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When You Are The New Sheriff In Town

If you are like most managers in our industry, you will move to a new arena because of a job change or promotion during your career.  You will blend your leadership style, “change agent” abilities, and recruiting skills into your management strategy.

This career change may occur as early as your first management position, perhaps as a laundry manager for an in-house OPL or as a route supervisor. You may be the highly recruited general manager coming in to turn around a failing plant.  But regardless of what level position you are taking on, be prepared for “push-back” from those reluctant to change at your new company.  

When you take on a new position – one of the hardest things to do is evaluate your direct reports.  These individuals who you have inherited, will make you or break you. Draw upon your instincts and understanding of human nature to develop a relationship of trust and credibility with each direct report. Your success in the new position depends upon your new reports “buying in” on all changes. In essence, supporting you and your decisions in your position, whether or not they are in line with your predeccssors.  Simultaneously, you must decide if they live up to your expectations of the responsibilities that their position calls for.

Meet separately with each direct report several times the first 30 days. Meet over a cup of coffee – it is more personal and disarming. Get to know them, their history, their observations, ideas, shortcomings, etc. Ask for their input on their position.  Find out what they think could or should be changed and why.  You may find someone who is capable and wants to take on a greater role. 
And, people love to talk.  You will garner important information on your employee and the other employees. 

Even if your inherited team looks competent and stable, consider setting some contingency plans in motion.  Put the word out to your network of contacts that you are looking for talent.  Consider running a blind ad or identifying a trustworthy independent recruiter who specializes in our industry.  Some managers, arriving into a new position, will put everyone on alert by diplomatically letting each direct report know that they need to plan on “re-interviewing” for their position, potentially even along side external candidates.

How much time should you give each of your inherited direct reports before you decide if you should recruit replacements?  Pulling the trigger too quick on your inherited direct reports may not give them the benefit of your coaching ability and leadership vision.  Quick terminations are a double edged sword, if done right and for the right reason, a step forward for your success.  If done without forethought  and finesse then fear and  anxiety will dilute productivity and send a mixed message among the remaining team  Separately, can you quietly search for back – up candidates without tipping your hand ? 

Be flexible and keep your wits about you   Be prepared to have one or more direct reports jump ship. If you run a blind ad realize the local talent pool may not provide candidates with certain aspects of experience.  Have the confidence to bring in replacements who will require training time and closer supervision. 

If you are inheriting the former manager in your position who was demoted in order for you to step in and assume control the situation is ripe for resentment. Most will recognize this as a high risk recipe for potential sabotage and undermining of your effectiveness, especially if the demotion did not take place prior to your interview process.  On the other hand, if you are convinced the former manager strongly wants out of the leadership limelight role due to the extra stress, or because they have accepted their own shortcomings, then you may have a good ally.  One more reason to create a lot of opportunities for candid and insightful communication.   

Recruiting management talent from former employers goes on in all industries, at all levels.  After National Linen hired the former president of Wells Fargo (Armored division) in 1996 many Wells Fargo senior and middle managers followed and subsequently changed the corporate culture.  A year later, at that same company a regional VP from RUS, a leading uniform rental company joined National Linen and brought many general managers and branch managers with him.   Less effort was put on developing internal talent, and the perception was felt at the plant operations level.

What were the repercussions?  RUS, perhaps vulnerable from its depletion of management talent, was acquired by Cintas.  Ironically, practically all the former RUS general managers were replaced by Cintas’s internal developed management.  Meanwhile, several years later NLS, once a powerhouse of home grown talent, was acquired by ALSCO.   

On a more grass roots level should you actively reach out to former subordinates?  Will bridges be burned with your former employer?  If you left a very difficult work environment then other employees may be motivated to follow you, however, don’t do it for purely selfish reasons. Uprooting someone to relocate for a lateral move may adversely impact family members and create life changing events. Also, some restrictive covenants propose litigation for recruiting former employees. 

There are no easy answers, but the consensus is to closely look at all the pluses and minuses from the very first day and consider implementing several contingency options.  And yes, recruiting, interviewing and hiring skills will come in handy.

Craig Lloyd is the owner of, a management search firm specializing in the industrial / instructional laundry industry.  He is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and holds a degree in Industrial Relations from Rider University.  Contact him at 877 / 295-5693 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Fire in Jail Laundry

DURHAM, N.C. — A fire in the laundry room at a County Jail in Durham damaged goods but required no evacuation. The fire, which originated in a dryer, damaged hundreds of uniforms. In addition to the lost goods, the jail’s laundry sustained water and smoke damage. The fire was extinguished by the sprinkler system that had been activated.