I'm Doing This Wrong and I'm not Sure what to Change, How to Change it or When It's Time to Take the Disciplinary Approach

Questions on Management


kathleen travers
Manager, United States

I'm Doing This Wrong and I'm not Sure what to Change, How to Change it or When It's Time to Take the Disciplinary Approach

Six months ago, I was promoted to manage the project management team I was a part of. As a fellow PM, I had always taken a leadership type role by mentoring, speaking for the team, streamlining processes, etc. The team all seemed to be accepting my transition to the management role and even stated that it was an obvious transition. Since I've been in the role, I've provided more support than the previous manager before could, I've instituted changes that made sense for the team and helped simplify some of their processes. Still, I have multiple things I need help with.
I - There are methodology requirements we are held to that most of them fall short of. My approach to this situation has been twofold. First, understand why they aren't doing the methodology and either change a process because the reason highlights a valid gap or work with the person and their approach in managing a project. Second, explain why/how these particular requirements help them and protect them when managing a project. Then I set the expectation that these items need to be done and I will be tracking them. They continue to not do so great, with many excuses although there is slight improvement. How do I approach when they are not meeting the requirements and the excuses are just that - excuses?
2 - From a training perspective, if after training some people - and re-explaining the same thing over and over and over again - still don't get it... What do you do? Even when these things are documented? I tend to explain again. It's daunting. I think I should be instead asking them questions to get them to think it through and referring them to the documentation. I actually think of doing that too. What do you do? At what point do I let them learn from their own mistakes? I'm in healthcare - what we do affects a patient in the long run. So I find I'm always trying to get them to understand. And then there's a part of me that is completely exasperated at the person.
3 - I find there are situations where to me it's very obvious how to handle it. Or when escalation is needed. Or when we don't wait but instead act. And the team just doesn't. I get exasperated because action is needed now, and I take over. Or I take over in effort to help. This is wrong. I need to instead get them to think about what they should do - lead them to the conclusion. I think I'm de-valuing them and taking away their empowerment however, I'm only doing the take over when it's gotten too far and I'm finding out about it. I've tried to impress upon the team that they are empowered to do whatever is best for the right outcome. Make the call now - don't wait until the next meeting. Escalate if the vendor isn't responding. I don't know how to get in front of this so it's not always too late. And I need to have the patience to lead them to the conclusion they need to make. But I don't know if there's something else I should be doing differently.
4 - Some team members give me attitude. I tend to ignore it and maintain professionalism. One of them has repeatedly expressed how much I've helped the team and yet - sometimes he feels the need to challenge me in a condescending way. Most of me wants to walk away from management. I've been a manager before and did not have these issues. I know I'm better off learning how to do better though. I appreciate any responses, critique, etc and/or reference to specific articles in this forum for me to read. Thank you.


Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

In Management, One Size Does not Fit All...

Thank you Kathleen for sharing your situation. This is not the place for in-depth personal coaching, but from what you wrote and to get you started I recommend you have a look at situational leadership.
Starting with the most problematic persons/areas, for each team member and for each major job area (task), assess to what extent they are A. Capable and B. Motivated for it. Work from there and apply the matching leadership style. For detailed steps see our summary.

Ahmad Sultan Abdulla
Consultant, Malaysia

Start with Different Folks, Different Strokes

I totally agree with de Jonge. The program called Situational Leadership (SL) would be of great help to you on basic steps of developing your team. You need to review the ability of your individual team members and their willingness to do it. They are many factors that may lead to the behaviour that you have described and it needs a conversation. The conversation here means they talk and you listen - listen to the underlying issues and probe for more to clarify and verify these issues. It could be a behaviour issue or it could be a skill / ability issue. Your response should be based on what you have analysed. SL would be a great help to you.

Rob Thompson
Coach, United Kingdom

Look at Where This Comes From...

Hi Kathleen
I completely understand your position - the hardest part of any job is dealing with the adults😃 From a coaching perspective, what I see in your critique is a 'surface level' analysis of what the staff are "doing" and that the emotional elements of it reside in you - i.e. how you feel about what they are doing (or not!). If you see leadership as being a balance of the operational (what you are describing) and the motivational (a complex area rooted in the subconscious) then it will pay you well to attend more to the motivational elements of what your team are doing.
For example, if you only took over 6 months ago, then there will of course still be legacy features of how your team behaved then compared with how they behave now. The problem of course is that when you become the leader, you take on the behaviours and mindsets and can respond to it as though it's personal (hence "most of me wants to walk away from management..."). It's not about you, it's about what your team/individuals are gaining by behaving as they do - e.g. it keeps them safe, prevents them from failing, holds them up to standards they feel they cannot meet and so forth. Don't despair, you are describing common vagaries of the human condition; having coaching conversations which go deeper into where the motivations come from will help you and your staff to become more connected - since it appears that the connections are with doing the task right or to a high enough quality rather than at a human level where we are all in it together wanting to do the best job we can for each other. I have found that the 'BART' approach to exploring leadership and team behaviours is really useful and deep and that the Beckhard formula of C = D x V x S > R helps you to get into different techniques and strategies for developing others. There's more on these on this site :).

kathleen travers
Manager, United States

Thank you for your Response

@Rob Thompson: Hi Rob, thank you for your reply. The human approach is how I started and is more my natural approach as I do have a passion to help people to excel to their best potential. I began to question that approach when I started experiencing their disregard and continued failure to comply to our PMO processes. I know it's me that has to find a more effective balance between managing and coaching. It was nice to be reminded that the human approach is valid. I definitely need to regroup. Kathleen.

Sreejith M
Business Consultant, Netherlands

Analysing the Root Cause

Hey! Kathleen
Thanks' for sharing your experience and I should say your context does invoke the necessity for some investigation.
Have you tried to create a subjective assessment of critical success factors based on the desired outcomes of a required process change of the given project, to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your team. I would say try creating one and benchmark it with best performers. Pick the weakest link' (a set of team members) in the assessment based on a critical process flow, that you wish to change and create a forum for dialogue with them. Once you have listened, create your assessment of the biggest and lowest "change-friction" elements of the process. Please cross-check with link member's feedback. Now assign a champion for each "change element" and establish an incentive for success or suggesting a constructive modification. Take this as an iterative process, that requires control and continuous monitoring.
You first need to know whether its the process construction itself or the performance aspect that's causing the gap. From there on its easier to isolate, control, rectify and implement the change.
Hope this bit gives you a simple yet achievable start to approach the issue. Let me know!;)).


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