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Know just when to demote

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

A former university chancellor, John Ryan recalls a management challenge that he didn’t handle well. He liked one of his subordinates, an administrator, but Ryan realized this employee did not manage his staff effectively.

The situation grew steadily worse and became a chronic issue. The administrator’s poor management undermined the morale of his team, and Ryan knew he had to intervene.

Ryan decided to engage in numerous private coaching sessions with the administrator. He figured that he could lift the administrator’s performance by teaching him certain skills.

But his efforts backfired. The administrator continued to exhibit poor leadership and the team’s morale sunk even lower.

“In the end, I invested too much time trying to help this individual make changes that he didn’t really want to make,” Ryan says.

Eventually, Ryan had to demote the administrator. It finally dawned on Ryan that the administrator never would develop into a more enlightened leader.

By spending too much time trying to overhaul his employee’s personality, Ryan made matters worse. His attempt to coach and teach wound up prolonging the problem rather than solving it.

“I was more than fair with him,” Ryan adds. “I also should have been much more decisive in realizing the limits of my influence and focusing on his colleagues who were performing at a high level and truly deserved more of my time.”

Today, Ryan runs the Center for Creative Leadership, a Greensboro, N.C.-based leadership development firm. He understands the temptation to help poor managers improve, but he also warns senior executives not to go overboard trying in vain to transform an ineffectual individual into a dynamic leader.

— Adapted from “4 classic leadership mistakes you can avoid,” John Ryan, www.linkedin.com.

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