In some cases—not in every one, of course—people taking up the role of manager are employees promoted from their frontline position, who are then tasked with leading their colleagues. Certainly, in smaller companies, this can be quite common.
There are many advantages that can come from such a decision:
- The promoted employee-turned-manager will know the staff inside out…many of them will likely be friends rather than colleagues
- The promoted employee-turned-manager will know the job inside out, and they can finally act on inefficiencies and problems they once had to put up with
- The promoted employee-turned-manager will know the customers, the company’s policies and the culture
However, there can be downsides to such a decision:
- The promoted employee-turned-manager may find it difficult to lead, discipline or make decisions that could adversely affect their friends, even if it’s for the progress and good of the business
- The promoted employee-turned-manager may inadvertently find some of their colleagues are hostile if they believe they were in line for the promotion too
- The promoted employee-turned-manager may see their promotion as an excuse to not pitch in with the team if needed, now they’re ‘management’
- The promoted employee-turned-manager may lack the people skills and other attributes that make a manager a good leader
The latter is particularly significant when a frontline employee is promoted. In this scenario, it’s likely that most won’t have held a management position before and it’s unlikely that they will have undergone any management training.
Even if this scenario isn’t the case, and the manager in position within your enterprise has only ever been a manager, the changes most workplaces have seen has turned traditional management approaches on their head.
Today’s employees demand respect, they expect no discrimination, they strive to feel valued, and they want to feel a sense of purpose from their time at work. Very few will stick with a ‘put up and shut up’ stick-wielding culture nowadays, evidenced by the difficulties some companies have faced when recruiting during the last year or so. There are also the challenges that come with teams working remotely or a hybrid of working patterns/locations. How do you ensure each team member feels part of the same unit and, at the same time, feels individually supported when they could be sat miles away from you, and only visible via a screen?
A lot of the courses and workshops delivered pre-pandemic wouldn’t wash in 2022. It’s a given that new management should be trained and supported, but it may also be a pressing need for managers that have been managing for years, as the approach they used to take may no longer work or apply.
Investing in your people is not ‘dead money’ but speculatory spending that will bring a return, albeit a longer-term one.
It sounds like a slight to say employees are more demanding nowadays, but it’s true, and it’s not a negative. They are more than happy to do well for their employer and to feel they’re a crucial cog in the wheel of industry, but they—along with everyone else—have had a tough couple of years. They may have lost loved ones, had to deal with working and home-schooling, had to adjust to working from home when they’d never done it before, struggled with the isolation…whatever their challenge, there’s been little let up, and if any manager came along without a shred of empathy and compassion, it’s unlikely that the employee would feel motivated to continue delivering their best.
In their “Is workforce wellbeing the third factor of production?” Stephen Bevan and Gary Cooper, state “One of the most pressing post-pandemic challenges faced by organisations will be to restore the flagging performance of the workforce.” According to Bevan and Cooper, there are five areas that organisations need to focus upon, in order to support the workforce to be both productive and feel fulfilled by their work. The first of these five areas is “Investment in line management capability. A great line manager can unlock any employee’s productive capacity, but a poor one can stifle growth and disengage even the most motivated.”
Mental health in the workplace
This used to be ‘a nice to have’ within corporations. Pre-pandemic, when budgets were high, you may have seen mental health training, workshops, courses galore. When you consider everything that has passed in the last couple of years, however, if ever there was a time to implement mental health policies, processes and people, it’s now—even if budgets are tighter.
And this isn’t just for the benefit of the employees, but the manager and leaders, too. To lead effectively in 2022, you need to show your humanity. No one person is above another in human terms, and your team will feel a deeper connection with their manager and the confidence that they, too, can share their worries, if they see the boss ask for help when they need it. Despite all the technology we have today, despite the understanding we have of business practices, etc., there is an incredible level of pressure to do more with less. To produce more with less money, to achieve more with fewer people, to take on more with less support. Eventually, something has to give.
Personal Resilience training, mental health first aiders and an open, no-judgement culture are requisite in today’s companies.
Manager, or coach?
It’s taken some years to work out that the carrot works better for the majority of people than the stick. Today’s managers need to be cheerleaders, counsellors and coaches. They lead from the front and support from the back. Having a base understanding of the workings of the brain can help to create successful followship, along with higher levels of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, knowledge of people’s behavioural strengths and weaknesses, their different communication preferences and motivators, will turn a run-of-the-mill manager into a terrific team-leader, coach and trainer.
A manager may answer to the powers above, but if they don’t get the best from the people they’re responsible for, it will make for some very uncomfortable progress meetings. Those soft skills we spoke about earlier, and some training on behavioural preferences, insights into the working of the brain and strategies for creating work that leaves employees in a better place both physically and emotionally should be what every manager asks for from their bosses if they are to live up to today’s expectations.
Managers can often be forgotten when it comes to developing people and equipping them with the skills that are needed, yet we ask so much of them. The least companies can do is suitably equip them for the job. One message that is currently coming across loud and clear from HR professionals is their level of concern for the managers in their organisation, as many managers are flagging and feeling exhausted themselves and as one senior manager said to our managing partner Michelle, “Who is looking out for me, who do I turn to for support?”
Many managers are struggling at the moment, they are running on empty, and using what little energy they have to survive. Stress levels are high, and compassion is running low, resulting in the emergence of a more “Just do It” management approach.
If an organisation is to thrive and be ready to adapt at speed and respond to the challenges and unknowns of the future, then investing in the training and development of their managers should be high on the agenda.
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Jigsaw Discovery Experiences asks the best questions. The ones that will solve problems with insight, meaning that leaders know what actions to take and understand what the implications will be as their team start to rebuild, refocus and perform; They also know how they can support individual team members to find fulfilment and be motivated in their role.
Get in touch, if you want to know more about how your leaders can get the best from their teams, as we start to build better workplaces