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Submitted by cwatine on


I would like your opinion on this : [b]can I put as a goal for a manager not doing a task that shouldn't be done by him?[/b]

[u]The context is : [/u]

One of my top guys who is running my technical team doesnt do his job :

- he does not do O3 for his all team (it is a goal)
- he does not do his job in terms of activity development
- he lets me solve complicated conflictual issues with customers (it should be his job)
- he lets me do some other jobs which are under his responsibility
In fact, a good sum up could be : he is not delegating what he should, so I cannot delegate on him ...

We have identified the main cause : he regularly takes the hotline for a whole week, which eats all his time.

It has been a long long term issue

I firstly wanted to solve that by giving him this goal : "hotline should be delegated". And I did. The problem is that he always has a good reason for taking it back (there was an emergency at a customer so the tech who was doing the hotline had to go there, the tech who was suppose to do the hotline was sick, etc).

[b]Put as a "MT" goal, it would be : "the goal is to take zero hotline calls during this week" and would be reviewed at each O3.[/b]

What do you think?

TomW's picture
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I think it should be phrased positively instead of negatively.

For example:
"Delegate all work that can be delegated"
instead of
"Don't do work you can delegate"

Those emergencies may be real and require analysis for why they are happening. It's possible that if he does not cover them that the hotline goes unanswered, which might be an even worse result.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

Could it be worded more along the lines of "Ensure that hotline is staffed at all times by team members at all times, not by self." or "Organise team to provide standby from within team to staff the hotline is designated tech is not available."?

A negative could be a goal, e.g. "Zero defects" or "Eliminate failures". Defining a goal in terms of what to do rather than what not to do seems, to me at least, to be more positive and assertive. It's like adjusting feedback, you don't say "Don't do it again!", you say "What could you do different?"


cwatine's picture
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[b]Tom : [/b]

Yes you are right on the point. My guy is one of the best in the company. so when he takes the hotline, it is [i]always[/i] for a good reason in the SHORT TERM. No question. AND, he needs to reach his goals in terms of management. LONG TERM.

[b]Tom and Stephen :[/b]

What you mean is the goal should stay the same and be positive : "delegate hotline permanently."
And the measure could be : "zero hotline call taken by self"

The other goals would then be :
2) "Solve all conflicts with customer" / the measure being : "zero conflict had to be solved by boss"
3) "Effectively do my management" / the measure being "100% O3 done"`

Did I get it right?

stephenbooth_uk's picture

Looks good to me.


rthibode's picture

(Maybe the following is really obvious and what you intend already. Sorry if it is.)

[b]Would it be possible to add a goal for your team leader to pass along his knowledge and skill on the hotline? [/b]

You are asking the team leader to delegate hotline calls to the team. I think effective delegating in this case would be not just getting someone else to do it, but getting the whole team to do it as well as he does.

You are asking him to let go of the duty that makes him feel competent (hotline) and to focus on the ones where he is not as skilled yet (leading his team). Giving him the explicit goal of transferring his competence to team members (e.g., through feedback & O3s) could be a positive way of getting him to gradually let go of the hotline and buy into more leadership.

cwatine's picture
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Thanks for the input.

It is not a skill issue. In our company, the "field" techs hold the hotline on a rotation basis (so they are not always on the road, and when you call us, you always get an expert who is up to date because he is a "real tech"). So the techs already have this competence. And they already do it on a regular basis, with good success.

It is the issue you address in the last paragraph :
it is always easier :
- to do what you have always done in the past instead of new things
- to address "urgent" (hotline) instead "important" (management)

It is more the issue of focusing on what is important. It is also the issue of ME (the boss) not giving enough the message about what is really important.

TomW's picture
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[quote="cedwat"]What you mean is the goal should stay the same and be positive : "delegate hotline permanently."
And the measure could be : "zero hotline call taken by self"[/quote]

Sounds about right to me.

cwatine's picture
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I had my O3 with this guy a few hours ago.
I proposed him to hire a "right hand" some months ago.
Now he tells me he thinks he can bear with the workload alone because he has simplified and delegated a lots of things.

