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I'm the assistant coordinator for a specialized data system and I have an employee on my team who, due to the hours of her assignment, is supposed to be the lead operator on that system. I find, however, that I end up filling this role because she seems to lack the self-confidence to make the necessary decisions for her role.

After me, she is the most knowledgeable user of the system and has the training and ability to handle 90% of the issues with the system without my intervention. Instead, I find that she is handling 10% and I'm handling 90% which is distracting from my program-management responsibilities. On top of that, she's leaving every day saying how stressed she is and that the issues she's encountering are "scrambling [her] brain." I know she could be a real shining star on level with her skills but she just seems to hold back and defer to me most of the time.

I know she has the training, I know she has the knowledge (I've seen it in action before). I've asked if she would like a different assignment because of her proclaimed stress but she then flip-flops and says she enjoys the challenge and the fast pace of the job. I feel very strongly that her self-esteem is the issue and that she feels she is not up to the job. I've found that she constantly compares herself to me and my level of skill (most of which has been due to my technical education: BBA/MIS). I've stressed to her that she's experienced (2+ years in the job) and that she has the freedom to structure her responsibilities as she sees fit, as long as they get done to standards - in other words, she doesn't have to do it like I did it when I was in her position.

I feel like I'm kind of ranting here. I'm not closed to the possibility that it could be something else, but I'd like some feedback on how to help this employee. I've been using the feedback model with her and it has helped her gain some confidence but we seem to be stalled out.

--Andy

TomW's picture

You say you've been using feedback, but there is very little behavior described in this post.

You speak of her lack of self-confidence and that she is holding back. These are your conclusions. What behaviors of hers make you conclude this?

Are you doing one-on-ones? If so, what does she talk about in them?

MsSunshine's picture

BLUF: Refuse to make the decisions for her. Walk thru the process on one but make her choose. The next time, coach to doing it alone or why she can't.

I always love the comment that no one can make you do something. So, don't make the decision for her. When she comes to you for it, make her walk through the process to get to the decision - being sure that you don't make the choices for her. Praise her for getting to the end and ask if she can't repeat that process the next time on her own. Tell her you expect her to do that.

If/when she comes back, ask if she tried it on her own and where she got stuck. If she didn't try it, send her away. If she got stuck, coach her on that part of the process and tell her to go on.

In doing this, you are both helping her to get confidence and identifying any problem spots. If it turns out that she "can" do this but refuses to do it, I think you have no choice but to remove her from that position.

US41's picture

Two things:

* Do not make the decisions for her any longer starting now

* Use the "C"

If she comes to you for a decision, simply do not make it. Say back to her, "That's interesting. What are you going to do with that?" If she asks you to decide, say, "That's your job. What will you decide? Let me know how it turns out."

Just throw her in and stop bailing her out.

You can't blame your employee for this from your description. The problem is you. Her self-esteem will increase when she is making all of the decisions and is forced to learn to swim by being thrown in the pool.

You also have to be willing to accept some fall-out and give her feedback when she does well and when she makes poor choices. If she comes to you to make the choices to avoid feedback, use the "C" again. Her request for you to work or make a decision goes in the top of the C, and does a U turn back to her: "Good question. Let me know what you decide."

AManagerTool's picture

I know that I saw the "C" in use at the Newark MT conference but it hasn't been getting much press here or in the podcasts. Is Mark going to cast it? I sure hope so. It was one of those little extras that can make a huge difference in remembering to avoid micromanagment (even if that's what they want you to do).

I am tempted to start a thread on it but didn't want to ruin it for anyone.

How about it guys? Podcast? Blog post at least?

BTW, 41...outstanding, as usual.

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"]I know that I saw the "C" in use at the Newark MT conference but it hasn't been getting much press here or in the podcasts. [/quote]

The "C" came up in Chicago as well. Bottom line: Make it part of *your* coaching at the O3s. When a direct comes to you with a problem your response is "Yep [direct], you've got a problem. What do you plan to do?"

drinkcoffee's picture

[quote]I know that I saw the "C" in use at the Newark MT conference[/quote]

Hey come on, you can't keep us in the dark! What is the "C"?

US41's picture

[quote="drinkcoffee"]Hey come on, you can't keep us in the dark! What is the "C"?[/quote]

Premium content for conference attendees, apparently. Attend a conference, and you will learn to shape your hand like a C and deflect any attempt by your directs to make their problems yours.

AManagerTool's picture

[email protected]

Like he don't know...

It's no secret at all. Mark just explained a good technique for remembering to force your directs to THINK for themselves. When your direct comes to you wanting you to make decisions for them, use your thumb and forfinger to create a C and point it at them. When they ask you what they should do, envision the comment entering the top of the C and rolling back at them from the bottom of the C and say, "That's a great question, what do you think YOU should do about it?"

It's dopey and if you actually made a C at your direct while saying it you would look rediculous. He did it to get us to remember the point...and now I can't get the silly picture of Mark doing the C out of my head. The C illustration was therefore effective in that when my directs walk up to me and say those words....my thumb and forfinger make a C involuntarily and I have to quickly stuff it in my pocket....BUT.....

.....I remember to tell them to figure it out themselves!

cwatine's picture

I am asking for a video here. Or a picture, at least ...

US41's picture

When Mark held up his hand like that, I was thinking that he was going to choke the person who asked the question like Darth Vader.

"I find your lack of faith... disturbing." :D

AManagerTool's picture

lol

tlhausmann's picture

[quote="US41"]When Mark held up his hand like that, I was thinking that he was going to choke the person who asked the question like Darth Vader.

"I find your lack of faith... disturbing." :D[/quote]

I actually found myself making the hand gesture (while essentially saying "Yep...you got a problem") but it was subtle and quick.

I love the "Star Wars" reference...now I will have to dig out the video. :-)

P.S. Keep the "C" vertical...not horizontal.

tlhausmann's picture

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgGc9kruiLQ

Here is a video clip from you tube with the gesture. Thanks US41 for the "I find your lack of faith disturbing" quote.

cwatine's picture

God! And do I have to dress that way?

wendii's picture

Ah, the French, most fashionable amongst us. Don't worry Ced, I'm sure you can get a Lacroix version!

Wendii

jhack's picture

Totally off topic now...

My favorite all time project management moment in filmdom is the opening scene of Star Wars: Return of The Jedi.

If you know it, you'll know exactly what I mean...

If you don't: from 3:50 to 5:00 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg7AX7womBQ

"We shall double our efforts!"

John

jhack's picture

Back on topic:

There is a classic article from the Harvard Business Review titled "Management Time: Who's got the monkey?"

http://www.agiconsulting.com/downloads/monkeys.pdf

This decribes in detail how directs give problems to bosses, and how bosses can give those problems back to directs to solve them.

John

cwatine's picture

[quote="wendii"]Ah, the French, most fashionable amongst us. Don't worry Ced, I'm sure you can get a Lacroix version!

Wendii[/quote]

:D