Secret Diary of an Entrepreneur: Can leopards change their spots?

I hate it when one of my team reacts in a completely unexpected way...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

If asked to nominate my favourite clichés, there's no question that 'leopards don't change their spots' would be right up there near the top of the list. Generally speaking, my theory is that most people have some character traits that are far too ingrained to respond to any amount of training, coaching, mentoring or coaxing. And since management is a lot to do with character, I tend to think that if someone is naturally a rubbish manager, they're probably never going to be a great one. You can get them to passable, or maybe even good, but that's as far as it goes.

I mention this because I've just had my chat with Ace (my sales guy) about that direct report of his - the one who told me the other day (quite presumptuously, I thought) that their relationship had deteriorated to such an extent that she could no longer work with him.

Now here's I expected this conversation to go. I say: 'So Ace, how about this situation with Miss X?' And he says: 'I know, isn't it ridiculous... I have to say, SD, I've warned you several times about X – she’s taking up a disproportionate amount of my management (for which read: sales) time, and she's not even that good anyway – I think it's time we got rid.' And I say: 'Look, Ace, you have to learn to adapt your management style and do a better job of resolving this kind of conflict etc etc etc.' And we go on like this for a while without really getting anywhere.

But here’s what actually happened. When I asked the question, he said: ‘I know, SD, and to be honest I'm very embarrassed about it. She's my report; I should be able to manage the situation without her running to you. If it's ok with you, I'm going to have a chat with her, apologise for having a go the other day, and suggest that we forget what's happened lately and start over, on a clean page.’


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