He prefers to run a little bit leaner than comfortable (I told he was a good one !!!)

He is asking me for a "trial period" of 1 month to see if the organization can work this way. We now need to find the "metrics" behind the idea "the organization works"

WillDuke's picture
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Wow. If the worst problem with this guy is that he likes to solve his own problems and run lean... Hey, if you're done with him give him my number. :)

Nice job Cedric.

cwatine's picture
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No way Will, I have 3 guys of his kind and I won't let them go ! :wink:

gernot's picture


I am late on this one.

We had a similar discussion about goals and actions to be taken in our team meeting.

In this case "Not taking the hotline" is not really a goal, but an action.

You have identified this as the problem, but if he can reach the other goals although he took the hotline, it would be a positive outcome to.

The difference between goals and actions is that the actor herself can decide which action she wants to take to reach the goal. Then she owns the action, because the action was her own idea.

Mark's picture
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I think I disagree with everyone here.

I think no hotline calls is a GREAT goal. Oh sure, maybe you could make it positive...but I'd be willing to be that any goal which is NOT zero for him will end up with him taking hotline calls. Human behavior is quite elastic in the avoidance of pain.

Will, I think you're missing the point. This guy's a manager. Running lean doesn't mean doing the work yourself, and it certainly doesn't mean solving all your problems [how would his directs learn to solve his problems?] And, if it slows Cedric it is de facto ineffective.

No trial period. Zero calls.

[Cedric- always a pleasure to work with you sir. - H]

[Gernot - great to see you here! - H]


Sorry for the delay in responding. I regret my absence.

oskar's picture

Me late as well...

NO HOTLINE CALLS THIS WEEK... That is best goal there can be if you really want him spend no time doing them.

If you can't make it work otherwise try this... [url][/url]... he will not want to make those calls anyway.


cwatine's picture
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You are completely right : "running lean does not mean doing the job of the others". This is exactly the "problem" of this guy. As a (very) high "S", he will do anything for his company, and also to prevent his team to go overtime, including spending 12 hours at the company.
And you know I believe in the "power of zero" ! Check this :


PS : Oskar, I am thinking about giving this chair to my whole customer office team, but I think they would get sea sick !!!

cwatine's picture
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Just an update.

It does not work ... I can't keep him away from the hotline. He always have good reasons to take it (technicians on the road to help customers, a lots of new machines to install, etc).

If you have any ideas, I am interested!

tlhausmann's picture
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[quote="cedwat"]- he lets me solve complicated conflictual issues with customers (it should be his job)
- he lets me do some other jobs which are under his responsibility

Hmmm. Is it time to "pour on" the correcting feedback?

"Hey Joe, can I share something with you?" (pause, wait for a yes)

"When you take support calls directly here's what happens:"
- People perceive you as less of a manager and more of a tech.
- Managerial issues land on my desk that are best handled by you.
- I begin to have doubts about you continuing as a manager.
- The company loses money because I was working on tasks within your purveyance.
- ???

philwhineray's picture

[quote="tlhausmann"]- People perceive you as less of a manager and more of a tech.
- I begin to have doubts about you continuing as a manager.[/quote]

If your manager was promoted from being a technician, perhaps he is uncertain he wants to be a manager?

I have read that technical people often go through a phase where they are join and leave management. They aren't committed to being a great manager because it takes them away from what they really love. This can be quite a long phase.

It happened to me. Asked if I wanted to stay a manager; I always said yes, sometimes with less certainty than others (because I was working extra hard and feeling like I was getting nowhere). It wasn't until after I'd started making changes I had time to see how badly things had been going before, though, and realised I might actually enjoy being a manager.

It sounds to me that your man may be where I was; he may say he wants to be a manager and indeed agree with everything you think he should be doing. He is almost certainly taking those calls because he wants to, and sacrificing his management work because he can't see how ineffective it is making him.

bffranklin's picture
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[quote="cedwat"]Just an update.

It does not work ... I can't keep him away from the hotline. He always have good reasons to take it (technicians on the road to help customers, a lots of new machines to install, etc).

