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I joined a team as a manager and I am new in management.
The team was in a part of the company that the demands have been "slow" and not much work that was a challenge. But since they did what was expected, the previous manager managed to present and convince the higher levels that the team was very well functional and performing,for his own benefit of course . That is very far from the truth.

Spending time with each of my reports I found that they never really had adequate support, were not very happy in general and the fact that the team accomplished what it did was purely circumstancial.
Now the demands and expectations are changing and I would need to change multiple things to make sure that the team succeeds.
The problem is that a certain team member is very comfortable with how things are done, for various reasons, and is not open to change.
From one side I want to take into account everyone's opinion as I don't believe in an environment that people have no say in how they work.
On the other side, it has become quite frustrating having to essentially try to explain constantly why certain changes are necessary and because the person is friends with the liason we have with the product side makes things more time consuming for me; reason being the reply from both is it worked thus far.
As a new manager, how do I know when I am in fact too flexible and others are starting to take advantage?
I want only to make sure what are the boundaries in order to avoid a toxic environment

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4 Answers 4

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From one side I want to take into account everyone's opinion as I don't believe in an environment that people have no say in how they work.

This is always a good starting position to have. However, when it is the case that

I would need to change multiple things to make sure that the team succeeds.

You cannot let people's opinions override the need to get things done. If someone is blocking the changes which must be made, then you:

  1. Try and persuade them you are correct
  2. If that fails, then you ask them to "disagree and commit".
  3. If they won't, they you move them out of the way.

To quote Mr Spock, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few".

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  • Thank you for your advice. Another part though is the friendship with the liaison. It appears based on conversations that the liaison is biased so now I would have to address both and only one reports to me
    – smith
    Feb 26, 2022 at 20:57
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Does your team even see the problems you're trying to solve? What would be their suggestions for solutions to those problems?

We frequently charge ahead with our preferred solution to a problem, assuming that everyone else (a) understands there is a problem, and (b) agrees that our preferred solution is the best one.

Rarely are (a) and (b) true.

Start by pointing out the problem, without suggesting any solution. Explain clearly why it is a problem. Repeat a few times in case people don't get it.

Ask if they agree it's a problem worth solving. Or if it's not, why not. Ask them to back their opinion up with data, and do the same yourself.

Then ask how they would solve the problem. In my experience, they can often think of much better solutions than you have.

Once you have a few suggestions for solutions on the paper, collectively pick the best one.

Then implement, now with full buy-in from the entire team.


Effectively, you are likely a tiny bit better than the rest of the team at the big-picture stuff -- that's how you ended up where you are.

But just a tiny bit. In all other respects, you are every bit as human as they are, and their collective brainpower is larger than yours. Err on the side of you being wrong, but give yourself a good chance by starting firmly from data and reason.

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  • I agree with what you say. I actually have data the fact that we already behind schedule and I am working a lot to help them. It is not the team's reaction that is the concern. It is only 1 team member.
    – smith
    Feb 26, 2022 at 22:41
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    If this person is constantly going against the wishes of the team, I would hesitate to call them a team member. They clearly have no interest in being a part of the team. Note that if you have the buy-in of the entire team except one person, it's not about you being flexible with your desires toward this person -- it's about this person sabotaging what the entire team desires.
    – kqr
    Feb 26, 2022 at 22:46
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To me, it sounds like you are worrying too much about process.

The bottom line is: are things getting done?

Management is easy if you stick to the essentials: getting things done.

As a manager you basically need to do just two things: (1) issue exact and specific orders to each report of EXACTLY what they need to do, and (2) demonstrate continuously that you can and WILL do exactly what you are ordering them to do, if they fail to do it. In other words, you need to fill in the gaps when your reports fail to get stuff done.

As far as "flexibility" is concerned, sure you are flexible. As long as the reports do what you ordered them to do, then they can do anything else that they want.

Your opportunities for failure are: (1) giving an order which is beyond the capability of the worker, (2) being unable to execute your own order.

I remember I worked at a software company and there was a fairly important task that the relevant personnel were dawdling about getting done (not something I was working on myself), and so the VP comes into the room and says out loud, "I expect task X to get done by Friday, and if it is not, then I will come in on Saturday and do it myself and heads will roll." Everybody in the room knew he was 100% capable of carrying out both parts of his threat. The task got done by Friday.

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  • Nice points, thank you. I do what you say, doing also parts of what they should be doing. The biggest complication is that which appears as "alliance" with the team member and the liaison which is very time consuming to me
    – smith
    Feb 27, 2022 at 10:18
  • Yes. If the manager is unable to execute his/her own orders, that will create a range of unsolvable problems, the most fundamental of which is that things just won't get done. The manager must always stand ready to be the worker of last resort. You are not a "leader" if you can't do what you are telling other people to do. That's what LEADER means: somebody who goes first.
    – Socrates
    Feb 27, 2022 at 15:23
  • issue exact and specific orders to each report of EXACTLY what they need to do. Possibly this is true to some degree in the military, but in a professional civilian environment, you need buy-in and commitment, not blind obedience to orders.
    – Saes
    Feb 27, 2022 at 19:42
  • @Saes You live in Europe don't you? ... and you're not a manager either are you.
    – Socrates
    Feb 27, 2022 at 19:51
  • @Socrates yes, I'm in Europe. I've spent most of my career working for American companies, and have held management positions. In my experience of those cultures, giving "specific orders of EXACTLY what they need to do" to a professional would be seen as micro management. Your question implies you feel your advice doesn't apply in Europe - perhaps update it to specify which work culture you feel it does apply to.
    – Saes
    Mar 9, 2022 at 17:39
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I have been on the employee side of this situation multiple times.

I found that they never really had adequate support, were not very happy in general and the fact that the team accomplished what it did was purely circumstancial.

Danger. They did what was expected. They did it without support. The company was happy with their performance. But the employees were unhappy.

Now the demands and expectations are changing and I would need to change multiple things to make sure that the team succeeds.

But they don't like those changes.

Make sure the changes aren't being made that will result in destroying the team. Management was happy with their performance. But because of the increased workload, you want to make unpopular changes. Make sure that the things you are proposing don't get rid of all the experience from the team.

I have seen new managers fall into this trap. They want to make changes, but don't listen to the employees and then a few months later find all the good ones left.

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  • Yes I know what you mean and I have seen it to. The difference here is that the team members are "weak" performers and one of the reasons they are unhappy is that they had no support in growth and the topics they dealt with easy hence no learning challenges. The new topics/workload and deadlines are outside their current abilities and I am working along with them to support in all ways. It is achievable with me working closely with them. The issue is that the higher layers did not know that the team is "weak" in multiple aspects. Hence from the outside the changes might appear as arbitrary
    – smith
    Feb 26, 2022 at 22:02

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