By Natasha Foreman Bryant, MBA
According to Harvard Business School, most managers hold management positions on average 10 years before they are properly and thoroughly trained. So that is roughly 10 years that a manager has been running loose without truly knowing what to do, yet given the autonomy to tell others what they are supposed to be doing—and holding them accountable if and when it’s done. That’s basically the blind leading the blind, but swearing up and down that they can see.
Does this madness make any sense to you?
Who’s responsibility is it to prevent this from happening? Those with the most senior positions. That means You!
Answer these questions:
- How many of your managers have real-world applied experience as managers?
- How many of your managers have management experience with teams as large or larger than what they are currently responsible for?
- How many of your managers have previous work experience in the field your company specializes?
- When was the last time your managers participated in an intensive training that focused specifically on their role and responsibilities within the company, and the skill sets required to succeed?
- When was the last time your managers participated in intensive leadership training?
- When was the last time you personally sat down and did a performance review with your managers?
- Can you identify at least two strengths that each of your managers possess and how your company can benefit from them?
If your answers to these questions were, “I don’t know” then you need to find out these answers, and soon.
If you confidently answered each question, then kudos to you, you understand the importance of building, connecting with, and supporting a strong management team. You also know that your management team serves as liaisons between you and other employees, and that they are the trainers and translators conveying your message on how to best perform tasks, execute plans, and interact with and serve your clients and vendors. Something lost in translation or worse, omitted, can spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e for you and your company.
How Can You Build a Stronger Management Team and Better Employee Relations?
Consider these things:
- Every quarter you should be asking your managers (on every level) what is needed from you and the senior leaders to help them to be the best managers and leaders that they can be.
Stress to them that the more honest and thoughtful they are the greater the opportunity for support and resources. If they aren’t open and honest about the need for general or specific training, for instance, then how can they expect access to this resource? If you don’t know, then you can’t reasonably provide for them, especially not in a timely manner.
- At least twice a year (if not more often) you should receive feedback on how effective your managers are with finding and leveraging the strengths of each employee, engaging with and empowering their team members, and how this all translates to (and affects) productivity and efficacy in each department.
While they are looking for and utilizing the strengths of their team members, what are you and your senior leaders doing to do the same with the managers that you lead?
- Every month or quarter you should request from managers a report that highlights their top ‘stars’ based on measurable parameters, such as productivity, sales, customer service, etc., so that they are recognized both by the HR department and also by you. The same should be done when recognizing star managers.
- Let your employees know that you appreciate their hard work, and value them as individuals and members of your team.
Don’t wait until the annual employee picnic, banquet, or conference. By then you may have already pushed more employees into the disengaged category, lost a few to your competition, or found yourself with shortages that your team still can’t account for—-let your team know how much you care about them, and they will show their appreciation in countless ways.
- Create a healthy feedback system that allows employees to freely and respectfully provide feedback and reviews on internal processes, policies, projects, training, their job and responsibilities, their deliverables, management, and you.
- Allow for anonymous submissions from employees who may initially fear repercussion for their comments.
Obsession With Productivity Means What?
A consistent increase in productivity and efficacy is based on how much an employee feels valued for the work that they perform. Yes, you can force productivity out of people using fear-tactics, but that doesn’t mean the quality of the work done will match the output, and it definitely means that you have now created a scarred relationship that will cost you more in the end.
Employees such as these will crank out work but a goal of excellence will be the farthest thing from their minds because each day they grow to despise their job even more than the last. So they make the phone calls, create the reports, assemble the products, build the doodads, or whatever it is that you need for them to do, but the work is average—it’s done, but average—sometimes below average, but if you don’t have a quality control mechanism in place, you won’t notice this until it’s too late.
Fear of losing their job, insurance, car, home, and lifestyle will make a disengaged worker do just enough to check the completed ‘box’ but not enough to gain accolades from your clients, their colleagues, senior leaders, and you. They will merely skate by doing the bare minimum, until something or someone flags them as a risk. You can find these individuals early on or avoid hiring them ‘from the jump’, if you create the environment and train your people in human resources on how to identify the signs.
When employees make decisions or fail to make timely decisions, out of fear, anger, or frustration, something is wrong and it is your responsibility to find out what it is and fix it. If your managers aren’t efficacious leaders, then it is your responsibility to find out why, get them trained (or re-trained), or let them go (if you have exhausted all options).
A manager who is a rotten apple will only spoil your crop. Nothing good comes from rotten fruit. You and your senior leaders must identify them quickly and fix them or walk them to the exit.
Yes, you made sure to put into place a human resources department of one or more people. Yes, you have layers of managers for employees to report to and gain guidance from. Yes, you may even create letters and videos that are distributed throughout your company with an attempt to connect, encourage, inspire, and empower your employees. But from time to time more is needed.
More is needed to create a healthy environment that nurtures creativity, productivity, teamwork, dedication, loyalty, excellence, strategic thinking, tactical planning, engaged and passionate workers, and a sense of family—-where each member works hard to protect the family and its mission and purpose.
You have to get closer to your people and their projects so that you can both hear and feel the pulse of your company’s ‘heartbeat‘. You have to ask more questions. You have to listen more and fully. You have to care more and invest more time in your people. You have to be able to discern the difference between reality and perception, and from what your employees say and what they do. You have to build a support team that you can trust to be truth seekers, truth tellers, and truth deliverers. You have to be honest with yourself about the strengths of your senior leaders and management team, and their ability to bring out the best in their team members and each other. If they have not been properly trained to manage and lead, to head departments or projects, then get them the training that they need. Get them help or get them out. It is your responsibility to do something.
Your company, just like your family, is only as strong as your weakest link. It is your responsibility to reinforce the chain.
In follow-up posts we will go deeper in exploring the how, when, where, and why—and what you still don’t know about your managers and other employees.
About the Author:
Natasha Foreman Bryant, MBA is the CEO and Managing Consultant for Foreman & Associates, LLC. She specializes in executive and management training, operations management, strategic planning and management, organizational restructuring/overhaul, contract drafting and negotiations, and business support consulting. She holds an MBA with a marketing specialization and a post-baccalaureate certification in College Teaching. She is currently finishing her Doctorate in Organization and Management with a specialization in Management Education. To learn more about Natasha and Foreman & Associates, LLC visit: http://foremanandassociates.co
Copyright 2014. Natasha Foreman Bryant. Foreman & Associates, LLC. All Rights Reserved.