Happy New Year!
If your organization is like most others, improving performance, revenue, service and innovation loom large as your challenges and also as your goals for the upcoming year. Your targets keep getting more ambitious, and for very good reasons – you have to be unrelenting in your efforts to improve because competition everywhere is fierce. And guess who is in the best position to impact these goals? Your managers! Your managers have a huge impact on how employees perform. You’ve heard the expression, People leave managers, not organizations. Well, it’s true. Imagine that you are working in an organization where many employees aren’t happy. If by the luck of the draw you have a progressive manager, you should have a worthwhile experience and may stay for some time. Your less lucky co-workers, the ones who have poor managers or aren’t learning and growing, may be thinking of leaving. They may not physically leave (a paycheck from a lousy workplace is better than looking for work), but they have already left emotionally – they keep turning in acceptable work but their hearts aren’t in what they do, they quietly mark time.
It’s the manager that makes the difference in how people perform, their commitment and their intentions to stay and excel or leave (or maybe even worse – stay and just complete minimal requirements – not exceed expectations). If the manager is so important to the success of your organization, let’s ask a few questions. Sorry if some of these might be unsettling. When is the last time you asked questions such as the following?
Do your managers know how to lead? How do you know? If you had to rate them on their leadership skills, how many would get a “pass”?
What century are your managers operating in – are they still using Command and Control management or are they now using an Influence and Grow style suited to today’s employees? How well are your managers prepared for their role of leading employees?
If you were to ask employees “Does your manager inspire and motivate you to perform at your best?” what would their answer be?
How well is your organization supporting your managers so they can be their best?
This last question begs a few more: Have you provided training to your managers? And what was that training like – was it a one or two-day program?
Were your managers expected to somehow absorb all the tips and “how-to’s” that the program communicated and then magically transform into great leaders? For more information on manager support read the Gallup article “How Your Manager Experience Shapes Your Employee Experience”
Do you think that we are over exaggerating in asking these questions? Sadly, we are not – these questions are suggestive of practices that still prevail. If managers have a huge role in the organization’s success, why do so many organizations only do the minimum to support their managers? If your organization sees developing managers as a top priority, consider yourself one of the fortunate few. And top priority means not simply marching all your managers through a basic management program but continuously growing your managers.
Developing managers is not a “one time and you are done” deal. Why? Everything in business is forever shifting – tomorrow you could be surprised by some clever competitor who can steal away many of your customers. Your company has to be agile, anticipate what’s coming and ready to change course. More than just anticipating or reacting, it’s clearly better to be in charge of your destiny – be the company that is ahead of the pack and brings forth progressive ideas and solutions. In this uncertain environment, your managers have to model and cultivate agility, and to do this, they have to be learning all the time.
If you want your managers to adopt effective practices – coach their employees and help employees grow and become more skilled – a training program alone won’t achieve this. Adapting effective manager behaviors takes time and nurturing. Your managers can leave a training program enthused, but if they don’t have support after the training, it’s all too easy to go back to old habits. It’s not the training, even if the “smiley sheets” rate the program 5 out of 5 – it’s what happens afterwards that counts. How are you supporting managers in adopting good practices? Do you track how well they are doing in putting tools and practices to use – do you have early warning if some managers need assistance? Could they use support to establish stronger and more productive relationships with employees?
So if you want to do more to strengthen your managers, where do you start? Creating a business case might be a good beginning. If you have done an employee engagement or pulse surveys recently, what is it telling you about the quality of your managers? What is it telling you about the level of employee engagement? If you don’t have recent survey data, you can ask a cross section of your workforce a few questions such as:
- How effective are our managers, on a scale of 1 to 10?
- How effective is the support we give our managers?
- What’s your estimate of how much less than highly effective management is costing us?
If the answers from across the organization surprise you, you may have a business case. And the best part is that it represents many voices across your organization. If there is a consensus, it becomes harder to ignore. This is only the first step, but you may know the old saying, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
If you want to develop your managers, contact us. It’s what we do.
In our next article we will look at the question “Are you working to transition your managers into leaders?” Stay tuned.
We look forward to hearing from you.