If you have any ideas, I am interested![/quote]


Mark dealt with many a situation like this at the New York conference by pointing out that there are really two issues here, and not letting the direct confound the two. It sounds to me like the direct thinks that performance will suffer if the hotline is not manned by someone appropriate. That's fine, he needs to come up with a solution to it. That solution also needs to not be him.

When you give him feedback and he gives you an excuse, give him some more feedback: "Can I share something else with you? When you end up manning the hotline rather than finding a different solution, I get frustrated because I've given you feedback on manning the hotline and need you to work on more valuable tasks. Do you think you could do something differently?"

Mark made a point of always coming back with the original objection and not solving it for the direct, but either a) forcing the direct to come up with a new solution to try and implement, or b) just being the boss and saying "do it." Once you go through the above systemic feedback, make sure your direct comes up with and commits to a solution that is not him manning the hotline for the original problem (i.e., come back to the original feedback you were trying to give on manning the hotline).

The solution could be as simple as delegating "making sure the hotline is manned" to one of his top performers and letting them handle scheduling and making sure it's covered, especially if he's having trouble letting go.


cwatine's picture
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Thanks for your comments and advice.

My guy has aready been on adjusting feedback on that, but maybe I was not insisting enough. I have been guilty of being discouraged when hearing from him : "I am so tired but happy. It was again a week of hotline, followed by my normal job. But, god ! Have you seen the turnover we made and our charging ratio! We hit a new record ...". For me it is really unconfortable to give him negative feedback when his team is hitting records every month ...

He is surely feeling what Phil describes and he is a high high high S (nice guy, but aways believing that his job as a manager is relieving his directs from their too hard job!). But I know he really wants to be a good manager.

I have also tried with what bffranklin described and always got as an answer : "I don't really know what to do about it : if I don't do it, customers will not be answered to. Or if I take a tech from the field to do it, we will have another customer not satisfied. You know each time I do it, it is because I have no other ways."
Of course, I could imagine some solutions. But I would prefer him to come up with HIS OWN solution.

He recently indicated that he was hiring a high level assistant (I know her)to help him with organisation and get things moving when he is at customers'
He also asked me if he could benefit from an external coach. I woud like the advice of Mark on that last point : I think it is a good thing, but I would really like to meet her before and ask her some questions. Am I right or wrong?

Gareth's picture

[quote="cedwat"] For me it is really unconfortable to give him negative feedback when his team is hitting records every month ...

Is it his TEAM hitting these records or is it HIM hitting these targets?

cwatine's picture
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[quote="Gareth"][quote="cedwat"] For me it is really unconfortable to give him negative feedback when his team is hitting records every month ...
Is it his TEAM hitting these records or is it HIM hitting these targets?[/quote]

Good question.

He has quantitative goals to achieve with his team. Here I am talking about the number of hours invoiced compared to the number of hour worked (this includes Hotline, so one hour of hotline is "as good as" one hour of installation or maintenance), the turnover generated by sales of service, spare parts, and training.

At this time, the company is breaking a record each month because the sales guy is selling like hell, because the techs are excellent and very well organized, because we have launched the right new ranges of products at the right time. In Feb, we already had 60% of our sales budget on order and customers were crying for their machines!

All of those are good signs, but we also need to consolidate for the long run. This is why I am urging him to do his manager job.

My guy was seeing all this volume as a "crisis" and did not want to hire new people.
He said "when it comes back to normal, I can stop with the hotline and go do my real job".
I think he recenty finally understood what I meant when I said : "if it is a crisis, then it will be a permanent crisis. We are going to continue with this rythm and even increase it. If sales of machine drop, then you will find other things to sell, I am sure : service, new ranges of products, etc".

philwhineray's picture

There is a good chance he has already thought of and dismissed some ideas because he thinks you might not like them: anything that might be possible but that would make him look worse from his own perspective as a technician is suspect (e.g. letting the others take care of it but possibly not to the standard he would expect of himself).

