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Why Managers Struggle and What to Do About It

3 Key Points in this Episode:

  1. A reason why managers struggle to make decisions and handle confrontation.
  2. How to develop managers strengths and understand their weaknesses.
  3. Learn which weaknesses you can work around and which ones you cannot.

Just before we get started today, I wanted to remind you that we are running a survey right now to get to know you our loyal listeners better with the goal of using that information to produce a better podcast.

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Don’t forget to share the podcast with one person and give us a 5-star rating and review. This podcast can be found at jamieirvine.ca, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. I won’t make you wait any longer let’s start part 2 of the Managers That Lead mini-series.

Welcome to episode 84, this is part 2 of the mini-series, Build a Better Business – Managers That Lead.

In part 1 of this mini-series, we talked about what a manager that leads looks like, what to do if you have a manager that isn’t a leader and how to develop your next generation of leaders. You can get all this in episode 82.

There are three key things you will learn in part 2 of the Managers That Lead mini-series:

  1. A reason why managers struggle to make decisions and handle confrontation.
  2. How to develop managers strengths and understand their weaknesses.
  3. Learn which weaknesses you can work around and which ones you cannot.

Let’s get started.

Making Decisions and Handling Confrontation

Last week in part 1, I talked about how managers that win the attrition battle lose the war for the businesses they work for. I discussed the fact that these employees who get promoted to a management position strictly because they have worked for the business for a long time and are often good at their job lack the ability to lead.

I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that leaders must make decisions and handle confrontation.

So, the question becomes, why do some managers lack the ability to effectively make decisions and handle confrontation?

It goes back to the fact that these managers possessed certain qualities that made them good at their job before their promotion. Those personality traits that made them good at their job are very different than the personality traits that are required to be a manager that leads.

When an employee is promoted to a manager an assumption is made that goes something like this, “they are good at their job, so they will be good at managing people who do that job.”

When in fact the opposite is often true. They lack the ability to handle many of the aspects of management which include making decisions and handling confrontation.

But, wait a minute, aren’t most great managers often employees of their companies first?

Yes, but those people possessed the personality traits required to do the job well but are better suited to be a manager and so when they get promoted, they excel.

Let me illustrate it this way.

Imagine you are a talented classical musician. Before you joined the orchestra, you played local venues in your hometown. When people heard you play in your hometown, they appreciated your talent but once you got promoted to the orchestra you really flourished in that environment and soon became a well-respected conductor.

That is like the employee who has the ability and talent to do the job well but once they become a manager they flourish.

Now imagine that you are an average musician who has a fair amount of experience at the local level and can put on a decent show. Then due to a series of events that left the orchestra short you got invited to be the conductor. Immediately your lack of ability to perform at that level would be apparent.

This is the experience of the employee who is promoted to the position of manager but lacks the ability to be a manager that leads.

Why do these managers often struggle specifically with decision making and handling confrontation?

Education and experience can play a part, but the primary reason is that the individual lacks the necessary personality traits to effectively be a decision maker and handle confrontation. When they attempt to make decisions or handle confrontation, they go into something called “avoidance behavior.” This is very frustrating for the leader of the business and for the employees in that manager’s charge.

The leader gives the manager direction to be more decisive or the authority to deal with a confrontational situation. The manager responds with a bunch of reasons why they cannot do that and tries to justify their existence by doing things that are important but not what the leader wants them to do at that time.

The employees that the manager is responsible for get frustrated because they see the manager very busy but not making necessary decisions that would allow them to do their job or dealing with things that are causing problems for the department or the business.

This is a frustrating situation for the leader, a stressful situation for the ill-equipped manager, and a disheartening experience for the employees in that manager’s charge. What everyone in this situation usually fails to understand, including the ill-equipped manager themselves, is that their inability to make decisions and handle confrontation or conflict is driven by lower levels of assertiveness, possibly sociability, and behavior adaptability. These people are often higher in agreeableness as well.

The only way to know if this is a personality trait issue is to use the profile-first approach and first create an ideal profile for the management position and then profile your manager to see if they match the profile or are misaligned. I recommend Screen2Fit by Profile and if you want to learn more about the 7 personality traits that drive people’s behavior you can go to jamieirvine.ca/profile.

