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Helping a New Manager Take Charge

Tips for training a leader, not a dictator
August 19, 2002

Q: I promoted one of my employees to manage a location in my small chain of video rental stores. I was running this store myself, but needed to spend more time on other aspects of my business. This employee is experienced and trustworthy, but since she became manager, several employees have quit, and I'm hearing complaints about her being too heavy-handed and bossy. Should I replace her?

A: Your new manager is probably eager to succeed in this new challenge and, as a result, has taken a controlling and directive approach. This can be rough on the other employees, especially if they're used to relating to her as a peer, not a dictator!

When people first find themselves in a leadership role, they often employ command-and-control styles of management because they're uncomfortable and anxious to make sure everyone performs correctly. Being overly controlling may send a message to her employees that she doesn't trust them, but in reality, I suspect she doesn't quite trust herself to be the leader.

The way to overcome the problem is to help her acquire a range of leadership behaviors--other things she can do to make sure the work gets done and everyone is happy doing it. Since the approaches she's taken aren't working, you need to add to her bag of tricks. Some basic and powerful supervisory techniques she can try are:

Your new store manager is trying to "force the horse to drink," as in the old saying that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. She needs to give some serious thought to the people she leads and what motivates them. She was recently in their shoes, so she should be able to imagine how her actions feel to them. Try teaching her the three techniques above, and see if this leads to improved morale.

Alex Hiam runs a consulting/training firm that focuses on increasing human performance in businesses. He is also the author of numerous books on management, motivation and marketing, including Making Horses Drink: How to Lead and Succeed in Business.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.