Jim Moore of CommUlinks posted a wonderful response to the following question on a mailing list for prospect researchers. He granted me permission to repost it here.
Q: Can anyone share with me ways to ensure development officers are submitting contact reports? Or tools that you have provided them with?
A: You’re asking a classic management/supervision question. What I offer is one, perhaps unique, point of view. I’ve been a department head in a Viacom corporation, a COO at an NYC independent TV station, and either CEO or CFO at 4 nonprofits. Some of this was learned through training and some through the school of hard knocks.
There are many angles of attack on this problem, and several may work. This starts with adopting a style you can be comfortable with–one that fits with your own past practices. If you’re normally a lamb, and you come on like a lion, that probably won’t work–and the reverse it true as well.
First a comment on “withholding compensation/expense reimbursement” as a sanction. This can be a very dangerous practice and may violate wages and hours laws–or it may alienate employees who feel that you are withholding THEIR money as a penalty. I’d recommend against such draconian practices, because they might be illegal and they could, in the right circumstances, become part of a discrimination case.
BETTER TO LEAD THAN PLEAD:
1. Set expectations clearly and unequivocally. This duty is part of the job and it’s not optional.
2. Reinforce the importance of the expectation. It is vital to communicate both the purpose of the task and why it’s essential that it be done well and on time. Motivate employees to be vested in the outcome by helping them understand where their piece fits into the success formula for the organization.
a. Corollary: if you can’t make that case, reconsider the expectation. Be sure what you’re demanding of employees makes sense and contributes significantly to the organization’s success.
3. Reward good performance. That doesn’t mean raises or bonuses. It simply means recognize those who do the job impeccably. That recognition may be public. Words like “thank you” and “good job” are far more cherished than employees will ever let on.
4. Enforce the rules when individuals don’t perform. Don’t let it slide. If the report is late, ask about it. Demand it: “I need that no later than…[day/time].” If that deadline is not met, escalate. “Is there a reason you haven’t given me the report?” “Do you need help?”
5. Train as needed, but don’t allow spurious claims that more training is needed to sidetrack reasonable expectations.
6. Reward improvement. Recognize those who turn it around and reinforce that good behavior.
7. Take action against those who don’t comply when they have been given the opportunity to do so. Your authority comes from a simple premise: Failure to deliver the goods is, at some point, grounds for termination.
8. If one or more individuals essentially refuse to comply-even if they are otherwise good performers-you OWE IT TO THE OTHER EMPLOYEES to enforce the rules and take corrective action.
9. Many management interventions involve a three or four step process:
a. Conversation-alert that there’s a problem and informal steps to correct the problem;
b. Formal conversation-a “verbal warning” that is documented in the individual’s personnel file. The formality of this step should be disclosed, and the verbal warning should be supported with a letter confirming the verbal warning.
c. Written warning. This step is serious. It should include language such as, “failure to correct this performance problem may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
d. Suspension or termination. If the person is salvageable or valued for other things, suspension is worth considering. If, however, the person is otherwise just a mainstream employee with no specialized skills or extraordinary performance history, termination may be an appropriate step.
e. Alternate-at any point you, as the manager, may consider reassignment to a job better suited to the individual’s strengths.
10.Yes, that’s HARSH. But as a manager, that’s the cornerstone of your RESPONSIBILITY to the organization. If you fail to do your job as a manager, then you can’t expect employees to take seriously their duties.
11.Manage for the best employees. Remember that those who are doing what they are supposed to do will observe how you treat those who don’t do what they should be doing. This will undermine their belief in the importance of those tasks, and they’ll ask “…if Joe can get away with not doing this, why am I busting my butt to do it?” Good employees resent employees who get away with not doing their jobs. As supervisor, you get to demonstrate respect for those who deliver by demanding that those who don’t deliver get with the program or find employment elsewhere.
12.Good management practices are hard work for the manager. They often demand that you, as manager, drop everything and attend to the business at hand. That means that you come back to the tasks you were doing later-often on “overtime.” But the investment pays off. All those old clichés about doing it right or doing it over-and any other “truism” you can throw at this situation-apply here. Step up, bite the bullet, and lead employees. There’s no substitute for this.
You may not be the manager in this situation. You may be trying to drive the car from the back seat. The manager responsible for the behavior above may not be doing his/her job, and you may be stuck with the consequences. If that’s the case, you may be stuck trying to accomplish with relationships and/or politics what the manager should be doing. That can be a very difficult and dangerous position to be in.
1. Your first step is to “manage up.” Attempt to convince the person responsible-or if you don’t report to the responsible person, attempt to get your supervisor to advocate on your behalf. Illustrate the problem and its costs. Seek a correction. Make a solid case and be prepared to hear a lot of excuses why the manager hasn’t done his/her job. The most likely excuse is that so-and-so does this, that or the other very well.
2. If that fails, you might try relationship building with the culprits. Contact them directly and prevail upon them to do their jobs, because, presumably, it is affecting your job. If you have a collegial relationship with them, they might respond.
3. The last resort is politics. This is a very dangerous choice and it probably has a better chance of backfiring than succeeding. Complain to the manager of the supervisor who is not managing well. Don’t attack people. Attack the problem. Resist at all costs any temptation to throw individuals under the bus. Tell the high-ranking manager how to find evidence of the problem and leave it to the high-ranking manager to do his/her job. Again, go here only if you’re desperate. This may cost you anything ranging from personal friendships to your job.
4. In short, be one of the good employees who expect other employees to do their jobs and not get away with slacking-and leaving you holding the bag. Be one of the good employees who makes it known that you are questioning the validity of the task if performance is not enforced. “Why should I worry about this, if it’s not really expected?”
5. Every organization and its managers experience lapses in leadership. Managers are human, and many step up into leadership roles based on good performance in more task-oriented jobs. In other words many managers learn how to manage on the job. Few get really good training on leadership. But many are smart and motivated-and a prod here and there can work wonders to help them recognize their own shortcomings-and stimulate them to correct those shortcomings.
6. Finally, don’t walk unwittingly into a hornet’s nest. Don’t take on the manager’s fair-haired favorite (or clandestine girl/boyfriend) unless you expect to get hammered. If there’s something personal getting in the way of good management, chalk it up to human foibles and stay out of trouble. Unless you plan to get them both fired, you can’t win that one.
I expect my post may generate a lot of rants. As I said, this is one POV. This was a very abridged version of a leadership style that obviously has been presented in a more black and white manner than it can actually be applied. Circumstances, politics, personalities and more must be considered, but in the end, there’s no substitute for good leadership, and that begins with setting expectations and enforcing them using both positive and negative feedback.