Assuming they are misaligned you will have concrete scientific evidence that supports your assumption that this individual is not a manager with leadership capabilities and you can either let the person go or find a better suiting position for their personality within the business.

So, the question becomes, if the manager in question is a fit from a personality profile perspective but is underperforming how do you help them become a manager that leads?

I will answer that after we hear from our sponsors.

Before the break, we asked the question, if the manager in question is a fit from a personality profile perspective but is underperforming how do you help them become a manager that leads?

Identifying Strengths and Minimizing Weaknesses

There is a big difference between a person who fundamentally does not possess the needed personality traits to be a leader and an individual who possess the necessary personality traits but lacks education or experience.

When you scientifically identify someone as an individual who has a good fit for the profile you are looking for in managers the next step is to put in place the structure and environment where that person can grow into the position and become a manager that leads.

This involves identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the individual.

From here on out we are going to assume that the person we are talking about has the personality profile you are looking for.

Let’s say that the person has three strengths that are appealing to you. Let’s say in this example the person is punctual, has cognitive ability (they are smart and learn quickly), and they have drive.

You would want to accentuate these strengths and leverage them to the benefit of the customer and your business. So, for example, you could confidently advertise that your team will be punctual. You could give the individual training and structure the individual’s compensation package in such a way that would financially reward them for growth which would appeal to their drive.

They also have three weaknesses that you need to decide if you can either put up with or help the individual overcome. Let’s say their weaknesses include bad hygiene, they lack the experience necessary to assume the management role today, and they can be blunt which at times is perceived as rude.

At this point, you have a decision to make. You will need to do a cost-benefit analysis which will tell you how much cost financially and in just plain emotional and physical energy it will take to get this individual to meet your criteria to be a manager.

Perhaps the hygiene issue could be easily solved by just having a frank conversation with the individual about standards and the negative impact not meeting those standards can have.

You already know this individual is smart and learns quickly so maybe investing in their education costs you some money today but will provide an excellent return on investment tomorrow.

The individual’s bluntness could just be a communication style that needs some work, or it could indicate an attitude that is unfavorable. If the former is true, education and a frank discussion about how you expect the individual to communicate is all that is required to solve the problem, but if the former is true and the person just has a bad attitude and doesn’t care about how their words affect people you may have to eliminate that person from your pool of candidates for the management position.

I’m going to state two things that I know from personal experience to be true:

  1. I hire and promote for personality-profile first and attitude second. If the individual is a good fit for my profile and has a great attitude, I will move heaven and earth to get that person up to speed and in that role.
  2. Patience is a double-edged sword, patience for someone who has a bad fit from a profile perspective and has proven through their actions (not words) that they have a bad attitude with no intention of changing is a total waste of your time and energy. Conversely, if you see something in someone that no one else sees, not even the individual themselves, and they test well from a profile perspective trust your instincts and be patient with them.

If you want to hear the story of the guy I hired whose family had written him off and everyone kept asking me why I kept the guy on and the story of the guy I hired who was a hard worker but I ended up firing, send me an email ([email protected]) and I will be happy to tell you the story.

The long and the short is this. There are no easy solutions when it comes to hiring employees and managers. But there are specific things that you can do to make it much easier. If you want to learn more about personality profiles go to jamieirvine.ca/profile where I have some great information and 7 videos explaining each of the seven personality traits we measure. This is information that my sponsor Screen2Fit by Profile charges for and I am giving it to you for free because I appreciate you as a listener of the podcast.

This concludes part-2 of this mini-series.

On Tuesday, in episode 85 I am going to introduce you to Dayne Shuda. Dayne is the owner of Ghost Blog Writers and he provides an excellent blog writing service for busy business owners who have a blog but don’t have time to write consistently. Dayne shares some great information about how to overcome writer’s block.

Don’t forget I have set up a very quick survey. You can find it at jamieirvine.ca/survey. Would you please take the survey today? Your feedback is essential.


This episode sponsored by:

Trackstar Web Design

Every business needs a website and I have used Gerrit and Trackstar Web Design since 2012 and so should you.

Process Street

I use Process Street to create systems in my business and I highly recommend that you use Process Street as well.


Thank you for listening and I look forward to working with you soon.

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