By Syd Strike
In a recent meeting with a director of operations, I asked him how he would like his management team to be different. His response was “I would like them to be managing where it matters". He didn’t need to say anything else. I knew exactly what he meant. This was due partly to the fact that I knew his managers and partly to the fact that wherever I work, management and leadership issues have striking similarities. The old adage of working smarter instead of harder still carries a lot of weight in my book. However I do believe that there are even stronger habits to be broken if we are to get our management team managing where it matters. So why is it that managers, who are often very good and loyal members of the management team, fail to achieve, and so often become ‘busy fools’? Indeed they usually follow all of the management procedures, work to the text book suggestions, and yet at best, what they achieve is to keep the business ticking over, when what we need from them is to drive the business forward. Whilst I would not wish to abolish some of the text book recommendations, I do challenge the notion that these will work for every manager in every situation and that they will always give outstanding results. One glaring example of this is appraisal interviews. Whilst in many instances appraisals provide a good basis for discussion and objective setting, many managers and staff who are willing to speak truthfully, will admit that their company appraisal system achieves little, if anything. So please bear with me and let me play ‘devil’s advocate’
When delivered skilfully, appraisal interviews are a great tool for discussion, reviewing, setting objectives and employee development. However my question is: in reality do they get your managers managing where it matters? Even when you issue SMART objectives these are very often forgotten or lost within the year, if they haven’t become redundant through changing circumstances.
Why objectives don’t work?
In a nutshell because people don’t know them
Objectives are a great management tool and a ‘must’ for getting things done. However when delivering both management and staff training and I ask employees to state the company corporate objectives, very rarely do people know, and the usual response is ‘To make money’ And when I ask about department objectives managers and staff are usually unable to provide and answer. If I ask about personal objectives some will be able to tell me what is written on their appraisal but will also admit that little action is being taken to achieve the objectives, usually suggesting that the problem lies with lack of involvement from their managers. A clear indication that objectives are not being used effectively.
One to ones– the most powerful tool in a manager’s tool box
And yet so often managers say they are too busy doing their job to make time for one to ones
I am a great believer in one to ones. Do your managers provide the opportunity for staff members to have frequent one to ones? If they do then can you be sure that these are productive and send staff away with a keen desire to get out there and achieve? There is a lot of evidence to show that where managers are serious, enthusiastic and skilled in conducting one to ones then they win loyalty, achieve more and enjoy highly positive appraisals.
Of course I could go on and discuss meetings, training, motivation, communication and more, but I hope you get my point. Managers are often busy doing what they always do but not always doing what they should be doing.
It is easy, of course, for me to raise the questions, but how do we get our managers managing where it matters?
Managing where it matters means that your managers know the answer to the following questions:
1. What action does the business most urgently need at the present time?
2. What should your department be achieving at the present time?
3. What is your department getting right?
4. What may you lose sleep over if something goes wrong?
5. What should you be doing now?
Surely answering these questions will give your managers some idea where to start. However please don’t get too excited just yet. Experience tells us that even when they know the answers to these questions, there is no guarantee that they will become all fired up and begin making changes. They say old habits die hard. Overzealous senior managers who push their management team hard without regard to support and consultation, often find that these loyal managers begin to resist change instead of supporting it.
If you would like some ideas on getting managers and team leaders managing where it matters click here and we will be happy to help.