New manager here! *waves* :D

I have a direct report I've known for about 2 years. He came to my current company from our prior employer. I've been his manager for about 6 months. He's a programmer and he's good at what he does. He's laid back, which is ok, but this new place of employment demands a lot more from us than our prior employer did. As a result, we all have a lot of balls in the air at a time.

My issue with this direct is that he seems to be relying on me to keep track of his tasks. For example, I asked him last week during the team meeting to take the task of finding out what our patch levels were on the application, find out what has come out since we last patched and what we might need for year end. I asked him where he was on that task during our one on one. He'd not done anything on it. He wanted direction on how to accomplish this task, so I told him to work with the tech lead to determine the best way to get the information. When the tech lead asked him why he needed this information, he told the tech lead to ask me!! My response to him was to check his notes from last weeks meeting and to tell me why I might be asking this question. His response was, 'I don't know, maybe due to the Open Enrollment setup?'. My response was 'Exactly!' and I repeated what I had told him during the team meeting. His response was that he didn't remember any of what I'd asked him to do in the team meeting!! :shock:

This is just one example where he's just not kept track of what he is responsible for. There are many more. I am tempted to hand everyone on my team a notebook and tell them to use it to keep track of things they need to do and that I will be checking them, but that seems too micro-managerial to me.

I need him to step up and he can only do this if I provide him with feedback. Problem is, I am having trouble figuring out what to say and how to say it.


jhack's picture

Congrats on your promotion!

It's all about artifacts: the DR needs to provide a document/code module/specification/whatnot onto the document repository/source code repository/whatnot by a certain time.

Each team member is responsible for a specific set of artifacts, each artifact has a specific due date-time. Yes, you have to keep a copy of this list. They're responsible for delivery. You can review the list in your O3's and key artifacts should be part of the staff meeting updates from your DRs. And you need to follow up at the time it is actually due.

I do recommend the "Develop a sense of urgency" podcasts for just this situation.

thaGUma's picture

[quote]When the tech lead asked him why he needed this information, he told the tech lead to ask me!! [/quote] Are you sure you are getting through to him? Sounds like he is not taking control of his tasks - or accepting they are really his tasks.

Feedback O3 Coaching will sort him out. Concentrate on easy wins to reinforce a postive message. Get him to accept responsibility.

Good Luck


sklosky's picture

I get a sense that you're covering for him when he does not complete a task, or even prior to the deadline, you're anxious about him getting the job done.

He's smart. He knows you won't let the ball drop. In essence he's working the system to his advantage.

I think you have to let him drop the ball once or twice.

I'm probably off base with my assessment, but there you go.


LouFlorence's picture
Training Badge

Give feedback every time your direct either does or does not follow through and watch the behavior change.


rthibode's picture

As you note, part of the package is giving feedback when the DR does and doesn't meet your expectations.

"DR, when you don't keep track of the duties I assign you, here's what happens. I wonder if you're ready for this much responsibility. I have to spend time keeping track of tasks for you. Tasks are late, which causes X, Y, Z. What can you do differently this week?"

"DR, when I see that you've successfully kept track of your tasks for the week and completed them on time, here's what happens. I trust that I can assign you important work and it'll be done on time. Clients are satisfied that we as an organization can meet our targets, etc. Thanks for the good work."

[quote]I am tempted to hand everyone on my team a notebook and tell them to use it to keep track of things they need to do and that I will be checking them, but that seems too micro-managerial to me. [/quote]

Telling people [i]how[/i] to keep track of their tasks is micromanaging, unless you're in late-stage coaching and one of the things you're coaching is how to effectively take notes. Otherwise, focus on results.

Is your whole team behaving this way, or just the DR you described? If it's the team, it may be that you're not spelling out your expectations as clearly as needed. Tell your DRs the result you expect, and when:

"DR, here are your tasks for this week. Please take notes. [Tell DR his tasks.] I need you to complete these by Wednesday at noon. If meeting that deadline looks like it's going to a problem, please tell me long enough in advance that I can help you change course and you can still meet your deadline."

Let us know how it goes.

PierG's picture

Responsibility: ability to respond!
Make it accountable: the 'sense of urgency' podcast can help.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


When you ask others to ask me about tasks I've assigned to you, I get disappointed that you aren't taking responsibility for tasks I've assigned you, and the task takes a LOT longer...

When you report back a week later that you haven't done anything, we lose a week's time, and I begin to feel I have to give you smaller and smaller tasks with shorter deadlines so we only waste days. That won't work...

what can you do differently?


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

You know, I spent 30 minutes trying to write direct feedback for this and couldn't do it. Then I read Mark's very simple and direct statement. It seems so obvious now. Man oh man.

I think I was still trying to "soften the blow." I see this isn't mean, it's just reality.

Kudos Mark.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Thanks Will.

I'd love to read what you had... it would help me in coaching others who hesitate or deliver long versions... if you can.


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Will, I struggle with that, too. Then I have real bouts of 'here it is' and just lay it out. I think my team knows this, too. I'm the BEST person to have on their side and the WORST person to have mad at them!

lotstolearn's picture

Just found your podcasts - LOVE them. I wish I knew about them years ago. Keep up the great work. I am the CEO of a small office - 20 staff. I am in a bad situtation that I, of course, created myself. I had a direct reports eval last year where I set a bunch of tasks and deadlines since the year before was not a good one either. I then failed to follow up with it. I didn't know about O3s (so no I wasn't doing them) I plan to implement them as soon as I finish the feedback model podcasts. When I pulled out the eval to work on this years, I realized how many deadlines were missed and how he never communicated to me that the deadlines were being missed. I have lost all trust in this DO. I feel a lot of blame for this situation for not providing enough feedback. How do I approach this eval? Do I outline the problems and say let's start fresh and here is what I expect? How do I address the fact that he say he didn't have time but yet he never put in extra hours? How do you address his comment that he doesn't know what is expected but what he really want is "a how to guide" or tell me every step of how to do my job? :(

asteriskrntt1's picture

Hi Brooksmc

I think you mentioned that this assignment was designated in a team meeting. So in addition to the prior comments, you can also access the podcast on how to run a meeting. In those meetings, M&M instruct us how to assign tasks and receive compliance/buy in from the assignee. I think Mark even gives specific language to use in this cast.

Additionally, you have the minutes sent out which put in writing (or digital) exactly who is doing what by when. Then the person has no excuse for not follow through. Then go to the O3s etc. Hope this helps.


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Lots of good questions, Lotstolearn. Personally, I feel very strongly that I can't hold people to a standard I don't first clearly set. You can't outline every moment of someone's day, but you can give some consistent guidelines. Don't give up on your Direct yet. You have a lot of room to grow in.

When did you do the annual review? Summer? Or January? If in January, you have 6 months in which to get back on track. Start your O3s and get moving. Be honest - you set these goals and you haven't been consistent with follow-through - you intend to change that.

Review the goals you set. Are they reasonable? Measurable? Trackable?

Start giving feedback. Affirming AND adjusting.

Communication, communication, communication. O3's are your key. Feedback is your method. You gots lots of room to work with on this one still!

asteriskrntt1's picture

Great response Julia!!!

Please note that you got three (count 'em, THREE) exclamation points. :wink:


lotstolearn's picture

The review was last years. I set very measurable goals: By X date do Y. I set clear expectations. I fumbled the ball not following up. He filled out the evaluation on himself and in it puts the blame on everything other then himself, not enough staff, others didn't do their portion etc. I need to give the some "Horstman statement" putting the responsibilty back on the Director to achieve results and communication.


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Sounds like you have a good idea of where you need to go at this point. Good luck!