Pre-Mutiny – A Young Managers Greatest Challenge

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You’ve been watching that young superstar’s performance and your keen sense of talent development makes you confident that they’ve got the leadership skills to move the performance needle in a management role. Before you reward them with a promotion, be sure to acknowledge “Pre-Mutiny” and build a strategy around it! Otherwise, you’ll be feeding your protégé to the wolves of jealousy. This happened to me as a fresh faced 24-year-old in his first corporate management gig, and I would have never survived without my mentor (Nate Mathes)!

What is Pre-Mutiny? It all starts with the team or departmental dynamics and the roster of candidates who WILL NOT be getting that management opportunity. The assumption here is that your future star will be managing these competing peers turned employees. Ageism is in play here, as your young superstar is facing a challenge that requires thick skin, courage, open support, and strong mentoring. Pre-Mutiny is when a young manager is rendered ineffective because the team won’t respond appropriately to their attempt to lead and support. Most of the time it is a collective boycott of cooperation as a unified statement of “no confidence” inspired by ignorance, jealousy, and negative leadership.

As a senior manager, what do you do to protect your prized prospect as they get called up to “The Show”? Here are some tips:

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1 – Identify Potential Threats – If you have good political acumen you might be able to anticipate which employees would have a problem with your decision.  If you don’t know who the threat could be, put your ear to the street to tap into the corporate grapevine or leverage existing managers’ knowledge of staff to determine which personnel to worry about. My mentor (Nate) knew exactly who to be worried about and he was very right.

2 – Cut the Head Off – Each example of Pre-Mutiny has one or two dominant personalities that have real leadership skills, but they use them for evil rather than good. These negative leaders know how to recruit support and influence team attitudes. Kept unchecked, they will round up the posse and both quietly and openly work to discredit your young manager’s credibility and impact. My mentor openly challenged a negative leader to support my efforts, instead of attempting to stunt my progress.

3 – Present a United Front – As a senior manager you must cash in some of your corporate capital as a respected leader to convey an overwhelming amount of support for the new manager towards others. You must plan to literally (physically) stand by your youthful managerial selection to drive home the point that they are the selection and nothing is changing that. In other words, “Like it or not, this is your reality. Deal with it, adjust, and work as a team.” One way to present a united front is to be a part of the formal transition or introductory meeting, as well as attending some future team meetings so your presence is felt while your candidate builds trust, credibility, and establishes their management style. My mentor took a chance and trusted I would evolve despite a major lack of experience, and he did so folding his arms behind me as I ran through the meeting agenda (he is an imposing figure, picture Apollo Creed).

Build your plan to proactively address Pre-Mutiny and preserve your young manager’s early success. If they are as talented as you think, they will learn to use the same courage and persistence that my mentor taught me.

 

Managing Rumors – 101

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One of the hardest things for managers to do is manage rumors. When was the last time someone approached you to share a rumor that made you feel uncomfortable and threatened the ebb and flow of your business? Even if you are a member of a strong corporate culture where health and wellness is advocated and supported, concerning rumors will pop up randomly to test your managerial acumen. What do you do as a manager when someone brings a rumor to your attention? Below is my 4-Step method of managing rumors.

“I heard that Melissa was hung over at yesterday’s meeting.”

“I think Jennifer is using funds from the incentive plan to buy gifts for herself.”

“Someone said Ted smelled like weed when he got to work.”

1 – Listen

This seems obvious, but what isn’t so obvious is the idea that listening involves patience. Patience is key when presented with a rumor, as the application of patience can negate the temptation to overreact. The worst thing you can do is take action in the form of a knee-jerk reaction. Sometimes the rumor will elicit an emotional reaction from oneself. Who wouldn’t feel a sense of anger if you felt like an employee or teammate you trusted violated that trust and placed your team or department in a compromising position with your internal and external clients? When someone brings a rumor to your desk, ask questions to learn as much as you can about the situation. Specifically:

  • Who is the source of the rumor, and is the source/messenger credible?
  • What could that source’s political/personal agenda be?
  • Are there clear details around this rumor, or witnesses to the behavior?
  • Set the expectation that you will address it, and gain a commitment to keep it private.

“The Office” captures rumors at their worst!

2 – Investigate

Once you have the rumor reported and you have had the opportunity to ask questions about the source, potential agendas, and meaningful details you must gently and quietly validate or invalidate the rumor. A tactful approach is key as the simple mentioning of a rumor, true or not, can fan the flames and unintentionally validate it without evidence within the environment. Try to steer your investigation towards peers that you can trust to “discuss and forget.” What you want to do is find answers to the following concerns:

  • Is there enough information to act on the rumor?
  • Does the available information allow you to effectively discuss it with the subject?
  • Is there enough information and/or witnesses documented to take employment action (termination, counseling, etc.)?
  • If true, does the subject’s action put anyone’s safety at risk or compromise the pursuit of individual and team goals?
  • Review the subject’s individual performance to find any correlation with the timing of the report and results, and seek out erratic fluctuations with results or behaviors (attendance, etc.).
  • What does the source of the rumor have to gain, if anything, from the mere existence of the rumor?

