Kudos for the Upfront Manager

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I was looking at recent news in human resource management, and I found stories of unbelievably bad behavior of management. An example of bad management: Company officials of Big Boy Restaurants International LLC came into two Ohio restaurants and told the employees and customers that the store would be closing permanently after breakfast that day. Talk about communication and advance preparation!

I have heard stories of people being laid off via a cell phone call, an email and an 800 call-in center. It’s a daunting task being a manager of human capital and human resource.

The financial planning industry is gradually adding dedicated management to their teams. However, for many ensemble firms and particularly solo practitioners, the owner(s) of the business are the managers as well.

For the new year, here is one resolution we should strive to commit to: Be an upfront, communicative manager. With the glory of a successful business and successful career, you sometimes have the challenges of delivering bad news to team member(s). If you will have to deliver bad news to team member(s) this year, here is how you can earn kudos for handling this in a professional and motivational (for the remaining team) manner:

1. Deliver the news yourself face to face with the individual

  • You’re the owner and you’re the one who should be meeting directly with the individual.
  • Determine when and if you have to deliver and follow-up with a “need to go now” message. This should be only for the insubordinate, egregious and dangerous behaviors.
  • Do not let others on your team know about the event before you talk to the affected individual.
  • Prepare your conversation in advance and anticipate how a person will react or what a person will say. Practice with your experts who are giving you advice.
  • Realize this is an emotional time and give the person time to be emotional. Don’t react with your emotion.

2. Rely on experts to give you advice but don’t replace yourself with them

  • Consult with experts on how to deliver the news.
  • Don’t ask the expert to deliver the news in your place. You can ask the expert to be present in the meeting, but you drive the conversation.

3. Communicate and outreach to your team members (employees, contractors, interns, etc.) as you have communicated and reached out to your clients.

  • Talk with team members about the decision and be upfront with the reasons for the decision.
  • Tell the affected person (team member) that you need to let the team know and tell the person what you will say. Don’t let the affected team member be the communicator on the news first. 
  • Tell the team how the company will fare after the decision. Is the company committed to building, growing, learning or not? Be honest. Have your plan.
  • Don’t assume that you have communicated enough—check with your team. Do they understand?

4. Invite, encourage and give employees the opportunities to recommend and implement. Reward the team effort.

  • Ask remaining team members questions regarding their interpretation and thoughts of the event. 
  • Let the team members know in advance what you will ask them and give them time to think about it.
  • Ask questions about why the team members may have few comments or questions. Maybe they are afraid or unsure how to deliver their constructive criticism to you.

5. Get the pulse of your top talent and how they view your decisions. Make them part of your “advisory” council.

  • Let your top talent be part of your business plans. The top talent want to be involved in some way and want to feel part of the process.
  • Get their views on initiatives and decisions you want to make. You can use their ideas but you are the ultimate decision-maker.
  • Ask how we could handle events better to reduce negative results in the future. Sometimes negative results occur regardless of our best plans and efforts, but we can work to prevent as many negative results as possible.

Mary Dunlap, CFP®
Mary Dunlap Consulting
Pottstown, Pa.

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