Here’s a scenario you may have seen when a new manager got promoted at your company. See if you can identify the key mistakes this new manager made:

Sue just got promoted in an organization where hitting deadlines is a core value. The CEO believes deadlines are the key to excellence and that people who miss deadlines are lazy and disorganized. Right or wrong, that’s the culture, and Sue thrived in it. She never missed a deadline in her life.

Now, barely settled into her new office, she gets a visit from Don, a direct report with whom she shared a cubicle before her promotion. He says that a vendor let him down. A part will arrive a week late and he’s going to miss his deadline for a new product design.

And Sue says, “That same vendor did that to me once, too. I’d like you to call them and find out if you can get the part any faster. Otherwise, the big boss is going to throw a fit.”

What went wrong?

You probably spotted some huge mistakes Sue made. Here are three:

  1. She empathized with Don, saying she understood his disappointment. Managers should never sympathize with poor performance.
  2. She softly suggested that Don pressure the vendor. That needed to be a strong directive with some teeth.
  3. She abdicated her own role as an authority figure by saying the CEO would be angry about the missed deadline (this was the biggest mistake of all).

Overall problem: Sue thinks she’s still “one of the guys.” She doesn’t realize that as a manager she’s on stage and that she needs to embody the values and culture of the organization.

photo credit: Foxtongue


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