image of a young manager

Should I promote or fire him?

Have you already had this hard decision to make?

When you have to decide who you will choose between several managers to become a new team leader, and thinking about this, wondering if, after all, you have the right manager team on board?

Bob is just thinking about that right now.

Since he joined the company 5 years ago, as Business Unit director, he kept more or less the same organisation and the same staff. At the time, the teams seemed efficient and skilled, more than able to drive the business. But, he feels he has now to make a move, as things are not changing fast enough and they are losing market shares.

Image of Bob thinking

He wonders whose manager should be promoted to speed the business, and who should even go? He hesitates to make changes: “if it is not broken, don’t try to fix it”. He feels he is risking much and maybe there are other ways to shake his people? Besides, there is no-one he trusts enough to discuss the topic with. Ultimately, he decides to transform his business unit now, because not changing anything would be a bigger risk than shaking things.

Robert has been dealing with operations for more than 10 years.

He’s a technical expert, has been working in the company for 22 years now and has been promoted step by step since he joined as a trainee. Bob likes Robert, an easy-going guy, who knows everybody, and he can trust him. For sure, the job will be done, no doubt about that. Besides, employees like Robert very much, and any change could be tricky. However, Robert doesn’t bring so much innovation, doesn’t like big changes, and this could become a problem in the future (if not already!). Too much focused on « Business as Usual », he shows a lack of creativity, and that may explain the competitors taking over.

Ralf, the IT guy, joined the company only 6 years ago, and is much younger.

He’s a smart guy, highly skilled, but doesn’t seem very happy. Is he lacking motivation or is he just the wrong person at the wrong place? Bob doesn’t like Ralf as much as Robert. But is it a good criteria to make a decision? If Ralf leaves, who will bring new services to the market? He knows very well what’s going on, what has to be done to improve processes and business offer, and shows a very sharp analysis of the business as well as demonstrating a vision for the next decade. OK,  he manages less smoothly than Robert, but it may be an improvement point.

Nevertheless, there is only one position for leading the operations and Robert would never accept to change, and it would be a trauma for the staff if senior managers decide to struggle. So keeping him seems to be the only way to go? « Let’s do that then », thinks Rob. And too bad for Ralf… May be promoting him to take care about R&D on top of IT department?

And for what results? In order to be challenged, Bob finally asked us for a piece of advice, and we decided to launch an assessment center for both managers.

We had exactly the opposite feeling and did not agree with Bob on his plan to keep Robert and “get rid” of Ralf.

In a nutshell, we had discovered that Robert didn’t like this position so much, having always to bargain with the CEO, take care of employees problems, and would prefer to do less management and reporting and focus again on the technical side.

Ralf, on the other hand, is a bit bored in his position: he would like to grab more responsibilities and move forward. His dream? Transforming the organisation by putting his thousands ideas into actions. He would also love leading and empowering people. But he feels Bob doesn’t like him, and prefers a « senior manager », like Robert. He doesn’t dare to tell him his thoughts, as he fears not being heard.

When we put this on the table with Bob, he was very surprised. He even did not agree at all with this analysis. We had to debate, and even have had tough talks. But in the end, he admitted that he might have misjudged the two guys, and accepted to challenge his plans.

image of a young manager

We proposed Robert to take care of the R&D department, who accepted right away. « Less pressure, and above all no tough negotiation with the CEO anymore », he said. « Besides, focusing on the technical side and learning things again is what I want », he added.

As for Ralf, he jumped on the operations manager position, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Since then, he has managed to start a huge transformation, moving forward to the digital world and adapting an organisation that was a bit dusty and out of date. And guess what? His team loves him! And the company already gain 5% market share in 18 months, i.e. $12 million additional revenues!

What do we learn from this short story?

Mostly that management is not a science, but methods and tools can be leveraged to go ahead and make the right call.

And mentoring can help, by letting decision-makers « open their heart and mind » to someone outside the organisation, at no risk. This not only brings new ideas, but also allows them to foresee what they don’t understand from the inside.

You challenge every day your teams and managers. But who is challenging you?

Written by Cyril OGEE

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