is effecting my personal life and don't know what to do. I'm not giving up, just need some advice on what to try next.

jhack's picture

Sounds like a tough situation. You've got your work cut out. And you have a real opportunity if you can get it to work.

There is a thread you should read: http://www.manager-tools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2571 . US41's post is long but absolutely right on for a struggling manager (many of us here have struggled!) It's a longer term plan, but you have to cover both short and long term to survive.

You should also talk to your boss. What is the critical metric of success? You may be setting the bar in the wrong place in the short run.

Can your weekly goal be broken down to a daily one? Can you actually show them how to get it done? Could you do it yourself? (It sounds like you're trying to keep from falling further behind...is that it? and are you now falling further behind?).

Stick with the one-on-ones. Keep it positive. When someone gets an invoice processed quickly, point out how it leads to success.

And you might need to upgrade the staff. The hiring casts are good, and the interviewing casts are great for hiring managers (what to ask, and how to judge the answers!)

John

WillDuke's picture

I've never had good luck with temps. They can answer the phone, other than that by the time you get them trained they're gone. So I feel your pain.

You know what? Your staff feels the pain too. Include them in the solution. Mike & Mark say "You're not that smart, and they're not that dumb." They know it isn't working. They don't like it. They want it to be fixed too.

Have a brainstorming session. They might have ideas on how to address the department's issues.

"Team, we need to get invoicing done at the end of the week. Historically we haven't succeeded at this. What can we do to achieve this goal?"

There are brainstorming casts that talk about how to do this. Listen to them, they're much more clear than what I can write here. But basically don't edit, just write. If they throw out a suggestion, write it down and DON"T DISCUSS IT! Get the ideas flowing. When the ideas stop, then you can go over them. But shooting down anything up front just makes them less likely to contribute.

Get excited about what it's like when this is working better. Picture it in your mind. Imagine how great it's going to be when it's fixed. Share your enthusiasm. This could be a truly remarkable experience for you and the rest of the team.

Nothing positive to say? You're just bummin' right now. Surely someone comes into work on time. Someone gets some invoicing done. Someone stays late at the end of the week to help out. Someone says something complimentary to a coworker. Someone communicates well. Someone dresses nicely. Someone sends you a timely email update. Someone smiles at someone else.

Make a list of what you want your directs to do. A very detailed list. (You might get some ideas from the brainstorming session.) Now just watch for those behaviors. All of your directs are not that horrible. I promise.

tomas's picture

Sounds like a tough job. I hope you knew what you were getting yourself into!

You seem to be focusing on performance (or non-performance in this case) rather than behaviours. You are disappointed in your team because they aren't keeping up with the workload, but have you identified specific behaviours that they are or aren't engaging in? Are they talking or browsing the web when they should be working? Do they get in late and leave early? If so, you can use feedback and O3's and coaching to address these behaviours, or remove staff who are unwilling or unable to modify their behaviour.

Are you sure you have identified the root cause of the problem? Do you know how many invoices a team member should be able to process on average in an hour, and when you multiply the number of hours worked by your team by this number is it greater or smaller than the number of invoices you need to process? You have a may simply not the number of staff needed to do the job. You need to identify ways of improving performance, but should stop being so negative about your team.

If it looks like you should have enough staff to do the job, where else does the problem lie? Are staff so busy training contractors that they fall behind? Are they being asked to do some other work by another manager? Is their performance hampered because the computer system is slow, or unavailable half the time? Do they have trouble processing invoices because the sales people take shortcuts and don't fill in all the details?

You can use techniques like "The 5 whys" to help guide your thinking. Basically you keep asking why (5 times) until you reach the core of the problem. The following is an example, albeit a pretty contrived one:-
Q1. Why are we falling behind?
A. Staff can't process enough invoices each week.
Q2. Why can't they process enough invoices?
A. It is taking them 10 minutes to process one invoice when it should take 2 minutes.
Q3. Why does it take them 10 minutes?
A. They need to look up product codes in separate computer system.
Q4. Why does looking up product codes take so long?
A. They have to log out of the invoicing program and it takes a long time to log back in.
Q5.Why does it take a long time to log in and out?
A. The server is underpowered and was never expected to be used for a heavy workload.

