Invest management time in developing employees

September 30, 2019

Every organization needs intentional, effective managers to build a high functioning staff of people who are engaged, productive and happy.

Too often, organizations promote to management individuals who are best skilled at their regular jobs, but who lack management training or skill.

The best accountant becomes the manager of the accountants; the best engineer becomes the manager of the engineers; and a top professor becomes the department head.

What organizations fail to consider is the vastly different skill set needed to properly manage a team of people.

With Virginia’s unemployment rate at 2.8% in August, employee retention is a key priority for managers as recruiters are looking to lure employees from one company to another.

When I conduct management training, the participants engage in an exercise where we discuss the characteristics of the best and worst managers they have ever had.

The list is generally the same regardless of the organization or industry.

People value the characteristics of managers who are decisive, supportive, available, approachable, flexible, respectful, listen, communicate, care, provide feedback, show appreciation and value, mentor their staff, set clear expectations, consistently hold people accountable and lead by example.

Most participants during training can easily recall experiences with a poor manager.

These characteristics usually include the opposite of the best manager characteristics, and participants will cite that their worst managers were micromanagers, incompetent, aggressive, disengaged, didn’t listen, bullied, consistently found fault and second guessed, failed to show appreciation, had a superior attitude, took credit, lied or was lazy.

I ask participants to consider that if I shared this list with their direct reports and asked them to check all that applied to their own manager’s characteristics, how many boxes would be checked in each category.

Employers need to recognize that the biggest management fail is the “do nothing” manager.

Most legal issues that employers face result not from illegal action by the employer, but due to months or years of manager neglect to address performance and/or behavior issues. Employees feel there is unfairness when, after all this time, the organization finally decides to address the issues.

Too often individuals promoted to manager don’t recognize that their role will require a new skillset to include holding employees accountable for performance and conduct expectations. Before holding employees accountable, managers need to make sure they have done everything they can to set employees up for success.

Too often managers fail to consider the need for intentional management and place their management on autopilot.

Managers should consider the percentage of time their role requires management of people. This percentage will be different depending on the number of people reporting to the manager.

Based on that percentage, ask yourself whether last week you invested that amount of time managing your people. Did you conduct productive meetings with staff, either collectively or individually? Did you set expectations, hold employees accountable, engage in constructive feedback and show appreciation and value of your team?

Did you explain the strategic direction of the department, show employees where they fit into that vision, and how their roles will evolve or change?

Did you lead by example, listen, communicate and advocate for your team? These are intentional acts of management that should be on the weekly rotation for ever manager’s productive working time.

Even if you think that your team is high functioning, placing your management on autopilot is not a good management strategy. You can invest your management time in developing and re-recruiting your people.