When someone is promoted before they are ready, it can be hard to hold your tongue and let them make mistakes, especially when it hurts your goals. But how can you speak up without being undermining?
This week, leadership coach Lolly Daskal helps a reader with an inexperienced boss figure out when and how to speak up.
My previous manager retired and was replaced by a qualified but inexperienced new manager. The new manager seems both unable to offer direction and make decisions, which affects the performance of our store.
I am sure he will eventually catch up, but time is limited. The negative effect could affect the whole team in our year-end bonuses and personal goals. I know what needs to be done, but I don’t want to step on his toes and need to show that I respect the chain of command. I’m a manager too, and I don’t want to set a poor example for my people. How can I bring this person up to speed without coming across as uncooperative?
Unfortunately your problem is one I encounter a lot. It happens all the time in organizations and businesses—unqualified or underqualified people become bosses and CEOs and managers.
But, as you’ve pointed out, what you need to do is work on a solution and not concentrate on the problem. And there is a solution:
It may look like a big problem at the moment, but this situation is actually an opportunity for you to take on an important leadership role. Become the asset that is missing. The more you can accomplish, the more you will stand out—in a good way—and the better it will be for yourself, your team, and your business.
Focus on your job, and on your leadership. When you become frustrated by your manager’s lack of expertise, do what you can within your own sphere of leadership with your own team. Concentrate on leading from within and being the best you can be in challenging circumstances.
Help your new boss do their job. Position yourself as someone who can help a new person adjust, even through the awkwardness of your reporting relationship. Don’t concentrate on the weakness but on solutions, and lend a hand wherever possible. If your new manager is not making decisions, ask questions that will lead in the right direction and prompt a response.
Find something that you can admire or respect about your new manager. Even the worst managers have some redeeming qualities. If you can find something positive, it will offset the weakness and give you something to build on.
Do not make the mistake of talking about how you feel with others in your team or company. Whatever you do, do not gossip about your manager. Do not complain or vent your frustrations. Allow your new manager to grow into the job.
If you do your best to be helpful and supportive during the transition and this person’s management is still a disaster, stop covering up for your manager. If instead of learning and improvement you see a pattern of incompetence, it does not serve you or the company to keep cleaning up the mess. Keep doing your job well and make sure you deliver on what is asked of you, but if your work is being used to cover up serious deficiencies, you may need to stop covering up for them.
When things get frustrating, try to remember that every challenging time is also an opportunity to learn and grow. I wish you the best of success.
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