Possible solutions might be to upgrade the server, or to have one staff member look up product codes and write them on the incoming invoices so that other staff can process them efficiently.

In terms of goal setting, at this stage it sounds like the goal you have set is the ultimate goal and it is going to take some work to get there. Making it a weekly goal now is about as effective as yelling "Work harder!" at your employees. You need employees to buy into your goal setting, otherwise it just becomes another drag on morale. You might be better off setting a long term goal of getting and staying up to date, and interim weekly goals based on stabilising and then reducing the backlog by improving the number of invoices processed each week in achievable increments.

hhfd77's picture

Thanks for all the advice.

Thomas, we know most of the reasons why, volume has increased and our invoicing system is currently manual data entry. Our volume is 300 -500 orders a day (not a lot but for my industry it is excellent) and each invoice has to be key punched into the system.

Staffing has been an issue, but the lady who just left was able to meet the target, was actually just starting to beat it when her husband found his new job (golf pro lucky guy). So I know that the target is realistic, tough but realistic. We will be changing our systems in the future, but that will be months away.

I have broken the weekly goal into daily goals and have moved team members to help achieve this, but all this currently does is place their duties farther behind (ie moved the collections lady to help with the invoicing every other day, but this places the collections behind).

Part of the issue is mismanagement (my interpretation) by previous management. Staff has been able to treat this as a country club not as a job. I have discussed this with my boss (the President and CEO, we are a small company) and implemented some changes with his support, the unfortunate thing is other managers still let their staff do as they please. I am not managing my department this way, trying to "Cowboy Up" as Mark has stated before.

We work an 8 hour day with a paid 1 hour lunch, current staff who smoke (big pet peeve of mine) feel it is their right to take the lunch and several smaller breaks during the day for their habit. I am trying to implement a system where they only take 1 hour of break time in total, but am facing great resistance as it is often mentioned that other departments don't run this way. The additional break time slows down the work process.

Will, I will try the brainstorming session at our next staff meeting, I fully believe that the people who are actually doing the work have some better ideas then the person in the corner office.

I have started to download all the casts and listen to them daily. Thanks again for all the advice.

WillDuke's picture

One thing I didn't say about brainstorming, but in your environment I think is important, is buy-in. If it's their suggestions that they need to follow, then they will be more committed to them.

I'm kind of stealing that from feedback. That 4th step of what can you do differently is getting them to say what the fix is. When they have said it, when they agree to do it, then it's a lot more likely to get done.

If morale is that big of an issue, find a way to make it fun. Have some rewards along the way. Tomas had some thoughts there, but you know your environment the best. What is a short-term win? Can you foster a little friendly competition? (Post graphs of how many invoices each person does.) Then offer up a reward for the top performer. It doesn't need to be a big expensive reward, something fun. Lunch gift certificate, a sign on their desk, a preferred parking spot, etc.

Smaller goals will also help you with your lack of positive feedback issue.

"Tom, can I give you some feedback? When you increase your input by 5% in one week it really sets a great example for the whole team. Thank you."
"Tom, can I give you some feedback? When you increase your input by 5% in one week it shows the whole team what a top performer looks like. Good job."
"Tom, can I give you some feedback? When you increase your input by 5% in one week it really shows that you are following the new procedures and succeeding with them. Nice work."

You might find that staff really don't want to be on the chart as the bottom performer. In their O3 they might want to talk about that and get your help in boosting their performance. Imagine that scenario!

Get everyone involved. Make it fun. If you can turn it into a game it won't seem so monotonous to your directs.

One warning though, "What gets measured gets done." If you only measure completed invoices, and not error-free invoices, you might have accuracy issues.