Coaching, as per the podcasts, is my suggestion; you want to develop a better manager and this situation is just a symptom not the cause. You need to help him better himself and the rest should follow. I don't think an external coach will be capable of anything you are not though.

So perhaps a 5-week plan with 20% less calls each week? Start with a brainstorming session to generate ideas and resources? No pressure for him to come up with "the" answer and you can see if he takes ownership of any suggestions you put forwards.

cwatine's picture
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Maybe I have been too extreme by saying the target is zero. But at the same time I find 20% less not powerfull enough as a goal. It leaves the door open ...

I have to find out how his new assistant will change that. My guy also said to me that doing the hotline allows him to stay in touch with the day-to-day tech life, the customers, the markets, etc

Maybe a "hotline planning" would solve my concern. It would mean that he is planned in the hotline (we work on a rotation basis : each "field tech" takes the hotline every 5 weeks or so. It is a way to propose to our customers real techs and to let our tech not be on the road every week). And he would have the goal of zero hotline calls taken out of the planning.

philwhineray's picture

[quote="cedwat"]Maybe I have been too extreme by saying the target is zero. But at the same time I find 20% less not powerfull enough as a goal. It leaves the door open ...[/quote]

Sorry, I wasn't very clear; I think zero is a great target but it sounds like he needs help getting there.

A series of intermediate goals that reduce the calls he takes week by week or month by month might help if he needs time to adjust. The percentage doesn't matter, just pick the number that meets the time you want to change the behaviour over.

The reasons for him doing the hotline sound like a rationalisation to me. He will need to develop more effective ways to get an overview of customers than just taking their support calls.

I think you're right about the planning, it will allow setting and adjusting and expectations you have quite explicitly, both you for him and him for his team.

Could he share the zero goal with his team as a problem to solve? He can explicitly involve them in finding solutions that help him stop taking calls but keep him in touch as needed. Does he have any peers in a similar situation?

cwatine's picture
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He has no peers to compare with as he his the only manager.

I am not sure he is really rationalizing. I think he does not deeply agree with the goal I gave him. And to be perfectly honest, I want to discuss this goal again with him.

Another big goal he had was to start O3 with his technical team. He has done so with his assistants, but doesn't feel "at ease" with the techs. Here, I know why : they were his peers before he became their manager.

It means this guy surpassed his "quantitative goals" (increase revenue and invoicing) but lost his qualitative goals which were linked to management (not take hotline, and do O3 with techs).

So we need a discussion

sklosky's picture


I have a suggestion.

Your top guy is missing the forrest for the trees.

He speaks of a crisis. He's talking about the wrong one. The crisis isn't that trouble calls are coming in. The crisis is that he's acting as a bottleneck, not as a force multiplier. His system (for servicing calls) is broken and he needs to fix it. Once he understands this crisis and owns it, I think he'll start to change.

So my suggestion is to explain to him that his system is broken. He needs to attend to his operation. That operation is nurturing and growing phone technicians who perform the job he knows better than anyone.

One of the expressions I have heard that applies here is -- "Replace yourself". The meaning is that you can't rise to the next level until you've backfilled your current position with someone who can carry the water.

Hope this helps.


cwatine's picture
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It does. Thank you.

I like the bottleneck expression. This is the one we always use when we do a LEAN mission so it whould be ring a bell !

I will see him face to face in a few day and try to solve this out.


dmbaldwin's picture

In our Baltimore/D.C. meet-up last night I shared a frustration I had with a direct report. It is very similar to your situation Cedric. Obviously different issues, but same actions -- doing their direct report's work.

The group referred to this thread and in reading it through has given me some very good ideas in meeting with her. Thanks for being transparent enough to share a problem you are having that we can weigh in on and even profit from as we tackle these issues in our own arenas of management.



WillDuke's picture
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First, if his goals are being met, and he's setting records, then I ask myself is he right and are you wrong? Now, before anyone gets excited, I simply mean are you wrong with his goals. "What gets measured gets done." According to the numbers you're providing him he's succeeding. If you want to convince him otherwise you need to change the numbers you're providing, factoring in, somehow, that he shouldn't be on the line.

