The Absent Leader – Agreeing to Improve

The Absent Leader – Agreeing to Improve

The story so far… Ken has to write an urgent report on an important project for his MD. Due to his neglectful leadership style his key project worker has been signed off sick for two weeks. He has replaced her temporarily but still needs to speak to Miranda, her lazy colleague, who was also part of the problem.

The following Monday afternoon Ken bumped into Maya, the HR manager, in the coffee room.

‘Hey Ken,’ Maya said, ‘did you get that report done on time? I guess you did, you’re not looking too stressed.’

‘Let’s go and sit over there and I’ll tell you all about it.’ Ken said.

They settled themselves in a quiet corner and Ken unwrapped his biscuits. ‘Yeah, got it done with minutes to spare. But boy, that talk with Miranda was something else. All those guidelines in the appraisal manual and on those websites only tell you how to prepare what to say. They don’t prepare you for the response.’

‘Why? What happened?’

‘It was like talking to a stroppy seventeen year old. She veered from denial…’

‘That’s embarrassment at being caught out.’

‘I guess. Then she blamed me.’

There was a long pause. Maya kept quiet and looked attentive.

‘She was right, I suppose. I had been neglecting the team. She said she didn’t think she had to work hard because I never noticed what they did anyway. That shook me up. I expect people to work whether I’m there or not.’

Maya stirred her coffee. ‘Some will, but some won’t. While we have to treat everyone equally, we can’t treat them all the same. Different people need different approaches.’

‘Yeah, I’ve had the weekend to think about it and I can see that. Anyway, at the time I apologised and said that I would be a better boss in future. That took her by surprise. In fact, I had to give her several examples of what I’d be doing differently before she believed me.’

‘That’s interesting, Ken. What did you say?’

‘Well, that I’d be getting away from my office and walking around at least once a day – you know that management by walking about thing. Then I said I’d set goals for everyone that I’d agree with them and that I’d check on progress at agreed times. And I’d have regular appraisal review meetings and look after their professional development.’

‘Did that do it?’

‘Nearly. But she demanded we have weekly meetings so they can be kept up to date with what’s happening in the company. Said they’ve had to rely on the rumour mill recently. Got a point, I suppose.’

‘That’s great, it sounds like a really constructive meeting. Did you get full agreement then?’

‘There was one more thing. Doughnuts every Monday afternoon. They’re in my desk already. You know what, all that stuff about staff welfare? At first I thought it was yet more politically correct psychobabble, but now… well, I realise it is just an essential part of being a manager.’

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