Business In The Workplace

Monday 22 July 2019

My team is not engaged and I end up doing most of the work - how can I put this right?

If a team won't take responsibility the manager often feels left to do all of the work
If a team won't take responsibility the manager often feels left to do all of the work

Bob Lee

Q. I work in a company that has locations across four of the largest cities in Ireland. I have held a managerial role for the last five years and I am responsible for seven members of staff. My problem is that my team is so unengaged - I often find members of my team wasting time on social media, taking extended coffee breaks and chattering, all the while KPI's are not reached and deadlines are missed. I am at my wit's end with the team, but they will not take any responsibility for the role they need to play and I feel I have to do all the work myself. How do I get through to them the importance of sticking to deadlines?

A. I sense your frustration and isolation - how could I miss it? Work is no fun for you at the moment, and probably hasn't been for years. That's not going to change until you change.

Managers manage but you're not managing anything right now. You are not managing your team's engagement, or its work-flows, or its productivity, or its results. So, regardless of your job title, you're not actually a manager. But you are only part of the problem. The real question is: where is your manager in all of this?

Your team's key performance indicators (KPIs) are, I assume, included in the KPIs for which you are formally responsible. Your team is consistently missing its KPIs - meaning you are also missing yours. It seems your manager is about as effective at managing you as you are at managing your own team.

Here's how it should work. Your manager should be giving you regular feedback on your performance. The missed deadlines and ignored KPIs should be discussed. On hearing of the difficulties that you are having, your manager should be working with you to identify solutions to help you become a more effective manager and to ensure that you and your team are hitting the targets. Your team's poor work ethic is most likely a symptom of your poor management. It's taken five years for this problem to develop and it can't be solved overnight. You should focus on three areas:

1. Manage your manager. You have been badly let down by your company and by your manager since you were put into this role. I'm guessing that you received little training, and even less supervision in the role.

Ask for a meeting with your manager and tell them exactly what is going on. Tell them you need their help. At the very least they must tell you clearly what they expect of you, how they expect you to do it, along with regular constructive feedback on how you're doing, with practical suggestions on how you could do better. Explore what other help the company can offer, such as a mentor, coaching, or formal management training.

2. Manage your team. Your team has had as little management support as you have, and its response has been to disengage. Each of your employees is entitled to expect the same from you as you (now) expect from your manager. Review job descriptions and write down what success 'looks like' for each role, using the relevant KPIs as a starting point. Have a one-on-one meeting with each team-member. Explain that the old system hasn't been working very well, acknowledge that you haven't managed them or delegated work as effectively as you would have wished, and explain how things will work from now on. Promise - and deliver - regular meetings at which you will review performance and achievement, and they can discuss concerns, training needs etc. Keep it short and to the point, avoid recrimination, and express the hope you can each start to improve the level of trust between you while at the same time improving team performance and morale.

3. Manage yourself. You need help so find somebody in your organisation who can help you identify your skills and knowledge deficit, and help you find and implement appropriate solutions. If your organisation doesn't have such a person, find an external mentor who will help. You've spent five frustrating years carrying your team and getting little enjoyment from your work. It shouldn't be that way. It's time for a fresh start towards a rewarding and fulfilling work life. Good luck.

Bob Lee is the author of Trust Rules: How the World's Best Managers Create Great Places to Work, the international best-seller on how to build a workplace culture that achieves remarkable business results

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