As the topic says - how have you managed it? My high I direct is struggling to achieve in their role. They are missing loads of deadlines, haven't made progress on their big plans and they have a tendency to attempt to pass their work over to another of my directs, who is more senior than them, rather than managing it and delegating.

All of this is just for context to the main question of resistance to planning and writing. I don't usually struggle with getting a team member to reflect and work on their management behaviours but I am struggling with this one. He's just so resistant so doesn't take the feedback and do anything with it. Your wisdom please! 

LEmerson's picture

The podcasts on feedback are really good.

Sounds like the problems are deeper than just writing. If you have well defined standards and everyone is accountable this person is out of place.

One thing I'd look at is making sure you have specific goals that are well communicated and frequently referred to. If everyone is focused on the same goals things will more naturally fall into place. I'd also reduce it to specific behaviors to eliminate difference in interpretation. Be open to helping the direct meet the standards and achieve the goals. If procedures are not written down, write them down. Otherwise it's guaranteed both of you will have different interpretations. The DISC information is valuable, but talk with them to dig down deep enough to motivate them.

sandwell's picture

Thank you - this is really useful reflection. Yes I do think the goals are well communicated and the expectation is that he reports on status on his goals every week. He has three OKRs to report against and they are all off track, and he has no plan to get them back on track. He resists writing them down so I have let him report verbally in team meetings but then he doesn't turn up with verbal reports either which we have been doing feedback on. I have his review this week which I will discuss this with him in as well. 

I realise I am just going to have to manage far more directly than I usually would need to and he's quite senior - he's a manager of managers. So it's an enormous amount of time and work to coach fairly standard behaviours that all of his managers and the people I manage are succeeding well in. The rest of the team are cascading well, reporting, and his managers are getting frustrated - I see this they are also very professional they take their issues to him and he brings them to me. 

I just wonder where to start and I diagnosed it was actually writing things down but maybe I am looking in the wrong place! I asked him to time track for a full week to see where his time goes but he just won't do it. It's difficult to find an in. 

PhilipR's picture

How essential is writing per se to this person's job, versus the downstream effects of the written work product?

As a thought experiment, imagine you received an accommodation request from another direct, a different person with dysgraphia. Could you reasonably accommodate?

We're not talking about a disability here, I know (although there are stories of smart people diagnosed with an LD later in life who had basically coped by hiding their weaknesses instead of getting support). And certainly sometimes you have to do things you're not stellar at. But I wonder if...

  • for certain low-stakes situations, they could talk into a microphone, use transcription software, and produce a messy artifact that nevertheless gets the job done
  • for higher-stakes situations, if they are really struggling to even proofread an automated transcription, they could work out a deal with a teammate (probably a high "C") : "If you can help me clean up this transcription, I can take on some of your tasks, like calling up HR to ask about those questions you had." [EDIT: Or better yet learn to delegate this task guilt-free.]

As for the non-delegation -- seems like that should come more naturally to a high-I, not sure, but weaknesses can cascade. Maybe they come from a background where delegating is considered shirking or have had bad experiences because they didn't know how to follow up on delegation.  

Just some idle thoughts.

sandwell's picture

It's a good question - it's important because I cannot be productive in my job if in order to manage him I have to respond to voice notes every 30 minutes with questions.

If he was achieving his outcomes without communicating in writing then conceptually it wouldn't matter - but his job involves board reporting, project management, and forms of communication with his team that aren't working. 

The people he manages need him to communicate clearly and he isn't, and frankly I can't handle the volume of verbal communication and run an organisation. It's unsustainable. 

they do delegate - they just delegate their tasks and responsibilities to someone more senior than them. I suspect it's an issue around being liked and wanting to let their team do whatever they want. Part of the issue is he doesn't know how to make use of the resources he has to achieve departmental goals. When coached and given feedback on it, he very heavily defends letting his team do the projects they want to do - which are most of the time pet projects outside the goals - because "autonomy". 

I do think he has some talent but perhaps the issue is he's resistant to managing things? Hard to work out. 

PhilipR's picture

Sadly I'd bet you many if not most of his directs would rather work on something aligned with the goals than pet projects that maybe build a skill but do little else to advance their careers within the org.

Anyway so you're absolutely sure your coaching and feedback have been clear, right? I'm sure you've heard the guidance for Systemic Feedback


and Shot Across the Bow

Unclear if you're to the Shot Across the Bow but sounds like you're headed there so you owe it to him to be excruciatingly clear. I forget how it's phrased in those casts but basically, "If you do not improve you'll need to update your résumé." Leave no room for him to misunderstand the gravity.

sandwell's picture

You are very right. The managers for sure.

this is very helpful indeed. You are right it's probably shot across the bow time and time to feedback on not enacting the feedback. I do think he has potential and ability but he has to step up. Maybe this extreme level of clarity might be the wake up call. I recognise he's never had proper management ever and I do really like him and think he has potential but indeed.

and yes I don't respond, and I feedback on making good use of the ample time he gets from me, and they are voice notes not even emails! 

PhilipR's picture

Oh, BTW, I hope you don't feel expected to reply to written emails from directs every 30 minutes either. :)