Do You Set Managers Up to Fail?
Very few smaller employers provide management training or have a “management school” for new managers. At minimum, this results in a series of assumptions about how managers are to perform in the eyes of senior management, and at worst it may be setting up good people to fail. At its core, "to manage" means inspiring others to perform work in concert towards a common goal. This in turn, requires leadership, clear goals, communication skills and a variety of other attributes that are understood when seen but a little more difficult to define in each organization.
Most supervisors are promoted based on their technical skills. Given this fact, it is not surprising to learn that the number one complaint by employees regarding their supervisors is “micro-management”. This tendency is a result of the supervisor transitioning from executing tasks to overseeing the accomplishment of those tasks. Yet the management expectations are quite different and the communication of what those expectations are often sadly lacking. Defining what success looks like in the management of a team can sometimes even get fuzzier. In the eyes of a manager “success” might mean proficient execution of the job, in other words being “right”. In the eyes of the organization, it may mean creating an environment where people can collaborate and perform their best work. This fundamental distinction is at the core of a lot of management problems and becomes highly obscured with specific facts and day-to-day examples. The bottom line is that a good manager must be, in large part, a teacher inspiring others to find their own way to the goal, not necessarily doing it based on “the way its always been done”.
In our experience, there cannot be enough communication about the goals and direction of the company. Companies that have failed to communicate adequately, have employees who are left to connect the dots based on series of assumptions, which often are incorrect. There never appears to be enough time to allow new managers to learn from the best mangers. The company culture must make it a priority to understand what skills they are developing, what techniques they use to build solid relationships with their workers and to enable them to perform near their potential in the organization. Here are several reasons why managers fail in small to mid-size organizations:
- Failure to build positive relationships. A good manager is a relationship builder not only with his or her subordinates, but also with other managers and with senior management.
- People state they do not like working for the manager – once a negative impression of a manager permeates the team (i.e.: micro-manager) it is extremely difficult to turn around the perception without changing the manager.
- The manager doesn’t get it – employees lose respect for the manager in terms of understanding the overall company direction, appreciating the work being done and providing leadership.
- The manager fails to take suggestions or input. People feel like the manager is acting as an impediment as opposed to a conduit for productivity and communications.
- Hiding from the truth, employees feel that the manager is either unable or unwilling to deal with the problems and realities of executing work. Worse, the manager is perceived as a liar.
- The manager plays favorites – there is a perception that the mangers favors a few people and provides them greater benefits than others. A successful manager must be perceived as fair and even handed.
The significance of these observations across many entrepreneurial organizations for many years is that these skills can be trained. Moreover, expectations for appropriate behavior by managers and activities are rarely clearly spelled out in small organizations. By drafting these kinds of expectations (which rarely appears in job descriptions) organizations can clearly lay out what it takes to be a manager and whether or not the individual wants to step up to this role, which is very different from the execution of a task-driven operating role.
Moreover, many employers are beginning to look for assessments, team scoring and other tools to indicate compatibility and management aptitude.
These are important considerations in the request to develop and retain top talent. It should be noted that the foremost reason employees have given on surveys for over five years as to why they leave a job, is “poor relationship with their supervisor”. Considering a few simple steps such as reducing expectations to writing and discussing management aptitude can make a huge difference in developing good managers and retaining top talent in your workforce.