The number one gripe that workers have about their workplace is their manager. And let’s face it, anyone who has been in the workplace for more than a few years knows that bad managers are a dime a dozen, good managers are rare and truly great managers are like a needle in a haystack, they exist but are next to impossible to find. Yet companies continue to promote people in to roles they are ill quipped for, and with over 50% of workers leaving roles because of bad managers truly smart organisations recognise that an investment in management is one of the most important investments they can make.
Role models in management have historically have been cut from the same cloth; hard-arsed, unemotional, driven to get results at the expense of people and emotionally disconnected in the workplace. However times are changing, it’s almost 2020 and clever companies are realising that being stuck in a traditional hierarchical style management structure with old-school managers just won’t cut it with the new breed of smart and up and coming workforce whose idols are far more likely to be a self-made YouTube star than the head of an investment bank.
The culture of most workplaces directly links work experience and management, yet most workplaces seriously under invest in management skills, promoting technically strong people into roles where they assume management responsibility but who have little or no experience in how to actually manage.
Managing people is a tough, often unrelenting gig, where individuals can feel like they are going from one people crisis to another, while trying to deliver work outcomes. On top of that many managers also have the role of an individual contributor where they are still required to deliver their own role outcomes as well as those of their teams.
“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything, for better or for worse” – Simon Sinek
Many people have a hard time managing their own personal lives, yet we somehow think they will be perfectly ready to manage others without providing any actual training or guidance.
Good people can turn in to terrible managers, chances are if you quizzed your bad manager’s friends and family outside of work it’s likely they will say they are a great person, yet get them in to the work environment and they can turn into someone hardly recognisable. This can be due to a whole range of reasons – they feel out of their depth, they are ill equipped and untrained to do their job, they are taking on stress from above or they simply let the perceived power and control go to their heads.
So how do you solve it?
Stripping out the layers. Firstly most businesses could do with critically looking at their structures and stripping out layers of middle management, to do this successfully you need to invest in empowering your workforce to make decisions and learn how to build a culture of trust and self-motivation. Again most organisations just strip out management layers, often to cut cost, without seriously investing in the other areas which only results in the next level up managers assuming even greater responsibility and stress and the whole bad manager cycle starting again.
Recruit smartly and look for leaders, not managers. You should be recruiting for natural leaders, those people with that certain x-factor that people will follow and do anything for, not people who who can manage task outcomes. When you are recruiting look for engaging people who are natural communicators, who can sell a vision, who display strong signs of empathy and who can genuinely connect with people at a human level.
“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings—and put compensation as a carrier behind it—you almost don’t have to manage them.” – Jack Welch
Don’t link compensation and promotion to management. Staff should be able to progress within an organisation without taking on management responsibility, as it currently stands most companies link promotion with management so even when a person understands they aren’t equipped to manage people they will go for management roles as it’s the only way they can progress. De-linking the two will allow people to truly grow within their skillset and weed out those who truly do want to manage people.
Invest heavily in management capability uplift. A one or two day course isn’t going to cut it, if your business is serious about developing leaders, then you need to invest significantly in uplifting people management skills – through formal training and courses, self reflective assessments, mentoring, shadowing and real-life practice. Only when someone is fully trained should they be allowed to be unleashed on your workforce without supervision.
So if you are on the path to management or are currently a manager have a really good think about what type of manager you want to be, how you can develop the skills to be truly great and if you can’t then consider staying in an individual contributor role, your future team will thank you for it.
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