Your People Hate You?  Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am about eight months into my first senior department manager position at a government agency.  I have a lot of experience in this sector and was brought in to shake things up and make some changes.  My boss literally told me that my job is to kick *ss and take names. 

After I had been on board a short while, everyone at my level underwent a 360 degree assessment—including me.  My results were terrible. 

My direct supervisor, her boss, and I had all thought I was doing really well, but my nine direct reports were brutal.  The open-ended comments were particularly mean. I have included the report for your review.

I know this is all on them, because I graduated from top schools and have had an extremely successful career so far. I took a look at the whole picture when I first took the job and I really do know exactly how to fix things—but I can’t get anyone to do what I tell them. What to do?

They Hate Me

Hi They Hate Me,

Wow.  They really do.  I have never seen results quite like this.  Clearly, your plan was to come in, decide on what changes needed to be made, and enforce all new ways of doing things.  But after reading the comments, it appears to me that you are not attempting to get any input at all from your team, who has been in the trenches for a long time.

The way I see it, you have two options:  continue the way you have been doing things—which will probably result in your needing to fire everyone and start fresh (tricky to do in a government agency); or figure out how to win hearts, minds and followership.  You simply aren’t going to succeed here unless you get your people on your side. I have written often about Power Dynamics, which explains that you are at the mercy of the fact that people can and will exercise their fundamental right to withhold cooperation.

The rest of what you need to know could easily be a book, and has been written about at length by the leadership greats.  Consider picking up The New One Minute Manager, because it boils things down simply and well.  In the meantime, here are some quick ideas for how you may improve your situation.

  1. Get clear about the strategies and goals of your new regime. Spend time explaining what, how, and why to the whole team.  Get input on it all, listen carefully, and consider all ideas.
  2. Publish, in writing, the final strategy and goals and once again explain the why and how.
  3. Do not withhold information to use as a power tool. Share all of it.
  4. Catch people doing things right, and praise publicly.
  5. Re-direct when needed, in private, kindly.
  6. If it doesn’t need to be said, don’t say it.
  7. If you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut. Never, ever call people names.
  8. Remember how much power you have and how vulnerable your people (obviously) feel.

Intelligence and being right is only the ante to get into the game.  To actually win the game, you have to win people over.  This is often startling news to people—you are not alone.

Good luck.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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