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How to Recover From an Incompetent Manager

When you fire a middle manager who isn't up to snuff, your job isn't over. Now you need to care for the team that person left behind.

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It happens in many, if not most, companies: you've hired a manager who's less than competent. Firing the person is only the first step to solving the problem. Damage has been done to the team, which can be a trickier situation to mend.

Roger Schwarz, president and CEO of Roger Schwarz & Associates and an organizational psychologist and leadership team consultant, says you really have only one course of action: get in fast, deal with the damage, and find a better manager. Recognize that your people have gone through conflict and stress. "Building a stronger team means addressing these emotionally-laden issues," Schwarz writes in the Harvard Business Review

Below, read Schwarz's tips on how to help a team bounce back from a poor manager.

Be transparent.

Most likely, the former manager wasn't up front and honest with the team, so make sure you lead with transparency. Schwarz suggests that you tell them how the manager's action (or inaction) has affected the team. Tell them where they stand, tell them how off course they really are. However, be careful: "Your purpose isn't to criticize the previous leader or to be omniscient; it's to show the team that you have some understanding and appreciation--however limited--of the challenges they have faced and the effects it has had on the organization, the team and them," Schwarz writes.

Listen to their experience.

Now it's time to count the dead and check the wounds. You have to find out how your employees have been affected by the former manager, Schwarz says. "Your curiosity also shows that you are interested in their well-being, another value that may have been lacking in the previous leader," he writes. Plus, you'll get a better picture of everything that needs fixing.

Suspend judgement.

With poor management, your employees lose their way. Their accountability is broken, Schwarz says, but it's not their fault. You cannot start judging employee performance yet. "Team members' knowledge and skills may be masked by the [prior] dysfunctional structures, processes, and expectations," he writes. "Until you start to change these conditions, it can be difficult to tell if team members have what it takes to do the job."

Explain yourself.

As the leader of the company, you need to re-program the team with your philosophy. The lousy manager you hired and fired likely messed with their perception and expectations. The best thing to do is to be clear and explain yourself, so they can't misinterpret your behavior and actions. "To reduce this possibility, consistently explain why you are doing what you're doing and why you are saying what you're saying," Schwarz writes. "This also enables you to share your leadership philosophy and set expectations for how you want others to lead."

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Nov 19, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
@WillYakowicz




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