Greetings. I'm new to MT, and have been listening to the podcasts for a few weeks during my commute.
I have some problems with one of my directs (we'll call him J.)that I hope you all might be able to help me resolve. I apologize in advance for a long post, but I really need to lay this all out. Hopefully my thoughts are coherent.
I've been in my current position as an engineering department manager for about 3.5 years, and I inherited J. from my predecessor. J. has been with the company for over 20 years. He currently has 8 of the engineers reporting to him, as well as some hourly technicians.
J. has a mountain of technical knowlege inside his head, and he knows where all the skeletons are hidden. With almost any technical problem that arises, J. can remember when the same thing happened X years ago and what they did to fix it. The problem is, he cannot or does not want to manage.
He gives some fatherly coaching to his engineers, but does not hold them accountable for results. In fact, if his engineers fail to meet an objective, and the project manager (who also reports to me) starts to get on their case, J. will jump in and defend them. But if J. is in a staff meeting and the production manager starts criticizing something he did, he won't respond to defend himself.
He arrives late to almost every meeting that I schedule, if he arrives at all. Part of the problem is that he doesn't seem to read his email. We schedule all of our meetings with Outlook. Most of the time he doesn't respond to the notices.
Speaking of emails, he doesn't respond to at least half of the emails I send to him. Nor does he respond to any emails that may involve his reports. There could be an urgent problem or something going on with his engineers, with him being copied on every message, and he will not respond. Usually it's me responding saying "Mr. X, I will review with my team and get back to you", or "Engineer Y, please provide a status update."
He cannot meet deadlines consistently. He puts in more hours than probably anyone else in the plant, but he does almost everything himself. His engineers go home on time almost every day while he fails to complete things on time. It's to the point where any date I ask him to meet means very little to me, even if I ask him to provide the date himself. I think he does not delegate enough, and with the lack of accountability of his team, I don't know if it would do much good.
Communication from him is almost non-existent. I love his ability to work independently, but unfortunately his lack of a backbone with the other department manager results in him working for whoever yells the loudest, which many times is not me. A lot of the time I hear from other people about things that he is doing that I had no knowlege of, and would not have necessarily wanted him to work on.
You can probably tell that I am beyond frustrated. When I started out, I could not live without him because I did not have the technical expertise. Now that I've been here a few years, that has changed. I have been constantly asking him to check his schedule, get to meetings on time, respect the due dates he provides, etc, but talking hasn't worked.
Replacing him is really not a possibility. Due to local laws and his seniority, he would have to be paid a huge severance package, and business is bad right now, so it would never get approved. So, I have committed myself to turning this guy into a responsible manager, if it doesn't kill me first. I realize that a lot of these problems are probably at least partially my fault. This was my first departmental management position and I'm learning as I go.
In the past I have been directly managing and providing feedback to his reports in an effort to fill the void in leadership. The first thing I am going to start doing is holding him personally accountable for their actions, and managing them through him.
My other problem, maybe a mistake, is that I have been having daily meetings with him in order to stay on top of what he is doing and making sure he is focused on the big priorities. This is micromanagement, obviously. Instead, I am going to stop the daily meetings, but I am going to hold him accountable for reporting to me what he's up to and what his status is.
I'm going to try and help him delegate his tasks to his directs, and try to teach him how to do it. I'll suggest that to manage the work, he could make a list of his active projects, next actions, due dates, and status. Review it regularly and adjust as required.
I really don't know if he has it in him. I get a sense that there is an unstoppable inertia in the way he has been doing things, and I don't know if I can get him to change his behavior. If I can't, I'm going to have to basically do his job for him (similar to what I have been doing, but even more so).
Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.