Where do we begin? Tired of playing ‘piggy in the middle’? They cop flack from both sides – upper management and the people they ‘manage’. Tired of being one of the first to blame when things go wrong? Frustrated by the lack of back up and support from the upper echelons who expect them to perform the daily miracles required to produce excellent results?
They don the title of Manager or Supervisor and suddenly they are expected to know all about Human Resource issues, communication, handling people, Unions, etc. One day they are ‘the best’ at whatever they do and on the strength of that, chosen for promotion. The next day they are the Manager, still the best at whatever it is they do, but no further ahead with the knowledge they need to succeed in their new position.
Do they complain and possibly risk losing their new hard-worked-for position or the respect of upper levels of management? Or do they struggle on doing the best they can? As individuals, they can seek further training in their own time to learn effective people handling skills, and many managers do this. However, if you take an honest look at an overall organization, you’ll probably find many departmental heads in the same position – good at what they do, but lacking the skills needed for effective ‘management’. So when does the responsibility for further training become an organizational issue and not an individual issue?
For those with their eyes on a promotion, it would be in their best interests to have this training now. Then, when they are the best at what they do AND they have the skills necessary to be effective Managers and Supervisors, they have a lot more to offer a Company. For those who have already been thrust into the position of Supervisor or Manager, it is the company’s responsibility to ensure they have all the tools and training necessary in order for them to perform their duties effectively.
One step Managers can take to make their job easier is to take a long hard look at their own areas of weakness. Be honest. Brainstorm with your department and ask for their honest opinions – make it clear that this is not a blame apportioning exercise and that opinions shall be treated with respect. Instead of feeling that one is on their own in the improvement stakes, make it a departmental responsibility. What can everyone do to ensure your department runs more smoothly and easily? Create a focus on what is already working and build from there.
For those things which definitely are not working, brainstorm as a team. Ask your workforce what they need from you in order to do their jobs more efficiently. Do they need more training? More autonomy? More supervision? Regular feedback? Weekly meetings with you?
Tell your workforce what you need from them. If you want them to just get on with the job and only bother you when there is a problem that only you can help with, let them know. If you’d rather they reported weekly to you on the progress of certain projects, tell them. Chances are none of you are mind-readers!
Your role as Manager will be greatly improved if you open the lines of communication. Do not apportion blame. Rather than seeing your role in terms of “managing”, think of it in terms of coaching or mentoring. Experience has shown that employees respond better to coaching/mentoring techniques than they do to the traditional management methods.
This means never being too busy for your staff, never being too self-important, and making time to be their Team Leader. Pay attention to what they say to you. Take the time to listen and learn from and with them. And expect your own ‘Manager’ or President/CEO to do the same. Have a meeting and be open. You cannot work in the dark. Say what you need in order to do your job properly.
When talking with your staff or higher management, here are 6 tips to help you get the most out of it:
1. Listen carefully. Don’t be thinking ahead of what you want to say – put that aside while the other person is talking and just concentrate on what they are saying to you.
2. Repeat back what you think they said to ensure you have understood. Use phrases like “I understand what you mean,” or “I see your point”, and when you don’t, ask them to clarify. Get to the bottom of it.
3. Be honest about your own shortcomings and admit to your mistakes. And if you are going to give feedback, be careful not to do it in a blaming sense. Keep emotion out of it and just stick to the facts. Do not resort to name-calling or putting anybody else down in order to justify your position.
4. Apologize where an apology is called for. Don’t try to make excuses for poor performance – focus instead on what can be done to improve/rectify the situation.
5. Ask for input/ideas on how to improve the situation.
6. If the timing is bad for your discussion, be honest and say that you need time to think over what has just been said and make a time for follow up.
As a Manager, you may sometimes feel you have to be all things to all people. It doesn’t have to be that way if you focus on a team spirit. You are all in it together and the responsibility for making anything “work” should be a team effort.
Terri Levine, MCC, PCC, MS, CCC-SLP, is a Master Certified personal and business coach and the CEO of Coaching Instruction.com. She is the author of “Stop Managing, Start Coaching”, "Work Yourself Happy", "Coaching for an Extraordinary Life" and “Create Your Ideal Body”. She can be contacted via the web site http://www.TerriLevine.com or by telephone: 215-699-4949.