Turning Round under achieving teams

(31 Posts)
standsonshiftingsands Wed 12-Dec-12 19:28:53

Hi,

I am a line manager for a team of tecchies really - all blokes.

I've been in post for 2 years and I was probably specifically brought in to try and turn this team around a bit - they are very disorganised, under performing, don't give good customer service. There is a very negative culture - its always somebody else's fault - they work harder than anyone else in the organsiation blah blah blah

I'm quite a new manager - some small experience before and I'm finding it all quite tough - its not really going as well or as quickly as I'd like. My immediate line manager isn't really interested - I think he finds it all a bit 'fluffy' but is quick to come down if something goes wrong. I have been talking to another member of senior mgt who has a kind of staff dev hat, but she has come to the end of the line with the amount of time she can spend with me and more or less told me to get on with it - even though she moans very loudly when things go wrong too. I take the blame for this too - I'm not as strict as I could be, I lack confidence a bit and I try to be their friends which will never work.

Brilliant managers out there - help me! I feel like Ive been told I'm not up to the job and to pull my socks up. Feel bit down about it tonight.......

Bigwuss Wed 12-Dec-12 20:06:01

There is book called raving fans which you might find an interesting read.
Can you identify the one who has the best customer facing skills and use them to influence the change? So it is not all seen to be coming from you. Have a look at what can be changed easily and take the how to eat an elephant approach, a little bit at a time. Praise any small improvement to drive the behaviours you want.
Does anyone on the team have specific responsibilities for the areas you are struggling with? If not, can you set clear expectations and help them own an area for change. Work on them one to one and get them to come up with what the problems are and a practical plan for how they can change things.
Business balls has lots of free advice so it might be worth looking on there.
Good luck and I hope it works out.

standsonshiftingsands Wed 12-Dec-12 20:20:32

Thanks very much - I know I need to take it a little at a time. I tend to get overwhelmed by the amount to do and then end up doing none of it well.

I haven't heard of Business Balls - I'll check them out.

Bishoplyn Wed 12-Dec-12 21:20:31

Hi! I agree with Bigwuss - praise anything that is worthy, say thank you when it is deserved, lead by example so the team get a clear idea of your values.
Are there any quick wins you could make? Are basic office systems in place? e.g are phone messages recorded and picked up efficiently within a reasonable timeframe?
I have found communication is key - does your team know what is going on within the wider organisation? how it fits into the overall picture?
Rotas to cover appropriate tasks can ensure everybody perceives there is equity.
I completed an ILM www.i-l-m.com/ course last year and found it invaluable. I learned my own strengths, weaknesses and personality type and that my team was a lot better than I had realised!
You sound a bit isolated. Are there any other managers of your grade who could mentor you?
Be gentle with yourself. I'm sure you're doing a great job!

KenDoddsDadsDog Chile Wed 12-Dec-12 21:24:48

The biggest thing is control the controllables. Decide what the things are that you are responsible for and deal with them. If you do that then the peripheral shit will fade into the background.
As an example, you say the team are disorganised. What do you mean by that? Are they late for work? Take longer breaks? Miss deadlines ? If so it's a controllable and you can deal through one to one meetings and performance management.

standsonshiftingsands Wed 12-Dec-12 21:30:00

One can't or won't use outlook diary mgt.and on the back of this misses meetings often. They are late and don't engage at meetings.i know I need to pick all these off - I haven't been clear enough. I thought it would all just happen but it hasn't.

drcrab Wed 12-Dec-12 21:39:03

Have an away day. Get it all out in the open (with the help of someone from outside). Then get targets. Like we want to stop missing meetings, so how do we do this? Get them to provide the answers. If the answer is I find it difficult to use outlook then ask what might help. A diary? A text reminder system? A PA to keep track of all appointments?

Get some quick wins too so that they know you are effective.

Also have one to one meetings and during those meetings listen, don't talk so much. Just listen.

You might want to install email free Fridays or something. Can make people get off their bums to chat more.

Free coffee Tuesdays? Might encourage people to interact at tea time?

standsonshiftingsands Thu 13-Dec-12 14:52:52

thanks for everyone who responded. Feeling bit more upbeat today - proactive and all that. Isn't it funny how nobody teaches you 'management' - maybe it can't be taught?