Maybe a stat that shows staff on the line at a cost of 1, and mgmt on the line at a cost of 5. Then the cost of him being on that line will impact his numbers.

A bell went off for me when you mentioned the 2nd problem. I asked myself "are they the same thing?"

1. Spends too much time on hotline
2. Doesn't like to do O3s because he used to be a peer

Perhaps as a High S he doesn't like to ask people to do things he isn't willing to do himself. Perhaps he isn't willing to ask people to come to work early, work late, change their plans for the day, etc.

Perhaps he doesn't realize that while he's doing the job the staff should be doing he's not doing the rest of his own job. Does he know what the rest of his job is? Maybe he's compensating. Does he recognize the danger of "burning out" his own enthusiasm? Does he recognize that he's not letting his directs "step up" and shine because he's taking all the "step up" glory for himself?

Clearly this guy works hard. Clearly you like this guy on your team. But there's another level for him to achieve at. Frankly the hotline is beneath him.

cwatine's picture
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Wow, thank you for those excellent comments.

Dave, I am very pleased if this could be helpful.
WillDuke, yes it is true ... I was not sure anymore if the zero hotline goal was the right one.

This week, we did his semi annual review.

We reviewed all his goals for the first semester and we draw the same conclusion : he succeeded in the "financial/activity" part and failed in the "management part". He explained it to me like this : I made a choice. I chose to reach the financial target at the expense of the management target. I was happy to see that the "sacrifice on the management part" (take hotlike) paid dividend on the financial part (profits skyrocketed).

As the semi annual review is only a middle year step, he asked me if he could use the second semester to reach all the targets (including O3 with all techs with deadline 15/oct). I of course agreed.

I opened the discussion and asked him if the zero hotline goal was a good indicator on the fact that he was delegating more, organizing more. Without hesitation, he said "yes, please let it as it is : my goal will be to hit it at least over a complete month and to have my total hotline hours for S2 less than the one in S1, with at least same profit. Even if I have recuited one additional person".

Let's see...

sklosky's picture

Cedric (and Dave),

I don't know why, but this topic grabs my interest. I've been thinking about this.

First, I am wondering. What is this fellow's answer to the juggling koan?

Second, this situation reminds me of an old saying -- "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."


cwatine's picture
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I my opinion, the answer of this guy to the juggling koan is not the right one. I have used the analogy with him already and he had to admit it (thanks Mark).
This guy is a very high "S" so he needs time. As a high "D" I am often driven crazy by the time it takes him to make changes.
But, I must admit that he is reaching the figures and that he has built the best technical team in our industry. This guys are like a family and the customers praise them all the time even if they are invoiced x2 compared to competition.
So ... My decision has been to allow more time for changes.

And ... About the juggling koan : what "clicked" better in his mind was "when you take the work from your people and don't delegate to them, they feel not respected, they feel you don't trust them. Delegate ... Let them do mistakes ... Delegate again. They will be gratefull to the company for that".
A better language for a "S" profile !


misstenacity's picture

One of my directs is being coached on her communication style (or "interpersonal skills", as per the podcast) while on the phone with clients.

Our first actionable goal after she did some work with resources and strategies was for her to take a breath when she felt like she was going to interrupt someone. So, "not interrupting" was the goal.

It was partially effective in just one week, so we addressed the other aspect the next week - she had a call where (in her mind) the client was rambling on and going off tangent, so she tried to take control by saying, "stop. stop. stop. I'll show you how to do that...."

The next goal was "do not say "stop" in a conversation with a client". And so far (it has been two weeks), I have not heard it again.

Little steps, but it is coming together. Now, we'll see if she can sell . . . (See my new topic under persuasion)

Mark's picture
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Important concept:


Too many managers expect a silver bullet, of which there is no such thing relative to lasting change. So... THEY do NOTHING. That's not management, it's bureaucracy.

Marshall Goldsmith says, if you're a jerk, you don't have to suddenly become a great guy.

First, just stop being a jerk.

Well done, misstenacity.

And one of my favorite screen names, too.