Leadership

Building Proactive Managers with Training

Yesterday’s Advisor presented employment lawyer Jathan Janove’s insight that management is like skiing—it’s important to lean forward, not back. Today we present some concrete tips from Janove for training proactive managers.

Janove’s book, Managing to Stay out of Court (Berrett-Koehler/Society for Human Resource Management), includes the following proactive management tips that you can teach your managers and supervisors.

‘That Was Then, This Is Now’ is a good way to effect change in an organization. Grant amnesty for all past mistakes but set new standards and stick with them.

Make a date. When employees approach a manager with a complaint or question at inconvenient times, such as when the manager must finish an urgent task, instruct managers not to brush the questions off (as in, “Don’t worry about it”). Instead, they should say, “I can’t answer you now, but come to my office at 3:30 today and we’ll discuss it then.”

Don’t stay mum. In almost every situation, including impending layoffs, it is wiser and more effective for managers to share all the information they have with their subordinates. Otherwise, what Janove calls the Law of Employee Speculation kicks in. The only exceptions involve confidential employee health or other personal data.

React immediately. A manager who sees a subordinate do something praiseworthy or less than satisfactory should say so right then, following up soon with the same feedback in writing. Janove advises direct, immediate, and specific feedback.

Avoid misguided benevolence. Janove tells several stories that led to lawsuits. All are characterized by managers’ unwillingness to openly acknowledge a subordinate’s problems and deal with them in a straightforward way. A manager’s evaluations should always be an honest assessment of job performance. It’s just as bad to give satisfactory reviews to someone who is not performing adequately as it is to terminate the person and lie about the reason.

Be honest about terminations. If you say it’s a layoff when it’s not, or simply assert that the individual was an at-will employee, you’re telling lies that may catch up with you. Use specific performance- or behavior-based reasons.

How effective are your leadership training efforts? How effective are your company’s training programs at developing supervisors and managers into effective leaders who are proactive in their management style?

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