SantasBitch Thu 13-Dec-12 21:21:56

Really? I've done loads of management courses - from managing yourself and managing others to line management skills, through to moving from management to leadership. hmm

However I had no training when, at the age of 25, I had to manage a very mixed team of eleven women, half of whom didn't speak to the other half.

KenDoddsDadsDog Chile Thu 13-Dec-12 22:19:54

Don't tackle them as a team with stuff like lateness . Do it on an individual basis when it happens and document it . Start to involve HR where you think this is appropriate.
Cards on the table meetings are normally just a breeding ground for negativity and if you all of a sudden change your style it will bring push back.
Be consistent and fair , most of all listen. People could be late etc because they are demotivated or it could be because they are lazy fecks. You have to find this out.
Get the basics sorted and the rest will follow.

BluelightsAndSirens Sat 15-Dec-12 16:06:09

The 3 things I would do first is create an organisational chart to work out who is responsible for each department/team.

Obtain a copy of each staff members job spec and make sure it includes the goals you are aiming at for each role.

Invite line managers to one to one reviews, ask them to complete the review and forward to you 48hours before the meeting and also ask them to review their own job description. Once ther reviews are complete and goals are set for the next month arrange for them to do one to one reviews with their team members.

Do you have someone to help you keep control of the dates? Secretary PA?

is also a good book to read and then pass onto your line managers

hermioneweasley Sat 15-Dec-12 21:08:42

Ok, this is a really tough gig for a first line management role and you should not feel bad for needing more support and guidance.

It is your line manager's job to help with this. Do you have an HR function who could help since he's abdicating responsibility?

Kouzes and Posner's book "credibility" is good.

standsonshiftingsands Sun 16-Dec-12 09:03:42

Santa - sorry I wasn't really meaning it can't be taught in that way - just that I'm actually a librarian, and nobody really taught me management. I'd actually quite like to do an MBA or something along those lines.

I'm liking all the suggestions. I agree that if I suddenly change my style or have a mega cards on the table type conversation, there will be massive push back.

Soopermum1 Sun 16-Dec-12 14:07:44

Do the team think they are underperforming, or do they think they're doing just fine? This will make a big difference

Bigwuss Sun 16-Dec-12 19:52:45

Agree with snooper mum, if the team don't know they are under-performing, then that will make It much harder.
Do you have any customer feedback you could is discuss with them? I'm assuming there complaints? Is the info factual or personal? I would make it factual if you discuss it with the team. Don't forget to praise what they do well.
If you can get them to a place where they will try it the Myers Briggs might be interesting to see what they preferred styles of working are. Trying to fit square pegs into round holes is going to make it harder and them more miserable. There are free Myers Briggs quizzes on the web if you look for them. It is worth looking at this for yourself first. Strengthfinders is interesting too if you want to understand yourself better.

CabbageLeaves Sun 16-Dec-12 20:58:57

hermione - can't get your link to work?

Soopermum1 Mon 17-Dec-12 21:17:01

blue lights gives good advice. first thing is to engage team to make them see what the issues are then for them to come up with the solution. you guide this process and measure success. however, you may have a lot of work to do to get to that stage.

pick them off individually, starting with your direct reports. I would recommend against an away day or anything that puts all of them against you, particularly as you don't feel confident. they'll sense that and most likely gang up on you.

give you direct reports the responsibility of managing the behaviour of their direct reports.

the mood of the team is dictates usually by the person at the top. so you must be super punctual, super professional, super positive, even if you don't feel it. do not involve yourself with moans or complaints unless completely reasonable and you are confident you can resolve them. e.g if they moan about pay and you know there is no chance of better pay then do not promise to try to get them better pay.you are only setting yourself up for failure. another example... the coffee machine is crap. you will not be able to get a new one. suggest reasonable alternatives and if they keep moaning you have to just tell them to get on with it. don't engage in any more discussion. change the subject. don't get dragged into the negativity.

KenDoddsDadsDog Chile Mon 17-Dec-12 22:06:58

Don't even discuss pay. Everyone wants a pay rise. If you don't then there's something wrong.

