How Should Managers Spend Their Time To Effectively Lead A Team?
How managers spend their time has a direct impact on employees’ experience and contributions to the company. A positive employee experience includes many factors such as healthy work culture, meaningful company vision, and the core values placed on employee wellbeing and satisfaction. There is power in being a great manager.
Effective managers don’t only just assign tasks or give out instructions. From managing one direct report to entire teams, effectively leading any employee holds much more responsibility than simple delegation. While managers are typically the final authority on a variety of different plans and projects, the difference between a manager and an effective manager holds immense influence over an employee’s experience and willingness to contribute their best to the company.
The Advantage of Having A Great Manager
When employees have managers who are supportive, nurturing, and adaptable to different scenarios, there tends to be a profound ripple effect that impacts the team and the entire company. According to Gallup, who performed a study with more than one million managers in over 100,000 organizations, when managers and employees learn to work together, the outcome can be positive and long-lasting. Employees are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, three times as likely to have an excellent quality of life, and six times likely to agree that they contribute to a greater cause and can do what they do best every day.
So what does this mean in the workplace? With the management of an effective leader, an employee will feel:
This is key when it comes to the overall success of an employee. Effective managers are most likely to understand their employee’s strengths and weaknesses, nurture their growth, communicate in a clear and transparent way, and respect the time their employees devote to their work. They look for their employee’s well-being, actively listen, and come up with strategies that can help them navigate tricky situations, while simultaneously empowering their direct reports to be confident enough in their capabilities to step into their full potential.
In the 2021 People Management Report, a survey conducted by The Predictive Index, 63% of participants with poor managers are seriously considering leaving their positions within the next year, contributing to the “Great Resignation.” The same survey revealed that employees felt the number one soft skill managers are lacking is communication. Without the ability to effectively communicate with their team and leverage existing strengths, the less likely an employee will feel compelled to stick around.
Now that we understand the effects an effective manager can have on the employee experience, let’s talk about what managers need to focus on to have the best chance of success as a leader.
Effective Managers Are Most Likely To Spend Most Of Their Time Doing This
Effective managers know what success looks like and work towards it. Similar to how a company needs to develop and clarify its overall mission, ensuring everyone is on the same page and understands the path to move towards this vision, an effective manager does the same thing, just on a smaller scale.
This is what effective managers need to do:
- Understand the impact of their team. It’s important that a manager understands how their team operates as a whole and the impact their work has on the big picture. Let’s take an example of an HR Manager. While this particular type of manager doesn’t oversee the direction of the company, it’s their job to understand how their particular unit acts as a pillar of support for all existing team members within the company – including other managers and employees from various internal departments. A successful HR department develops meaningful relationships in order for their clients to confidently reach out when there is a genuine need instead of trying to handle it on their own accord without proper counsel.
- Set collective and individual goals congruent with the objectives of the company. As an effective manager understands the impact that their team makes on the organization, it’s now up to them to set goals aligned with the company’s mission. In the case of our example with the HR manager, a certain level of evaluation (and collaboration) is needed to establish specific goals. Let’s say one of the goals of the company is to increase recruitment efforts by targeting more diverse talent. In order for the company to meet this particular objective, the HR manager will need to consider how their team will support the main players of this goal, which includes the employees in recruitment and the hiring managers. How will HR partner up with the hiring managers to meet these objectives? How can HR best screen for potential candidates, find the best fit, and ensure a positive experience for those in serious consideration? HR leadership can then create internal goals and action plans that will help make this a reality for the company.
- Help their direct report(s) visualize the intended outcome of their work. Managers work with their employees to sharpen their understanding of the work that needs to be done, provide them with the resources they need, and create achievable action plans that help guide the employee to the completion of these goals. It’s important for managers to remind their team what they’re all striving to accomplish—both internally and company-wide—and the potential impact their efforts will make so they’re not bogged down by trivial details and are instead consistently motivated to work towards a carefully guided, unified vision.
