Are we getting the best out of managers?

I have read so many negative reports about management over the last few months. It seems we are definitely not getting the best out of managers.  Having worked various management roles for a number of years, I felt compelled to stand up and throw in a different perspective.   In the past few months, I’ve read quotes such as:

  • “Three-quarters of employees report a lack of leadership and management skills and too many managers have inflated opinions of their ability to manage    people”
  • “More than six out of ten people employed in customer-facing sales and service roles say that their managers’ behaviour towards them [Negatively] affects the   level of customer service they deliver.”
  • “Poor people management is at the root of much of the evil in our economy”
  • “Estimated cost of poor management in the UK is £19 Billion a year!”

What on earth is going on?  If I were still a manager I think I’d be feeling pretty battered by now.

Leadership vs management

The difference between leadership and management is not always clear.   We employ managers and complain they don’t lead.  Leadership Models are defined with skills such as leading from the front, creating a vision and thinking outside of the box.  Attributes most can execute in their teams, but the lead comes from above.  Most in the management role are required to deliver an already created and articulated vision. They often work in an environment where values have been decided by senior leaders.  Outcomes and results are decided by the board.  The manager’s job is to make things happen and get things done. Hardly a way to get the best out of them.

We want managers to focus on people, but I’ve worked in many organisations where their outcomes or targets are task orientated.

The role of the manager is multi-faceted

There was an advert a few years ago that featured a mother wearing different hats.  When her little girl cut her knee, she had a nurse cap on.  When helping her son with his homework, she donned the mortarboard.  Finally, when cooking dinner she wore a chef’s hat. Managers are like mothers. They have many roles and wear many hats.

In most organisations, the role of the manager is multi-faceted.  They have to manage people and budgets.  They manage results locally and globally. Responsibilities include the environment they work in, change management, training needs, absence, performance, initiatives, projects, the business plan, the people plan, stakeholders, partners, customers, reward, reviews, income, communications, processes, media, social responsibility, diversity and of course the work.

There are some great qualifications for managers.  In some organisations the pay is competitive.  It’s not clear whether the rewards give credit for the demanding, time-consuming, multi-talented role they have to play in an organisations’ success. Rarely do junior or middle managers get audible praise for the part they play in organisational success.  High profile leaders tend to receive the applause.

How to get the best out of managers

Be clear about their primary function

At the recruitment stage, be clear about why you need the manager.  If their primary function is people management, make sure they have people management skills.  If you want a people manager and the successful candidate has written a great thesis on your range of products and the best way to sell them. You are probably on the wrong track.

Develop them

Develop their potential while they are with the organisation.  Make sure they have inspirational role models. Expose them to demonstrations of the skills, behaviours and standards they are expected to work to.

Set them outcomes about how they manage their team

If your organisation only has aims and targets based on product or service, that’s where your managers will place their attention.  If you want a good management ethos in your organisation, set targets around how people are managed.  Value employee experience which is immediately influenced by managers.

Set clear expectations

Managers must be clear about what is expected of them.  As CEO, you need to be clear about their priorities and how you measure their performance.  If you move the goalposts, involve them in the decision.

Value managers as much as specialists

If you employ specialists or professionals, value your managers as much as, if not more than your specialist or professional contribution.

Give credit

Give your manager’s credit for the difficult and dedicated job they do.  Their jobs are highly skilled professional roles, and you should acknowledge that.

Deal with poor manager performance

Like any other role, if managers are not performing well they must be made accountable.  If good results are being achieved at the expense of the treatment of their team, then this must be tackled.

I believe that the reason for the focus on underperforming management is because they are such a pivotal and impactful force in an organisation.  So let’s raise the standards of our managers and have better businesses, but also give credit when managers are doing a great job and value them.

I hope you enjoyed my small but heartfelt accolade to the manager.  What do you think?  Do you agree?  Why do you think managers are getting such a poor press?

I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.