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Manager's Corner: Control Freaks

Manager's Corner
Control Freaks

It's happening again. We've been contacted by several clients all dealing with the same issue: current top management is ready to move on (retire, sell, quit, transfer to a new division, etc.) and there's no staff ready or able to replace them. The problem from the clients' perspective is: How are we ever going to replace "Joe" as he's been here from the start and knows everything about this business and this company. There's no one out there that's going to be able to do everything Joe does. The problem from my perspective is: Joe's done it all, been it all, and run it all for years.
He's been superman: every time an employee couldn't get the job done; Joe figured out how to do it and got it done. Because of this, he's been a control-freak, hasn't developed his team, hasn't held others accountable, and now he's simply burnt-out. So, what to do?
First - Review with Joe everything he does in the course of a day, a week, and a month.
That alone will make you and Joe tremble, but it will also shed light on just what Joe spends his time doing, that he shouldn't be doing. You'll no doubt discover that Joe spends a great deal of time doing basic tasks that his staff should be handling, but they don't because "Joe's always done it." This exercise will allow you to get a good look at what tasks Joe is doing that are appropriate for his position, and what tasks he is doing that should and could be handled by other staff.
Second - Realign tasks to the appropriate positions. Develop a training and career-development plan for all effected employees to phase-in the realigned responsibilities. Ensure your employees understand what timeline you're working on and when they need to have the "new" skills firmly developed to take over the responsibilities their positions are responsible for.
Third - Direct this training and development project from the top with direct input and monitoring from the CEO, President, Director or other most senior position to send a clear signal that this is a serious project that needs immediate and successful implementation. Have your human resources and/or training manager work with you and Joe to develop basic training and "responsibility shift" plans to move tasks from Joe to others. (This is a skill Joe lacks and therefore hasn't done. HR/Training and top management need to walk him through the steps.)
Fourth - Review all other managers and management positions to determine what other "control freaks" you've got on staff who are not developing their team members and their successors. For any others you find, repeat the three steps above.
Pay attention to your management team and "key staff" day-in and day-out to determine more quickly when you've got control freaks forming. Nip that behavior in the bud and teach these hands-on, do-it-themselfers how to develop others. Help them understand the value in holding staff accountable to do the jobs they're paid to do. The goal is to not only produce day-in and day-out, but to develop a pool of skilled employees who are responsible and able to fulfill their current and future job responsibilities - and who are able to step in to vacancies when they occur. Don't allow control freaks to hold your other employees - or your organization - back.

Liz Weber of Weber Business Services, LLC. WBS specializes in Strategic, Business, and Succession Planning, as well as employee and leadership training. Contact: or 717-597-8890.

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