Helping a New Manager Take Charge Tips for training a leader, not a dictator

By Alex Hiam

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

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

When people first find themselves in a leadership role, theyoften employ command-and-control styles of management becausethey're uncomfortable and anxious to make sure everyoneperforms correctly. Being overly controlling may send a message toher employees that she doesn't trust them, but in reality, Isuspect she doesn't quite trust herself to be the leader.

The way to overcome the problem is to help her acquire a rangeof leadership behaviors--other things she can do to make sure thework gets done and everyone is happy doing it. Since the approachesshe's taken aren't working, you need to add to her bag oftricks. Some basic and powerful supervisory techniques she can tryare:

  • Ask rather than tell. For instance, instead of staffinga shift by telling an employee he will work then (or else), shecould ask the employee (or all the employees) to come up with aschedule that they like and that makes sure every shift is covered.It achieves the same objective, but it wins friends instead ofalienating good employees.
  • Set goals rather than give orders. For instance, perhapsyour new store manager is upset to see a large pile of unshelvedvideos and DVDs behind the counter at the end of a shift, so sheorders the employees to shelve everything before they leave. Thenthey get mad because they say they have the busiest shift and itisn't fair to make them shelve everything, which forces them tostay late and work unpaid overtime. The order to shelve all returnsis reasonable from a business perspective, but obviously it's asource of growing conflict. Instead, it would be better to set thegoal of minimizing unshelved returns, and then ask employees tocome up with suggestions for how to achieve this goal. Your newmanager can be assertive about insisting that they come up with anacceptable solution, but she should avoid ramming the firstsolution that occurs to her down their throats.
  • Show why her goals and concerns are important. Now thatshe is the store manager, this employee has a responsibility tothink about the big picture issues that relate to the success ofthe business (such as why you don't want returns to pile upbehind the counter and be unavailable to go back out). Herauthority to lead the employees will arise from genuine efforts totake good care of that business. She needs to share her prioritiesfor the business with her new employees, and in every case whereshe asks them to solve a problem or achieve a goal, she needs topoint clearly to the business need that motivates her. (And ifthere is no good reason, then she should bite her tongue and let itgo. Explain to her that she can't "chase too manyrabbits" if she hopes to catch any at all.)

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

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

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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