Are your Managers real Managers?

Though it is one of the most common and most talked about mistake, I keep seeing it done and repeated in various businesses. The mistake of promoting people into managerial positions based on their technical skills and knowledge, rather than ability to lead, manage and communicate. Then the inevitable happens.

The inevitable is that such persons under perform greatly. They many times feel at a loss. All this is exacerbated by the fact that managers having been having a real rough ride in the past months and years – dealing with the pandemic, employees demanding flexibility, skyrocketing mental health challenges, a tight labour supply and the list goes on and on and on. The truth is that many employees today feel the need to turn to their direct line managers or supervisors for direction and support.

The reality on the ground is that line managers are many times ill prepared to meet their moment because they’re woefully under-trained and overworked while tasked with leading their teams during heightened turbulence.

So my message is simple – To retain your managers — and the employees who report to them — you need to invest in their development.

Here are some pointers as how you could go about this.

  1. Drum in a manager’s head what his/her role is truly about. Any manager has to perform the following
  • Planning: This step involves mapping out exactly how to achieve a particular goal.
  • Organising: After a plan is in place, a manager needs to organise his/her team and materials according to his/her plan. Assigning work and delegating effectively are two important elements of organising. Communication is crucial.
  • Build a team: A manager has to decide where to to beef up his staffing by recruiting, selecting, training, and developing employees. Build a team spirit where team members win together and lose together.
  • Leading: A manager needs to do more than just plan, organise and get staff to achieve a goal. They must also lead. Leading involves motivating, communicating, guiding, and encouraging. It requires the manager to coach and guide employees to solve problems and continuously innovate.
  • Controlling: After the other elements are in place, a manager’s job is not finished. He/She needs to continuously check results against goals and take any corrective actions necessary to make sure that his/her area’s plans remain on track.

2. Give them time to grow in the position and improve.

Managing during these chaotic times has been challenging even for the most experienced managers, let alone those who are often promoted into managerial positions because they’re good at their day jobs — not necessarily because they have the skills to really manager — it is therefore imperative that they’re given the opportunity to develop those skills. You can help such managers by first outlining to them the problems you’d like them to first address. However you need to give them the space and trust they need. Many times a common mistake in family business, is that family business owners hardly ever give such space, whereby they end up micromanaging middle management.

3. Create a support structure.

Even the most elevated and well-trained managers will realise that ongoing support is essential as they keep up with continued challenges and uncertainty. I find one of the best support structures is creating a peer support structure, where managers can come together in so called management meetings and share information with each other about change they’re driving, initiatives being taken and anything they’re struggling with. This has to be a safe space, where line managers can have a candid, peer-to-peer discussion. Peer support, as opposed to top-down feedback, offers a number of benefits, including insights into diverse perspectives, opportunities to practice new skills in a safe space and an enduring support network. Having line managers practice their skills together is also another opportunity for professional development.

There’s no doubt that this is a difficult time to be in middle management. However as the old adage goes “People leave their managers and not the a company.” Managers — more than any other factor — influence team and employee engagement and performance, so it’s high time for companies to invest in their managers by giving them the skills and support they need to connect with their teams and truly manage.

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