Bad managing kills productivity, sure, but it also wipes out the workforce, literally. A famous Swedish study found that employees reporting poor managerial leadership had an average excess risk of 50% for developing heart disease.
The problem is by no means confined to Scandinavia, either, with 84% of American workers responding to SHRM that poorly-trained managers have created unnecessary work and stress for them.
It’s firmly established that a happy worker is a productive one, meaning managers all over should be looking to see how they measure up. Here are the expectations of a great manager and how they can be implemented.
The most significant element of managing people (by far) is communication. A comprehensive knowledge of corporate buzzwords is fine for the movies, but the real world demands much more, namely transparency, availability and listening skills.
Ultimately, managers need to ensure that their team is given the opportunity to communicate freely. Such meetings should adhere to a high standard of clarity, justice and mutual respect, whether that’s a face-to-face huddle or a message board.
A great manager absolutely must ensure that teams and individuals fully understand the company vision. More specifically, they must be able to distinguish how they individually relate and contribute to it. The problem is that, according to Gallup research, only 22% of employees do agree that their leaders have a clear direction for their organization.
What are managers doing to rectify this? Not enough, judging by Soapbox statistics that revealed "alignment to the company vision" was the least discussed topic in direct reports. While it’s seen more often in new managers, with less than 2 years’ experience, there is little improvement at senior levels.
Team goals are representative of the overriding business strategy, therefore it’s a massive problem when managers don’t spend the time to relate individual work to the larger aims of their organization.
Syncing the two is actually fairly straightforward. While companies spend the majority of their time sharing their story with customers, they need to empower managers to do the same with team members. When company motivation is presented honestly and clearly, it is much easier for employees to get on board with long-term strategy and appreciate success criteria.
A great deal of managers struggle deciding how exactly to spend their time, with regard to their specific roles and the weights attributed to them. Almost half of managers at smaller companies believe that keeping the team on track to achieve goals is their most significant duty, as told by the 2019 State of One-on-ones Report.
How exactly does a manager keep a team on track, though? First and foremost, they help the team to understand precisely what they are delivering, as well as why they’re doing it. When employees recognize the importance of their work, how it incorporates the actions of other members and departments, they require minimal push.
There are plenty of ways a manager can boost team motivation, principally a positive outlook, leading by example and a genuine commitment to effective feedback as it pertains to employee development. After all, a great manager is there to empower a team to find solutions.
Positive reinforcement needn’t be complicated. While many organizations do indeed maintain extensive incentive programs, involving financial rewards and/or positional benefits, managers can boost morale with simple kudos. Honest employee and team recognition is crucial, with ample research indicating it to be a significant factor for goal-commitment and general work satisfaction.
While the best managers know when to get out of the way, it’s paramount that they still possess the confidence and authority to step in as needed. New managers famously struggle finding the balance between control and trust, making the mistake of either micromanaging or acting too reservedly over fears of being seen as the bad guy.
Managers are required to make difficult decisions regularly. When doing so, the health of their team and value to the company are chief concerns. This involves excellent goal setting, communicating process updates concisely, and dealing with persistent performance issues head-on.
At the same time, managers must avoid falling into the trap of over-scheduling team meetings and constantly prodding at their staff. The indecisiveness of an insecure manager, a la Michael Scott in The Office, is toxic to productivity. Equally, the stop-start rhythm of a suited-up control freak chiming in relentlessly is no way to run a team, let alone a business.
A key component of decisive leadership is delegation. While this position of authority is a seemingly relaxed one, a manager’s responsibilities behind the scenes are broad. However, they must learn to let go and trust employees to take charge when they can.
The self-enhancement bias, a manager’s belief that their involvement in a task is always beneficial, stops the empowerment of team members. By delegating work and passing out responsibility, a manager can build greater trust and improve group dynamics.
If you’re having issues delegating, try sketching your own Eisenhower matrix!
Studies suggest as many as 79% of people quit their jobs due to lack of appreciation. That’s a real shame considering the solution is so simple. In the words of B.C. Forbes, “A word of appreciation often can accomplish what nothing else could accomplish.”
Acknowledging the hard work of your staff doesn’t take much energy, but it goes a long way. It’s a cost-effective way of examining an individual, team, or organization. For managers specifically, appropriate feedback means regular and constructive responses.
Consistent feedback promotes continuous learning and creates progressive standards for quality work. For these reasons, and more, it’s an immensely valuable resource. When giving feedback, face-to-face is best, and you should begin with a positive point. The actual advice given needs to be actionable. If improvement is made, great managers are quick to praise this positive change.
Time must be made for performance reviews as the number one method of tracking and communicating employee development. Gallup revealed that a mere 14% of employees strongly agree their performance reviews inspire them to improve, which is an outright travesty.
Performance reviews are an opportunity to connect. While they may involve criticism, it is by no means their only function. These discussions can be utilized to assess team morale, canvass opinions on upcoming matters, and even exchange innovative ideas for the future. Managers should be tapping into all channels to make the most out of these one-on-ones.
As broadcasting executive Donald McGannon used to say, “Leadership is an action, not a position.” When it comes to calculating the value of a manager, actions are just as weighty as words. While holding high expectations is a great start, there’s no quicker way to lose the respect of a team than hypocrisy.
It really is a case of ‘monkey see, monkey do,’ which is not to insinuate the incompetence of employees, but instead the innate power of leading through example. This could either be work, such as collaborating directly on a department project, or attitude, like communicating kindly and constructively with others.
The consequence of putting your words into action is higher levels of trust and respect. If managers make time to attend training sessions, even briefly, it suggests to attendees that it should be taken seriously. Earlier points like transparency, company vision and motivation all benefit from this kind of hands-on leadership.
Just as congressmen and women have their poll ratings, managers are also worried about maintaining their reputation. Rather than engage in arduous office politics, great managers rely on their hard work and productive attitude to speak for them.
Suboptimal work rate is often a result of a manager taking their foot off the gas, though there are many other reasons. When progress is slower than expected, it’s all too easy for a sneaky manager to hide behind their team. As the old medieval proverb goes, “a bad workman blames his tools.”
Accountability is not only for employees, but supervisors too. While unity in vision and clear objectives are necessary for the best output, managers have to ensure roles are assigned and specific responsibilities are known. Having a centralized project document keeps everyone on the same page, and thus should be an early priority for any project leader.
For keeping an eye on work done, consider using daily task reports. These can be used to monitor individual progress, as well as a basis for immediate feedback or upcoming performance reviews.
Alternatively, a quick end-of-day check-in may be all that’s necessary.
When things go wrong, a lack of culpability can cause cracks to form. It is the mark of a fantastic manager to come forward and admit to their own shortfalls. Instead of marching around the team looking for the scapegoat, leaders can use mistakes for teaching moments. When team members feel their manager is not above consequence, there exists a stronger camaraderie between them.
Owning one’s work and accepting full responsibility is an admirable act and, when seen, it should be applauded. Without such, employees can risk thinking of their tasks as detached from the larger project or strategy or believe that they are impervious to reprimands.
Expectations depend on the situation but, ultimately, managers commit their time to optimizing the means of work. While there’s an abundance of research and a myriad of opinions on the subject, it comes down to a single pursuit.
“Management is nothing more than motivating people,” said auto executive Lee Iacocca. In many cases, all that the average manager must do to become great is adjust the balance of push and pull. Encourage a team to work autonomously and you’ll soon be in the running for manager of the year.
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