It’s hard to be a manager and the data is not in your favor.
Here are (2) alarming data points:
1.) We know from research that people leave managers. According to Gallup, 75% of employees who leave companies leave because of their direct boss. 75%! That’s a real problem and weighty for the manager.
2.) Industry research reports that 50% of high potentials fail within 12–18 months when promoted from individual contributor to manager. This is a big problem that has cascading impacts within organizations.
Managers most likely have the opportunity to impact employee engagement and overall productivity more than any other role in the organization. It’s a strategic role that holds the key to the underlying success of a company.
It’s one thing for Sr. leaders to define aspirations, vision, values and strategy, but it’s another thing for that to practically make its way through the management layers to the employees who have the largest impact on the customers being served. Managers are the hands and feet to the vision and aspirations.
So, how do we hit these barriers head on and position ourselves and managers on our teams for success?
1.) Change Your Definition of Success
The same activities and contributions that made you a linchpin individual contributor are not the same things that will make you an incredible and impactful manager. Success has to be redefined from what you individually contributed to how you enable your team to do their job at a high level and how you unlock your team’s full potential. This is asking different questions and exercising different skills than what made you successful before. A lot of managers fail because they can’t make this shift and change the way they think about success.
2.) Build a Foundation of Trust
The foundation of any healthy team and relationship is trust. If your team does not trust you, you’ll have a hard time influencing and endearing them to follow you. This starts by the manager sharing their story. Mr. Rogers, yes Mr. Rogers, said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story”. Your team needs to know you — your vision, values, standards, expectations — so they can learn to trust you. Everything else you build hinges on the strength of this foundation. Connection leads to trust which leads to commitment.
Vulnerability and asking for help is a key way to build trust with your teams. This shows your team members that you don’t have all the answers and they have a voice in the relationship. Remember, the only way to extend trust is to actually extend trust and the manager should go first.
3.) Create and Commit to Feedback Loops
This takes humility and vulnerability. Create a structure where feedback is frequent and bi-directional. Set the pace by asking your direct reports for feedback on what you can do better to support them and position them for success. Ask this question in your weekly 1:1s and be ready to take action on the feedback provided. Volunteer up an area that you are actively working on improving so they know you’re committed to growing as a manager. This requires vulnerability and a commitment to learning, but will help you incrementally check in and confirm your teams have what they need to enable success.
4.) Provide Clarity
The #1 action your team needs from you, their manager, is clarity.
Clarity of vision. A clear picture of the preferred future.
Clarity of behavioral and cultural expectations. A clear picture of how you expect people to behave and the positivity they need to bring every day.
Clarity of organization. A clear picture of how it all fits together and how to navigate the organization for success.
Clarity of roles/responsibilities. A clear picture of what you expect your team to show up every day and do.
We follow clarity. Clarity is magnetic. Clarity results in influence, which is the essence of leadership. Clarity helps leaders articulate their “why” so they can then turn attention to the “what” and “how”.
5.) Learn to Focus on the Bigger Picture
Expand your focus to the broader business and how your team fits into the bigger picture. This will help lead your team in alignment and provide a vision for the value your team creates for the overall organization. You represent your team but sometimes the best business decision might not be the best team decision. Managers need to lead their teams to visualize the larger strategy and help them understand the “why”.
A Note to Managers of Managers
Managers of managers have a significant role in making their managers successful. First time managers and newly promoted managers need help shifting their definition of success from their individual contributor contributions to enabling their teams the achieve success together. As noted above, this is a big shift and they need your help.
Press into this and setup a feedback structure that allows you to monitor this shift. All shifts are bumpy at first and may result in some type of failure. Your managers need you to help them interpret their experiences so they can draw the correct conclusions and learn to let failure develop them vs define them.
Failure to invest in this has multiple ripple effects and a direct top and bottom line impact. Investing in the success of your managers is a wise business decision.