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3 – Communicate

If you are able to collect a lot of data and there are enough witnesses to determine that specifically clear policies have been broken and the organization’s safety has been placed at risk, “Step-4” (below) doesn’t matter because you have the ability to terminate. But rumors don’t often come with the luxury of validation. We seek high and low for more information, often in vein. Hence the essence of a rumor. Most of the time you won’t be able to collect any additional information about the rumor during phase 1 and 2 of my 4-step process.

What do we do? The healthiest relationships revolve around honesty and communication. If there were a potentially damaging rumor about YOU, wouldn’t you want a trusted peer to share its existence with you? I would. Find a private place to sit down and introduce the concern by preceding that “I don’t see any evidence to suggest that what I have heard is true, but I want to be fair and communicate what I heard the other day. Someone approached me and shared a rumor that you…” The goal of this interaction is:

  • Provide an opportunity for the subject to explain, if necessary or possible, the existence of the rumor. This interaction could prompt a confession (which is healthy for everyone), or it could provoke a sense of rage and discrimination (which we cannot prevent, but we must accept the task of managing this as part of our role as leaders). Be prepared.
  • Open the door for future communication.
  • Present the situation honestly by admitting you investigated and found no evidence, or share the evidence you have found for open discussion.
  • Remind everyone of the policies in place to govern safety and performance.
  • Privately log the communication.
  • Scare someone straight, in case the rumor is true but cannot be proved.

4 – Observe

We have planted the seed that something might or might not be happening, and now we sit back and observe behaviors. The examples of rumors I provided above (theft, alcohol abuse, drug abuse) are behaviors that typically don’t occur once and then go away. These behaviors are often exhibited consistently over time, and you should expect to see evidence to validate the rumors if they were in fact true but difficult to corroborate. When these rumors become reality down the road you will have already documented an interaction regarding awareness of the potential issue, and you will have already set the expectation that the behavior described in rumor, true or not, is undesired.

If the rumors were ultimately unfounded you will have to gauge what impact has developed as a byproduct of sharing the rumor with the subject. Is the subject resentful? Is there a cloud of mistrust hovering over their desk? Have they changed the way they interact with teammates and clients? Some people will understand that you are doing your job as a manager and you have to address discerning reports. Others will hold a grudge and assume you are “out to get them.” You cannot control how people feel. You can only influence those feelings to varying degrees. Accept that once you have put your best foot forward, if they still hold resentment, then the subject must develop the ability to understand roles and perspectives outside of their own scope of view. This is difficult to do, and some people really struggle to do it. Maybe that will be my next blog subject?

Free Miracles! No Money Required!

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Living in one of the most blessed and wealthy countries on the globe comes with a lot of “pros” and a few “cons.” One con of being submerged in a capitalist society is the jaded sense of what the modern definition of a “miracle” is.

Some of the most popular television shows of the past 5 years have revolved around miracles that are simply lump sums of money gifted to people in need, typically from a wealthy business or business person. “Undercover Boss” and “Extreme Home Makeover” are a few of the better-known examples of this. When my wife watches these shows, she wells up with tears when a check swoops in to wash away someone’s troubles. I respect the generosity of philanthropists, and I acknowledge that I have personally benefitted from such giving. I am not attacking the concept of philanthropy.

I fear that Americans watch these shows and think, “Someday, I hope to be wealthy enough to help someone with a big check.” The truth is that miracles can happen every day, without large checks. There are meaningful ways within the world of business, and within our personal lives to make a miracle happen. Don’t underestimate the small miracles that mean so much more to their potential recipients.

If you are reading this you are probably wealthy with thoughtfulness, courage, and talent! This means you are already capable of making a miracle happen. Are you an expert in an industry or a successful businessperson? You could mentor a young professional who lacks some of the gifts you possess. Have you heard a rumor about a co-worker and thought to treat it as fact? Ignore it, and give that person a chance to invalidate those stories. You never know what emotional or intellectual need you could appropriately and generously fulfill for someone unless you have your ears and eyes open, instead of your checkbook.

I challenge you to look for those “Free Miracles” that actually cost the most precious commodity we have: TIME. Take a little time to create a miracle for someone and YOU will feel wealthy beyond the shallowness of currency. I guarantee it!