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Managing Your Inheritance

In the December issue I wrote about the newly hired (or promoted) manager who inherits a new team. If and when this happens, one of the most critical tasks on a to-do list is to evaluate your direct reports.   

The process starts when you are interviewed for the position, whether as an external candidate or internal employee.  In most cases the manager you would be reporting to is already familiar with the direct reports. Ask him or her about the individuals, either in a general way “anything you feel I should know about the people currently reporting to this position?” Or in a more pointed way, “ can we take a few minutes and go over the basic history of each direct report to this position? “    How much and what type of information about your direct reports should you want during the interview?  This can be a sticky question.  Keep in mind that if personal opinions are given, they are just that – opinions.  You may be interviewed by a manager who says,  “In my opinion, Ned on your staff needs to be replaced. He’s really slacking on the job.” 

When such opinions are given on your ‘inheritance’ you need to remain objective. You should ask if Ned has been reprimanded and if he has any disciplinary notes in his file.  If there are none, there could be personal difficulties between Ned and your manager.  Be careful how you handle “personal opinions” about your new downline.

A REAL LIFE PREDICAMENT

I was in Texas last year visiting plants and spent time with a newly hired GM.   He had inherited a chief engineer who had been hired a few months prior to his arrival.  In this instance he knew the chief engineer had been hired by the company’s corporate director of engineering. What he did not know until he started with the company was that the chief was a personal friend of the corporate director and he had relocated from the East coast to take the position.

The GM shared his concerns with me about the chief engineer being less than a good fit. He was in quite the predicament. He was committed to developing his subordinate into a better department manager, but he was also was uncomfortable with the alternative -- terminating someone connected by both a dotted line and a personal relationship to a senior manager. Additionally, the chief engineer in question had moved himself and his family to Texas for the job.   The option in the middle would be to demote him to an assistant chief, which would include a cut in pay.  

BACK TO THE BASICS

I spent a few days contemplating this very delicate situation.  Then I decided to go back to the basics.  The basics in this case start with reviewing the job description. If no job description exists, create one. In this example, the chief engineer needed to clearly see what the priorities were, in order of priority:

  1. Hands on troubleshooting and repair skills
  2. Attract, hire and develop maintenance techs
  3. Effectively manage utilities
  4. Assist in improving production efficiencies
  5. Take ownership of plant safety     

The chief engineer did not have adequate hands on skills and he had made minimal progress filling tech openings. Anticipating backlash from the worst case scenario I suggested that the GM build consensus on his pending decision. I suggested that the GM share the job description with the owners and the corporate director to get some feedback on the document and the priorities.  The GM needed to ask the corporate director - preferably in person – how he felt the chief engineer met the job description responsibilities and priorities.  I also suggested that if the corporate director did not acknowledge the shortcomings of the current chief, it would be imperative for the GM to meet with one or more of the owners for advice.

If, in fact, the chief was a “bad hire” then at the end of the day the GM, the director and ownership need to agree on how to fix it in the best interests of the business. 

COACH FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

Our industry has many second and third generation family owned laundry companies.   Often there are the managers hired by owner operators who intend to have a family member report to the non – family manager.  The best way to navigate this minefield is to have open and candid communication with the owners prior to and during the assignment. Although the textbook goes out the window, think of it as a compliment since you are no doubt being relied on as a role model and mentor.  Remember, no matter what (or who) your inheritance is, the mark of a good manager is blending some insightful analysis, basic structure, and a sincere personality.

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Employee Crushes Hand on Ironer

SOMMERVILLE, Mass. — A commercial laundry has been fined by OSHA after an employee’s had was crushed while lubricating the chain of an ironer that was running. The OSHA inspection found that the machine was not de-energized prior to the maintenance that was attempted. Royal Institutional Services Inc., has been cited by OSHA for four alleged violations of workplace safety standards. The laundry, owned by Angelica Corp., faces a total of $49,935 in proposed fines.