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How to fix weak management teams

Is your business under-performing? Management teams play a crucial role in your company’s success. If you know or suspect there are weak elements in your management team, you need to take action.

So, how do you identify the weak links and fix a poor management team?

It’s all about the people! As an experienced business turnaround advisor, that’s something I learnt very early in my career.

And while this article is specific to fixing internal management, this statement applies across the board. Weak external advisors, inexperienced owners in board roles, finance managers in positions where the business has outgrown their skill set, advisory board members well past their used-by-date – these all contribute to under-performance in a company.

However, let’s focus on how to sort and improve your internal management team.

How to identify weak management team members

Here’s a useful metaphor:

Think of your business as a wooden row boat.

A boat full of Rowers, Passengers and Drillers.

Think of your business as a row boat. Classify your management team members into rowers, passengers and drillers to identify the weak links and act to fix the resulting mix accordingly.

In the early stages of a change program in a company, I attempt to classify all senior managers into one of these 3 categories. With the proviso that first impressions are not always accurate. Even Drillers can become the greatest Rowers.

How can you start to recognise these individuals?

  1. Rowers. Who will usually bend backwards and go the extra mile?
  2. Passengers. Who will coast, see what happens and just do enough to keep out of the firing line?
  3. Drillers. Who are the saboteurs when your back is turned; drilling holes in the bottom of the boat, trying to sink it?

6-Step process to improve your management team

The following actions will arguably be the most important game-changing initiatives you will ever take in improving the culture and bottom line in your business.

  1. Categorise. Get a third party to help you classify your management team into the 3 categories – Rowers, Passengers or Drillers. This really is the role of a skilled advisory board member, if you have one on hand. Or check out our page on getting your own Professional Advisory Board.
  2. Let go. Bench the drillers immediately. In the words of Jack Welch, fire fast, hire slow”.
  3. Assess. Rate the Passengers from 0 to 10 on the following, in order of importance: 1) Attitude, 2) Coachability and 3) Skills.
  4. Correct. Poor scores on the above might indicate a need for further benching or one-on-one coaching to move the individual up a notch, from Passenger to Rower.
  5. Keep score. Put your Rowers on Job Scorecards, an invaluable tool to get absolute clarity on performance expectations. Download a scorecard template below
  6. Reward. Make sure you are paying your Rowers industry benchmark salaries, plus a reward based on their meeting targets on their Job Scorecard.

This process generally takes between 3 and 6 months for a senior management team.

However, I assure you it will be worth it. This process is one of the most important and beneficial initiatives you will ever undertake for your business.

Article written by Jeremy de Constantin
deConstantin Business Advisory is a specialist exit planning consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. We are partners with the Business Enterprise Institute, a Colorado based think tank on mid-market private exits and transitions, headed by John Brown. On our team we have specialists in commercial, employment & contract law, investment banking, financial planning, forensic accounting, process improvement, HR, strategy and performance measurement.

18 Comments

  1. Vinay
    October 3, 2017

    Insightful commentary, valuable information and packaged in an easy to understand manner. Thanks for the blog.




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    • Jeremy
      October 4, 2017

      Thank you Vinay. Appreciate your feedback!




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  2. Tom
    October 3, 2017

    Wow – amazing blog




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    • Jeremy
      October 4, 2017

      Thank you Tom and nice of you to give me that feedback. I am pleased you enjoyed it.




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  3. Diane Tiller
    October 3, 2017

    good content, management issues a key concern for us




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    • Jeremy
      October 4, 2017

      Thanks Diane. You’re not alone 🙂 Peter Drucker when he started his great career, thought that management was responsible for 85% of the problems in companies. After years of research and work, he revised that number upwards to 95%!




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  4. Stew Myers
    October 4, 2017

    I absolutely like the rowers, drillers & passengers analogy. Fantastic piece and something the traditional managerial literature ignores a lot — people, people, people..




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    • Jeremy
      October 4, 2017

      Thanks very much Stew. Sounds like you’ve experienced this issue first hand!




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  5. Ilya
    October 4, 2017

    6 step process , very good and informative




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    • Jeremy
      October 4, 2017

      Thanks Ilya – trust you put the process to good use 🙂




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  6. Tomas Federico
    October 4, 2017

    Love you discussion.

    do you think the traditionalist in ivory tower differ from the reality of day to day operation? What good articles would you give for a division manager in a small pan-american freight companie?




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    • Jeremy
      October 5, 2017

      Thanks Tomas – will take this off line and send you an email




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  7. Yuri
    October 4, 2017

    is there a link between passenger ‘coasting’ and long-term financial distress? maybe another blog idea?

    i like the intiial points brought up here




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    • Jeremy
      October 5, 2017

      Yes probably. I think the term these days is presenteeism.




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  8. James Iconovski
    October 4, 2017

    good read




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  9. Tim Burley
    October 4, 2017

    Strong strategic promise – cartoon a good indicator of typical corporate shenanigans!




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  10. Alexander
    October 4, 2017

    Very useful blog Jeremy and of immediate application. Thank you, well done.




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    • Jeremy
      October 4, 2017

      Thanks Alex – glad you could make use of it and good luck!




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