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When a manager succumbs to life’s knocks

Q: How do I deal with a manager who is unable to be decisive, authoritative or manage effectively. It seems his confidence has taken a setback due to personal problems which in turn has resulted in a lack of confidence. At one stage the manager in question was one of my best employees. Is there anything I can do to reverse this?

A: There are many events in life that can have a knock-on effect at work. Hopefully these are just temporary; however, no matter how temporary or permanent they are, as an employer we have a responsibility to manage our people with consistency, which means seeing this predicament for what it is – a performance issue. Ask yourself, how you would like your manager to handle a member of their team who was no longer performing well due to personal circumstance? I am sure compassion and understanding would be at the heart of how you would want him to be, but with that would need to come structure, and the setting and measuring of expectations.

Start with a meeting where you lay all your cards on the table, explain to him you have noticed how his confidence appears to have had a setback and that this is directly affecting how they manage the team. Explain you want to support him and get him back to where he needs to be. To do this you are going to manage him in a way that you hope he will mirror for his team. Check in if there is anything he needs from you or anything that he feels you may need to know about. Document the meeting, just a few notes, and save them somewhere. Remain transparent with all your actions and your intentions. This exercise is a restorative process and an intervention within itself.

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If you have noticed a lack of decisiveness, authority and the ability to manage effectively, gain examples and evidence of this. You need solid examples and content for your next meeting. Book it for a few days later. Explain that you will document it and produce a plan for afterwards which will be reviewed weekly. Explore the areas that need attention, highlight what you have noticed and give your manager the opportunity to discuss with you. Remember, this is about supporting him and getting his confidence back, not making him feel worse. When you have highlighted the areas he needs to work on, set SMART targets. Something small and measurable. For instance, to be able to demonstrate in the next meeting whenever he has overcome his indecisiveness and made a decision.

Your main goal is to create a “performance management” template that can be delivered in many styles. For this situation it is appropriate to deliver it with kindness, compassion and with the genuine belief that this is just a ‘blip’, where you want to do everything you can to get him back on track.

David Price is managing director of Health Assured