- Enable their employees to do the intended work. Once the employee understands what the objectives are, it’s the manager’s job to then trust and allow the employee to confidently do that work. One of the major contributors of demoralization in employees is micromanaging. A few things happen when a manager micromanages their employee: a loss of trust, increase of burnout, and less creativity from the lack of autonomy. The more a manager interferes with their employee’s work, the more likely they’ll begin to solely rely on someone else to make every decision for them (including standard decisions they would normally be able to make on their own), lose trust in themselves and their manager, and refuse to contribute in a meaningful or innovative way. Allowing the employee an appropriate level of discretion and creativity leads to more successful outcomes.
Managers Spend Most Of Their Time Recognizing And Awarding Excellence
In a report conducted by SHRM regarding employee turnover, over 91% of HR professionals believe that employees who are recognized and rewarded are more likely to stay at their companies. Recognition, however, isn’t always associated with financial compensation. Surveys suggest that 65% of employees prefer non-cash incentives.
Aside from having a positive work culture, being recognized in the workplace is another aspect of the employee experience that cannot be overlooked when retaining top talent. Managers must be able to recognize hard work, respect the time and energy it took for the team to accomplish these assignments, and congratulate and reward all those involved. More importantly, the timing of the recognition must be immediate. This maintains morale, productivity, and engagement, allowing for purposeful business growth. Employees respond positively to appreciation, and managers who engage in well-designed recognition programs can cultivate a workforce that is highly motivated and satisfied, while simultaneously decreasing the rates of turnover.
Managers Spend Most Of Their Time Focusing On Strengths, Not Weaknesses
Effective managers are most likely to recognize the strengths of their employees and think creatively about how to approach areas needing improvement. A manager’s job is to appreciate the strengths of their team and employ them strategically. For example, an employee who works better under routine assignments may need to be assigned more work in line with repetition. If an employee thrives under pressure, this particular team member can be given more challenging assignments, which allows for more out-of-the-box thinking. Training, coaching, and other opportunities to build skill sets should always be considered when compensating for staff weaknesses. This might include partnering employees up with mentors who can provide the appropriate guidance.
Managers understand that with every position, there is a learning curve; a period where an employee adjusts to their new role while adapting to new internal processes. Once this introductory period is over (the average introductory period can last up to 90 days), the employee is then expected to be performing independently, with little to no intervention or additional training. New managers with little supervision experience may find weaknesses in their employees frustrating and disregard the fact that these perceived “deficiencies” are actually learning opportunities to develop a skill set.
Managers Spend Most Of Their Time Being Empathetic Leaders
One of the most vital competencies of being a manager is having empathy, a soft skill that’s becoming more essential for leaders to possess, especially in challenging times. Empathy is defined as the ability to imagine oneself in the situation of another (which differs from sympathy – a feeling of pity for another person, but lacks the understanding of what it’s like to be in their situation).
Having empathy is not an easy skill to learn as a manager. It takes conscious effort and support to practice empathetic leadership in the workplace, however, it can lead to the team being able to truly connect with one another and improve their relationships. This is particularly true for managers and their direct reports. Managers need to watch for signs of burnout, long working hours, and decreased interest in the work itself and take proactive measures in assessing the employee’s current workload. Work should be divided fairly amongst the team, and if there are any imbalances, the manager needs to be able to correct them quickly before resentment starts to become a growing problem. The other important aspect of being an empathetic manager is to demonstrate a sincere interest in the team’s well-being and needs. This involves active listening, compassion, and effective conflict-resolution techniques.
Managers Spend Most Of Their Time Leading By Example
Effective managers don’t just delegate, they set the tone for the team and lead by example. They show up on time, listen to everyone in equal measure, are intentional with their communication, and take responsibility on behalf of the team if mistakes are made. Managers never hyper-focus on what went wrong or who was responsible. As leaders, they take accountability and find a way to move forward, educating along the way.
Employees tend to make careful assessments of their managers by the work they do. While managers may have unique job functions, it’s important that the work the team produces is never seen as beneath the manager. A good way for a manager to build trust and respect in their team is to work alongside them, understand it inside and out, and be seen engaging in all relevant areas.
There are many different challenges to being a manager. To help the company grow and reach its full potential, employees must feel motivated by their work environment, company mission, and their managers.
This is why effective managers spend most of their time looking out for their team’s wellbeing, offering opportunities for development, and providing a sincere and compassionate approach to leadership. Understanding their team’s unique strengths and how their work impacts the bottom line will help a manager succeed in the workplace and strengthen the respect they have in their position as leaders.