Recently a colleague asked me for advice to help him with one of his clients. My colleague's been working with this particular client for several years, but it's getting to a point of frustration where my colleague's ready to walk away. The manager -- or as my colleague now calls him -- The Teflon King, is incredibly skilled at deflecting responsibility and accountability. He's also amazingly skilled at bamboozling the board of directors by not bringing issues to their attention that would show mismanagement on his part, pushing work and decisions to the board that he and his staff should be addressing, and protecting his inadequately-trained and rude staff. Instead, he seems more comfortable in some type of peacekeeper role -- i.e., he prefers to help keep everyone and everything appear smooth and efficient, while all heck is breaking loose with the customers because of his mismanagement and his staff's poor customer relations and work.
The board is comprised of volunteers -- all interested and well-meaning -- but not professionally skilled or trained in this respective industry either. The manager and the board were all given their respective positions by the organization's owner -- who, has limited day-to-day interest in the organization's operations. He trusts the management team and the board.
My colleague has been working with the board and has developed a good working relationship with its members. However, he's had limited success in getting them to fully comprehend the ineffectiveness of the manager and its subsequent negative impact on customer relations and the long-term negative impact on their entire organization. My colleague is stuck. What should he do to help the board guide this organization towards greater effectiveness?
My suggestion to him was: Instead of making it sound personal -- i.e., you against the manager -- why don't you make your suggestions and recommendations to the board position-oriented?
Clarify with the board, what their role and responsibilities are and what the role and responsibilities of the manager and each of his key staff positions are.
For example, the board of directors' role is to direct - through policy discussion and vote - what direction the organization should take in the future. The board's task is to discuss and analyze the big-picture issues that will allow this organization to grow and thrive into the future -- or which may threaten it. The board -- which only meets once each month -- does not have the time to debate issues affecting daily operations and rather basic customer issues. The board should be holding the management team accountable to ensure the daily operations are conducted smoothly, effectively, and efficiently -- with care given to ensure the customers' concerns and needs are addressed. The manager, on the other hand, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization. Also, given the staff's daily interaction with customers, their services, and other vendors, the manager is responsible for bringing to the board specific suggestions for policy discussions, analysis of the ramifications of each suggestion presented, and recommendations for action -- based upon their experience with the daily operations and industry. Also, the manager is the point person to ensure his staff is properly trained, responsive, and effective in representing the organization to the customers and media. The manager and his team do the leg-work for the board; it shouldn't be the other way around. The manager works for the board. The directors direct, but only after the manager does his job.
If the board is taught to start focusing their time and efforts to more effectively fulfill their responsibilities, by default more legwork, information, and accountability will be pushed to the manager and his team. It will take time, but doing the job they've been asked to fulfill, the board will start to better understand the importance of also holding the manager and his staff accountable to effectively fulfill the jobs they've been hired to do.
However, when directors direct and managers do, incredible things happen in organizations. It just requires work, focus, and a willingness to be responsible and accountable.
Copyright MMVI - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!