You’ve probably had a bad manager or been a new manager. So you know that there are big mistakes that can be made. Let’s look at eight common issues. These involve team-building, building a culture, and holding employees (and self) accountable.
- Employees need to know what the game is, what the stakes are, and how it’s played. This is often difficult for a new mid-level manager who has never quite understood the game themselves. Your organization can support its managers and their staffs by having a clear vision and communicating it well and often. The CEO should be able to tell a great story about how the company came to be, what it stands for, where it wants to go, and what it honestly values. HR should help new employees understand why this company exists and what it strives for. Managers should reinforce and personalize this message, and not just during onboarding.
- Does everyone in your organization understand the company’s business goals, unique selling position, brand promise(s), operating environment, and marketplace realities?
- Do they understand what success looks like?
- Do they understand what counts as failure and what the consequences are?
- Employees need to understand how they can make the biggest contribution to the vision. All employees do not need to completely agree with the vision, but they should be able to align their work with the institution’s goals. Performance evaluations should be conducted with an eye toward contributing to those goals. As a manager, you may have to bring the vision down from thirty-thousand feet to a more targeted level. Let your staff know how their work fits into the larger picture for your organization and for your consumer, client, or other audience.
- Employees need a reason to care about contributing. A paycheck is not a reason to care. Humans have a strong need to belong and to feel like they matter. Managers should ask themselves these questions: How do your employees’ contributions matter? How do you show you care about their contributions? Do you understand how your staff wants to be rewarded or what will make them feel productive? Are you as a manager engaged in your work? How good are your communication skills in terms of inspiring people, providing useful feedback, and offering praise?
- Managers need to create a positive environment. The environment should foster the traits you want employees to display. Managers might need to experiment a bit here. Some teams will have different needs and values. For example, a team that is largely DiSC C styles will feel rewarded by challenges, but not necessarily personal recognition. An S-style team will value a structure that supports work-life balance. Workers at a small start-up might be more accepting of long hours or more ambiguity in their assignments than will employees of a larger and long-established organization.
- Employees don’t want to feel set up for failure. Do managers know what feels like failure to their employees? Do they and their staffs have the resources they need to fully contribute? Are managers second-guessing workers or getting in their way? Do the rules of the game change so often that an employee might be playing by old rules? How do managers deal with different types of failure? Do employees understand what will be seen as a failure and what the consequences will be?
- Employees see bad behavior and poor performance going unnoticed or unchallenged. Nothing demotivates like watching a team member goof off while others strive for excellence. Do employees say or think “What are they going to do? Fire me?” because no one has witnessed a reprimand, let alone a dismissal? Is there a clear understanding of what constitutes appropriate behavior and excellent performance? Are managers modeling both? Have managers discussed how they and their staffs can or should be holding each other accountable for their work and team outcomes?
- Employees feel ignored and/or unappreciated. Do managers understand what type of attention is beneficial to offer each of their employees or teams? Do they understand what each employee needs to feel appreciated, or is the manager basing their behaviors on their own preferences?
- Managers and employees both need continuing education. Without continued opportunities for learning, a skills gap can quickly develop. It’s not always possible to hire for new skills and it can be a waste not to invest in the human resources already available. It’s critical to embrace new technologies, including just-in-time learning. Mentoring and coaching are valuable throughout anyone’s career and can also help with reducing turnover.
If you’re a manager, how well do you do? Have you gone through a 360-degree review? If you train managers, how are you measuring your success? If you’re a leader, how are you providing your managers with a clear understanding of your vision so they can align their resources with it and execute the appropriate tactics?