“I just wish my managers would manage!”
Have you heard that before? Or maybe even said it yourself?
It’s no surprise that as a business grows you have to rely on your managers to make things happen.
But often managers aren’t equipped to do the serious work you expect of them.
In this last week I’ve had two conversations with senior executives (owner and General Manager roles) about how their managers aren’t really equipped to manage. But it’s not entirely the managers fault.
Managers get promoted but not trained
Yes, the managers have been promoted into a management role because they were great at their previous role. Plus they have relevant domain-specific knowledge that is valuable and critical to what the business does.
But no, they have never been assessed as a manager and haven’t been given any training as a manager.
Like so many managers before them they have been thrust into management positions on the blind expectation they can carry it out.
You may have heard the phrase “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”, and that comes from the management concept known as The Peter Principle (named after the person who originated the idea, Laurence J. Peter).
The Peter Principle states:
The selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and therefore managers rise to the level of their incompetence.
So, guess what happened to the managers I was discussing with my clients?
They are having challenges managing their team. And that is affecting results and morale.
Example 1: Sales Manager
This person has a long history with the business. He has been very successful at building relationships with customers over a few decades and naturally assumed the role of Sales Manager after other company changes made it possible.
However, his management style is very laissez-faire with little direction for his team and rarely holding team members accountable for their actions and results (or lack thereof).
In his defence he recognises his casual management style is probably a reaction to the heavy handed management styles he experienced first-hand under previous CEO’s in the company. He doesn’t want to follow the same path of blaming people and being confrontational. So he does the opposite.
Example 2: Operations Manager
This fellow is younger than many of the individuals that report to him. And his team are often working on-site (out of the office), meaning communication is somewhat restricted and it can be awkward to address complex issues over the phone.
He has been promoted to the role due to his excellent workmanship, knowledge and organisational capability. However his only previous exposure to “management” was working under his older brother who had a very authoritarian management style, always looking to lay down the law to his workers.
Consequently, this manager was unsure about how to address performance shortfalls or issues of poor planning by his team. The only thing he knew was that he didn’t want to be authoritarian like his brother. As a result, he avoided confronting those who reported to him. He let issues brew until there was no other option but to say something. And then the issue was so much more difficult to address than it should have been.
The good news in both these examples is the individual managers have come to see, with the support of individual coaching sessions, how they can:
- Take practical steps to develop more accountability within their team
- Be more assertive with their communications
- Develop a more confidant and proactive management style
Importantly, their bosses can see the improvement in their performance and the managers are much happier in their roles.
Modern managing is hard.
In years gone by managing was much easier. Everyone had clearly defined roles. You knew where the boundaries were.
Managers ‘managed’. And workers ‘worked’.
Decisions were made by managers, and the orders were carried out by the workers. The workplace functioned much like a military command and control structure.
Sure, history shows that at times those old-school managers pushed too hard, were unfair to employees, and didn’t really focus on the well-being of their workers.
Aspirations increase; time moves on
Each subsequent generation wants/expects/strives for a bit more than what their parents had.
These days it seems as if many managers are confused into management paralysis. Not sure what to stand for. Scared of making decisions.
It’s no wonder managers get confused about where the line is drawn and how, when (and even if) they should make a decision.
Are managers still needed?
In some ways it can seem like managers don’t have a role any more. Or at best they should step back and let their team manage themselves.
After all, employees these days are all capable, competent, and self-directed individuals.
Not quite …
The reality is that at work people still:
- Don’t know what they don’t know.
- Need to be held accountable for their actions.
- Need a clear line of communication.
- Need to know exactly what their role is and how their work fits in with others.
- Need to be guided by others with greater experience in life as well as on the job.
- Need the opportunity to be motivated and successful.
- Need to understand the limitations of their own knowledge.
Yes, managers still have a vital role to play. For both the business and their individual team members.
Let’s be honest. As a manager not every decision you make will be ‘right’. There is often ambiguity, a variety of expectations, the impact of timing, and interpersonal differences that you can never fully remove from the decision-making process.
5 ways to help your managers to be the best they can be:
- Ensure their role is properly defined in a current Position Description and that it is recognised and respected by other members of the management team.
- Prepare them for the management role before they even start in it.
- Support their professional development by providing management coaching.
- Provide access to, and encourage them to use, other learning resources and opportunities.
- Provide a consistent and meaningful vision for the company, which will inspire the manager and help them rally their team and maintain progress.
If you would like to discuss options for helping your managers to be the best they can be, and in the process reduce your own stress and help the business to reach its potential, contact us for an obligation free discussion.