BluelightsAndSirens Mon 17-Dec-12 22:13:38

Don't forget the very little things in the big picture really do count.

One of the first things I did when I started the position I am in now is listen to a conversation about how shit the coke machine was because you could only get coke and diet coke.

One phone call and a week later they had fanta, cherry coke, lemonade and an energy drink in the same machine no cost to me

You must have the confidence to say no. They ask if they can have a, b or c and I no longer say ill look into it I now say "no, not right now, lets look at it agin in 3 months time" they know where they stand.

I have given little tokens for the festive period that even the most sullen of team members have said thanks for because they know what we are aiming at, business doesn't need to be secretive, they need to know what we are all working towards and what their part plays in the big picture.

Good luck

KenDoddsDadsDog Chile Mon 17-Dec-12 22:45:32

Blue lights I did the same but they wanted Bovril . Of all the fecking bizarre drinks in the world!!! Then nobody drank it after the first month grin

BluelightsAndSirens Mon 17-Dec-12 22:56:28

grin fuckers, I can remember a conversation about soup in the hot drink vending machine (we have free Friday)

I wasted valuable home at time calculating how much their machine v the customer area machine was costing us per year and they still insisted on fucking soup, point counted not the actual soup.

No one has had soup since September! Aghhhhh, I can go into end of year budget presentations and still try and think my way around this one smile

I was tempted to wrap a soup cup up for everyone of them as an extra secret sant grin

hermioneweasley Tue 18-Dec-12 12:53:08

Cabbage - it wasn't a link, just a reference to a book. I'm not clever enough to do links, or emoticon thingys.

BluelightsAndSirens Tue 18-Dec-12 13:13:57

hermi scroll down just under the post message button and all the smileys and links are explained.

Look, with no spaces [ grin ] makes grin [ fgrin ] makes grin

[[ <these again with no space plus the copy and pasted link and then ]] makes this www.mumsnet.com/

Fingers crossed these all work otherwise I'm about to make myself look like a right knows nothing numpty blush

OnTheBottomWithAStringOfTinsel Tue 18-Dec-12 13:14:05

A lot of brilliant free content and techniques here

Lots of it is universal - I work for a v big organisation that has very specific training for managers, and I see a lot of overlap.

Essentials

Have regular 1:1 meetings with your direct reports (weekly)

Feedback - start with positive (but genuine!) and leave it a good length of time before introducing negative (to build trust).

Specifics for goals and requirements - lose any woolly teminology - so they don't have any wriggle room.

For instance for your non Outlook user say "You need to attend meetings you are scheduled for on time, and to apologise in person if you are late or cannot attend. You must also use the Outlook system as everyone else uses it, and the company is not going to introduce a new system just for you." Then follow up on this in EVERY 1:1 with this person (and check with others that they are turning up on time for meetings)

Know your team (through 1:1's etc).

Address issues directly - and privately - with those involved, and hand them responsibility for changing. If someone is constantly negative, you can say "I hear that you seem to have lots of complaints (give a few exact examples) and you are constantly talking to the team about them. This causes bad feeling and a negative atmosphere. How are you going to change this?" and leave it in their lap. Solutions they come up with, rather than ones imposed by you, will be more successful (get clever and they will come up with the solutions you want to see implemented! Also they might come up with something better than you require!)

My current team are very motivated and positive (not just due to me! to their previous manager as well)! I can see a team across the floor that have huge issues at the moment. I think the key differences are that the happy team have
Good communication - v reg meetings
Very specific goals - and reg appraisals
Can see their successes immediately
(results are apparent quickly when they do well)
Everyone perceives that they are all treated fairly
(the perceives part is the most important here!)

The poorly performing team have over the last few years
Had nearly zero communication (no meetings)
No goals (one team member had her goals for the previous year set during her final appraisal!)
Had a manager who visibly didn't give a shite - left early all the time, left people in the doo doo, called in sick all the time
No praise for good performance
Perception that some of the team were not pulling their weight (true, and due to the mgr not ever pulling the person on the laziness, it became endemic)

An epic post but I hope it helps!

BluelightsAndSirens Tue 18-Dec-12 13:14:37

Phew! grin

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