Continued from page 1
Many branch managers feel: The area manager may see it as a trivial matter and not important enough to bring to their attention. That seeking advice and guidance will be seen in a negative way by area manager. The area manager will go into fault finding mode rather than helping find solutions. The area manager may start questioning branch manager’s ability to do job.
Many managers have in past gone to their area mangers for advice and support on team performance issues but received such a negative, unhelpful reply that many were put off from ever doing so again, even when they changed to a different area manager.
There is also a feeling that area managers themselves do not know what to do either. “Bring me solutions not problems” is a common comment heard by branch managers when they have taken a ‘people’ issue to their area manager.
Offering support and guidance It is a fact that very few area managers actively encourage branch managers to talk about their ‘people’ issues or are prepared to probe below surface to identify possible performance or behaviour problems that may be affecting business. There are many examples where area managers have placed managers in ‘problem’ branches without preparing them for issues they will face or helped or supported them once they have taken up position. Basically they throw them to wolves and then leave them to get on with it.
Another common issue is when assistant manager of branch is turned down for manager position. Very few area managers are competent in explaining why an individual was not appointed and give excuses rather than valid reasons. This results in new manager having to experience considerable hostility and resentment from not only their deputy but from many of team also.
Why do many area managers not offer support or guidance or dig below surface looking for performance issues? There are a number of reasons for this.
Unconscious Competence There is a saying that
“Good Management will result in good people staying and not-so-good people either improving or leaving. Where as Bad Management will result in good people leaving and not-so-good people staying and possibly getting even worse”.
During their time as branch managers, many area managers did not experience risky, difficult or complicated people issues. If they did, they often resolved them unconsciously. They just acted as good managers should, which resulted in issues being resolved quickly. Ask any manager who is competent in performance or behaviour management “how do you do it or what do you do?” and you will probably receive a shrug of shoulders and a comment like “I don’t know specifically, I just do it” (Unconscious Competence)
Unconscious competence is not acceptable at area management level as a key requirement of job is to coach and train branch managers in performance management. Area managers can only fulfil this critical function if they know exactly what is to be done and how to do it. (Conscious competence)
Conscious Incompetence Unfortunately there are area managers in existence who ‘know’ they are not personally competent in dealing with performance and behaviour issues and will go to great lengths not to expose this weakness to others. (Conscious incompetence) These area managers tend to encourage branch managers to not make waves, maintaining status quo and to tolerate rather than develop. They certainly do not dig below surface in a branch seeking ‘people’ issues that may be affecting business.
One of most disappointing comments I heard from a seasoned area manager when asked why he was not supporting his managers was “I am not allowed to get involved as I am next step of appeal process”.
A good measure of an area manager’s competence is to look at performance and behaviour of area manager’s branch manager team. It is pretty certain that if they cannot coach and encourage branch mangers in tackling of performance and behaviour issues then you can be sure they themselves are not tackling branch manager performance or behaviour issues.
Possible Solutions If a retail organisation needs to tackle performance or behaviour issues at branch levels, I believe they need to develop skills and competence of performance management at area management level first as area managers alone have authority and are biggest influence on branch manager effectiveness.
Unconscious competent area managers need to become consciously competent so they can not only develop others but also develop themselves further. Conscious incompetent area managers need to admit that they are not effective in performance or behaviour management and be prepared to learn and develop necessary skills. If they are not prepared to do so then they themselves need to be performance managed by company. After all, Executives cannot demand that branch managers tackle performance and behaviour issues one moment and then not do so themselves when they need to. That isn’t leading by example.
Anthony Dance is managing director of outlook management development, a retail performance management and management development organisation. He is also an accomplished speaker on performance management issues and has over 15 years first hand experience of senior operational management roles. Anthony can be contacted through his web site www.outlookretail.com