Are You Failing Your Managers?

Your employees are demanding more feedback, greater transparency, and, like never before, the opportunity to achieve personal growth at work.

Your leaders are demanding more innovation, higher productivity, and, like never before, to see your company values show up in how people relate with customers and with each other.

What they want isn’t unreasonable. What is unreasonable is thinking we can give them what they want without the help of our managers. To do that, we need to give managers the one thing they don’t have right now — time to think.

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Your People Management Problem

It’s a question we often ask during our workshops: “How many people here have had three hours of interrupted time in the last month to work on a strategic initiative or creative project?” The most hands we’ve ever seen go up in a room full of managers is two.

Now imagine you have 50 managers, or 5000. What are the implications for your customers of an organization where the best and brightest have no time to think or create, but are perpetually scrambling to keep up with the emails and micro-tasks in their inbox. For your company values? For your ability to retain those talented people over time?

We need to give managers the one thing they don’t have — time to think Click To Tweet

It’s easy to lose sight of how deeply stretched your people managers are. With less structural authority and more reasonable fear about preserving their role and advancing their career, they are rarely loud enough to demand the changes they need. On the flipside, since they’re already “onboard,” there often isn’t the same incentive as there is with recruits or new employees to create programs and support them with as much urgency.

SEE ALSO: Why Facebook Employees Are More Productive, Motivated, and Satisfied

But it’s that stuck in the middle place — the benign neglect that people leaders and managers suffer in most organizations — that is the reason even the most well-intentioned training programs don’t work. It’s because they’re not designed to solve for the problem that matters to managers.

Manager training is not designed to solve for the problem that matters to managers Click To Tweet

The Case for Better Management Training

Typical or off-the-shelf manager training doesn’t work because it’s not connected to the self-interest of managers — which is to be freed up to do the strategic and creative thinking they crave. It’s not that they don’t care or don’t want to coach employees. It’s not that they don’t believe in or want to further the mission.

It’s that they don’t feel seen.

They don’t feel valued in the contribution they know they could make if they were given the resources they need.

  1. They are not only still individual contributors, but they are expected to be star performers. The promise of promotion is just that. You don’t end up with less work. You end up with more. And now you have a team of people to manage.
  2. They are now responsible for the performance of those others, to report up to leadership on projects and progress. And who among us works at an organization where there truly enough clarity about what those expectations really are?
  3. They are now responsible for coaching and mentoring the individuals on their team — to create an employee experience (whatever that means) that leaves people feeling seen, heard, and valued. Do you know anyone — anywhere in your life — who does that well when they’re not under stress, let alone when they are?

The modern manager is radically underserved at the same time as they are the lynchpin to cultivating accountability and accelerating change.

The modern manager is radically underserved, but also the lynchpin to cultivating accountability Click To Tweet

If we, as the folks who are charged with transformation our organizations for the better, can’t accept that simple truth, then we will forever be chasing managers to “do the right thing.” The rare exception will, because that’s who they are anyway.

Most won’t. Queue the Glassdoor reviews.

Why It Matters

So, as you think about redesigning your performance management system, here’s the one question you need to make sure the program is solving for.

Will this program or project give our managers more space to think, or not?

If you’re wondering about the answer, ask them.