For Pete’s Sake, Support Your Managers

More work and fewer resources mean managers need some TLC from leadership.

Written by Peter Follows
Published on Jan. 09, 2024
For Pete’s Sake, Support Your Managers
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Managers are beginning 2024 with more work and fewer resources, and the risk to organizational performance should not be ignored. Senior leaders must do more to support managers if they aim to maintain a high-performing organization and establish an environment of continuous improvement. 

3 Ways to Support Managers

  1. Establish a coachable culture.  
  2. Dispel the micromanagement myth. 
  3. Deconstruct the training process.

Last year brought an increase in responsibilities and a decrease in budget for approximately half of all managers surveyed, according to a recent Gallup poll. With employee engagement continuing a three-year decline and only 48 percent of managers feeling confident they have the skills necessary to excel at their jobs, it’s no mystery the number of managers actively seeking new opportunities is on the rise. 

Creating a supportive environment for managers is vital to an organization’s ongoing success. With the global business climate evolving quickly, the time to support them is now. 

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Create a Coachable Culture 

One of the lessons I’ve learned from thirty years in management consulting is that you don’t change people’s behavior simply by telling them to do something differently. You have to change or reshape their operating environment and then actively support them throughout the process. Part of that support is coaching. Organizations that establish a culture of coaching are better positioned for continuous improvement.

Coachability is the willingness to receive guidance, the desire to learn and the humility to accept that there’s always room for improvement. Organizations in which coaching is ongoing and across all levels often have more effective teamwork, personal and professional growth, and higher employee retention because this fosters a culture of continuous learning, adaptability and mutual respect. 

To develop or strengthen a coachable company culture, establish mentorship programs, conduct feedback sessions that are both regular and reciprocal and recognize those who demonstrate the ability to coach and be coached. This ensures that everyone, regardless of their position, is committed to personal and professional growth, ultimately driving the organization's success. 


Get Over the Micromanagement Myth 

The most common people challenge we see across industries is how managers interact with their staff. Specific challenges involve how managers assign work and communicate expectations, how they follow up on a work plan and how they solve problems or innovate their processes.

Many managers view following up with staff at regular intervals as micromanaging. This misconception confuses the manager’s role as one of control rather than of support.  

Most operating challenges that impede employee productivity need management intervention to be fixed. And managers need to know what their people are doing and how they are progressing, at least periodically, so that they can help identify when challenges crop up. 

It’s not a question of hiring the right people, then getting out of their way as is often purported; it’s a question of what can managers do to help without getting in the way. Follow up should be ongoing and supportive. Employees can most effectively be empowered if managers perceive their own role not as someone who monitors performance, but as someone who removes obstacles.  

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Deconstruct the Training Process

A common problem with many management training programs is that they overload managers with slides that tell them, in technical terms, what they should do and what to expect. They rarely break down management skills and get managers to practice those skills in pieces before trying to put them all together. One of the results is that many managers know what to do, but they don’t always know how to do it.  

For management training to be effective and useful, concepts need to be deconstructed and practiced. First, conduct training sessions that explain the purpose and intent of the performance system tools and how to use them to interact with employees. The second approach is through a process called prototyping, where managers get to practice using new tools and new behaviors in a controlled environment. 

To define what management needs to do to help support employees, build a visual model of behavior that provides clarity as to what is expected from managers at different levels of the organization. The model should define how managers assign work, communicate expectations, follow up on the plan, provide feedback, coach and train. It can define what a typical week, month or even year might look like. 

Managing people can be difficult even in a well-functioning organization that offers ample resources and a stable organizational structure. Managers are vital to shaping a company’s culture. To perform their role to the fullest, they must excel at interacting with and dealing with the people they lead. At the same time, senior leadership must give managers the tools they need to develop an environment where employees grow, ultimately enabling the business to flourish. 

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