By Bruce Tulgan
It’s always been hard to manage people. Managers have always been stuck in the middle between the employer and the employee, trying to negotiate their competing needs and expectations. But today, managers are telling us that it is harder than ever before. And it is resulting in an ongoing epidemic of undermanagement.
Not only are managers adapting to larger trends affecting the nature of work today, there are also seven key aspects of management managers often struggle to get done.
Many managers find it difficult to delegate effectively. The problem is that work has become increasingly interdependent, making strong delegation a required skill for today’s leaders. The solution is to build a high-structure, high-substance rapport with each person. Then, it’s all about asking the right questions.
On-boarding and up-to-speed training programs are far too often insufficient to engage and retain new employees. There is a lot of pressure on managers to maintain a level of high engagement and coaching-style support in the long term. But the majority of managers are given no formal leadership training, and lack an understanding of the techniques necessary to maintain a coaching-style relationship.
The key word here is “timely.” Most managers lack a systematic way to keep track of their direct reports’ ongoing work. The vast majority of managers are also not dedicating time to managing every day, meaning that most feedback or troubleshooting comes too late to be as effective or impactful as possible.
The reality is that most managers have enough of their own work to do. It becomes difficult for leaders to provide the support necessary to help team members meet goals and deadlines. The answer is more management, not less. Unfortunately, when managers fail to provide guidance, direction, and support on an ongoing basis, they often become trapped in a vicious cycle of undermanagement. Then they have even less time to dedicate to helping employees.
The only way great performance can be recognized is if managers meet three conditions:
Of course, this means committing to the fundamentals of highly-engaged management every day.
Employees of all ages and experience are demanding greater flexibility and accommodation of other work-life balance needs today. Most managers feel they are unable to meet these demands. The case to be made is that the more unique a value proposition you can offer employees, the more likely you are to retain them in the long-term. Of course, with limited resources, it is only fair that special accommodation must be earned as a result of high performance. But this system is only truly fair if employees are sufficiently supported by leaders and managers in order to achieve that level of high performance.
Part of the challenge is that performance improvement plans typically come with an attached stigma: the employee has demonstrated a long enough track record of poor performance that now the manager must “intervene.” As a result, many managers feel uncomfortable addressing what they perceive to be small performance problems until it is already too late. Ongoing improvement shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing! I always say, management should be good news.
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