Being a manager can really suck.
If you’re a manager, you’re stuck in the middle—somewhere between senior leaders, employees who report to you (and maybe some that report to others), and customers. You have responsibility for, seemingly, everything, but sometimes limited decision-making authority. You bear the brunt of all the complaints, from above and below.
Is it any wonder that many managers are disengaged from their work?
There is a lot of talk about employee engagement. With good reason—employee engagement has real financial impact on companies. Managers have real impact on employee engagement… so you do the math.
Disengaged and disgruntled managers can exact a huge toll on businesses. Gallup estimates that managers who are not engaged cost the US economy almost $400 billion annually. Since a strikingly large number of managers are not engaged (65%), that’s a LOT of money lost and there’s a LOT of work to do to try to turn that around.
Managers occupy one of the most important (if not THE most important) roles in any organization. They translate strategies given by leadership to actions for employees to take. They are closest to employees, so have the most impact on employee engagement and experience. They also hold employee morale, turnover, productivity, creativity, and safety in their hands.
“A great manager improves lives while improving performance. A poor manager makes workers’ lives miserable while destroying performance.”
Source – Gallup
Managers need some help—and they’re worth the investment.
Few organizations have enough great managers. Many organizations have lots of poor managers. It’s estimated that only 10% of managers have the natural talent needed to lead a team well. This means a few things:
- Most managers (including, perhaps, the ones on your team) are struggling. They don’t know how to lead, and it shows in turnover and absenteeism, safety incidents and poor productivity. Their employees don’t want to work for them, so they quit. And that means more hiring pain for the company.
- Since managers have such impact on organizational key performance indicators, they feel the pressure, on a constant basis, of how to get the job done. This constant pressure leads to disengagement, as said above, but it can also lead to burnout and mental health issues.
- The current market across pretty much all of the trades is also adding pressure, since technicians can quite literally cross the road to a competitor’s shop and get a job, often with higher pay. Why stay with a manager they don’t like when they can check if the grass is greener elsewhere? This means teams are short-staffed and struggling to meet sales and service objectives and managers struggle with keeping technicians. Again, so much pressure.
Our managers need support. They need training.
Since most manages lack the natural talent to jump in and lead people, so they need soft skills training. One of the very best ways to engage employees is to have one-on-one conversations with them. It’s simple, really. Employees want their voices to be heard. They want to be understood and feel connected to their work and their workplace. They want a relationship with their manager based on trust and respect. However, simple is not always easy.
Since most managers don’t really know what they’re doing in their roles, they lack the know-how to get started in developing those relationships. Conversation is easy to say, but much less easy to start. In my discussions with managers, I am faced with two objections to regular, frequent, and consistent one-on-one conversations:
- Not enough time.
- Not knowing what to say.
Number 1 is easy to address. Having regular, frequent, and consistent conversations leads to a smooth flow of communication between manager and employee, as well as amongst team members. Everyone knows where they’re at and what needs doing. This kind of communication eventually leads to time savings, since everyone is on the same page. In addition, the trust that stems from communication and relationship-building means employees are quick to ask for help when things go off the rail, leading to time and cost savings. Finally, this type of relationship building leads to employees staying longer on the job which, in turn, leads to higher productivity and customer satisfaction, as well as fewer safety incidents and, again, time saving.
It’s number 2 that is more challenging. How should a manager initiate this type of conversation with their reports? I’ve spoken to many managers who simply do not know how to start talking to their people. They are used to their role consisting of giving orders, and they find it challenging to take on a soft-skills approach. They need help—help in what to say and how to say it. This comes with soft skills training.
Soft skills training will firstly address the worries of managers in how to start being this type of leader. It will provide supporting evidence of why it is so important to engage and inspire those who work with them, and it will link it back to the work they do with their teams every day. Great soft skills training will provide the what and the how along with the why. It will include time to practice what is learned and consider, thoughtfully, how it will look in application each day. And, ideally, it will include coaching and on-going support as new managerial habits are formed.
Managers need our help and support. They need soft skills training and on-going coaching.
If you’d like a management team that improves lives while improving performance, then begin by improving the lives of your managers. Invest in them.