If your managers of managers are struggling to hold their teams accountable, dig a level deeper into the root cause
I’ve got a manager of managers on my team, let’s call her “Sue.” Sue’s an incredible leader. Smart. Strategic, Analytic. Hard worker. But she’s got a weak team. I’m so tired of getting pulled into the weeds on issues her team should be handling. And Sue’s exhausted too. How do I get Sue to hold her team accountable, without micromanaging?
It sounds like Sue has some amazing leadership competencies, so you have a lot of good to work with here. And, if Sue has been in this role for a while, with this team, you are right to be concerned. Strong leaders don’t have weak teams.
Where to Start: Get Curious About What’s Really Going On
3 Questions to Ask if Your Managers of Managers
Aren’t Holding Their Teams Accountable
I would start with curiosity. It’s certainly possible that Sue is avoiding accountability conversations, or doesn’t know how to have them well. It’s also feasible that she could use some support in other areas as well.
1. Is she effectively communicating her team’s strategic initiatives, the Most Important Things (MITs), to the team?
Are expectations clear?
Does the team understand what matters most, and why? Do they have enough context to prioritize work, make decisions, and to “say no” to distractions as needed?
As a manager of managers, is Sue able to translate those Most Important Things into practical, tactical behaviors that the team needs to execute well in order to meet their metrics and quality standards?
You can start, by asking Sue to describe their most important priorities at a strategic, initiative, activity, and behavioral level. If she has a good grasp, then you can ask how she’s communicating those priorities and checking for understanding with her team.
This article will help if this is an area that needs more focus.
2. Does her team have the capacity (e.g. tools, training, and resources) to be successful?
Ask your Sue if she thinks she has the right people, with the right expertise, working in the right roles. Does everyone on the team have the training they need in order to execute their job well?
It’s possible she has capacity concerns but feels constrained or afraid to ask for help.
3. As a manager of managers, is Sue connected to her team?
Is she connected and building trust? You can ask her about her approach to building trust and connection. If you are concerned that they might be struggling with this aspect of their leadership, you might also consider doing a skip-level meeting to talk with their direct reports.
One of the Biggest Struggles for Many Manager of Managers
If you’re absolutely sure it’s an accountability issue, you need to have a “no diaper genie,” INSPIRE performance feedback conversation about the pattern of not having accountability conversations.
Share the pattern you’re noticing and the impact it’s having. You may need to reset expectations that as a manager of managers, the ability to hold accountability conversations is a critical component of her role. If you’re confident she’s done all she can, she may need support in progressing the performance management conversation. See Also: How to Be Okay When It’s Time to Fire a Poor Performer.
What would you add? If you’re an executive or manager of managers, how do you help your team strengthen accountability?
Would you like to have a more Courageous Culture on your team? Are you looking for practical tools and techniques to help your employees speak up, share their ideas, and drive quality performance and productivity? Check out our Strategic Leadership and Team Innovation Programs for more inspiration.