Are You a Truly Engaged Manager?
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You may think you’re a good boss, but a recent survey reports 9 out of 10 managers are providing insufficient oversight—a problem that consultant Bruce Tulgan calls the “under-management epidemic.”

Ten years ago, research from Rainmaker Thinking, Inc., confirmed an epidemic of workplace under-management. The firm’s ongoing study reveals that under-managing remains rampant. A full 90% of all leaders and managers do not provide direct reports with sufficient guidance, support and coaching.

Under-managing occurs when leaders with supervisory authority fail to regularly and consistently provide employees with five vital management basics:

  1. Clear statements of broad performance requirements and specific expectations
  2. Support and guidance regarding resources necessary to meet requirements and expectations
  3. Accurate monitoring, measurement and documentation of individuals’ actual performance
  4. Regular candid feedback about actual performance
  5. Rewards and penalties distributed in proportion to actual performance

Costs and Causes

Research from numerous sources continues to highlight the importance of employees’ relationships with their immediate supervisors. Under-management is the common denominator in most cases of poor workplace performance:

Organizations can ill afford poor management in the post-recession era. Lean and flexible workplaces require finely tuned HR management, as there are simply fewer employees and managers. Yet, employees still rely on their immediate supervisors more than any other individuals for meeting basic needs and expectations.

Managers report several reasons for failing to provide consistent management basics (in decreasing order):

  1. Lack of time (largely due to non-managerial responsibilities and increased spans of control)
  2. Lack of sufficient training in the best practices, tools and techniques of effective supervision, management and leadership
  3. Lack of sufficient resources and support—a function of increased productivity requirements and tight budgets
  4. Constantly changing priorities
  5. Logistical constraints (i.e., remote locations, different schedules, language or cultural barriers)

Some managers have gone overboard when providing greater autonomy and empowerment. Perhaps they fear accusations of micromanagement. As the Rainmaker report notes:

We also find another less straightforward set of causes of under-management that are more psychological or philosophical in nature. This is a combination of what we refer to as:

  • “False empowerment thinking” (the belief that managers should refrain from asserting authority by being strictly directive or punitive)
  • Plus “false nice-guy syndrome” (the belief that being strong is tantamount to being unfriendly or will lead to negative interactions or conflict)
  • Plus fear of other various potential negative repercussions (such as complaints, bad-mouthing, foot-dragging, sabotage, lawsuits, etc.)

Some managers say they could be stronger and better engaged, but they choose to avoid doing so, citing one of the aforementioned reasons.

The Cure for Under-Managing

By definition, engaged managers:

  • Get the most out of their people
  • Foster good relationships
  • Meet their goals with fewer problems

Unfortunately, managers spend much of their time handling personnel conflicts and “putting out fires.” They have to play catch-up after crises are averted, leaving less time for quality management conversations and effective leadership practices.

You can cure any under-management problems by holding regular, highly structured, high-substance one-on-one conversations with each direct report. Commit to covering the five fundamentals of good management:

  1. Clear statements of broad performance requirements and specific expectations
  2. Support and guidance regarding resources necessary to meet requirements and expectations
  3. Accurate monitoring, measurement and documentation of individuals’ actual performance
  4. Regular candid feedback about actual performance
  5. Rewards and penalties distributed in proportion to actual performance

“High Structure”/”Substance”

Tulgan advises managers to set aside an hour a day to hold conversations with three to four employees (about 15 minutes per person). Be sure to have a well-organized agenda. Additionally:

  • Prepare in advance. Make sure your direct reports prepare, as well.
  • Follow a regular, yet personalized, format for each employee.
  • Start with top priorities, open questions and any work in progress.
  • Consider holding these conversations while standing or walking, as appropriate. Use a clipboard to make notes and maintain your focus.
  • Don’t do all the talking. Recognize the value of listening.
  • Don’t let anyone go more than two weeks without meeting.

As for high substance, make sure content is immediately relevant and specific to each person/situation. This is where many managers miss the boat. As stated earlier, preplanning is key. Follow these guidelines:

  • Regularly remind each person of broad performance standards.
  • Turn best practices into standard operating procedures; teach them to everyone.
  • Use plans and step-by-step checklists, whenever possible.
  • Focus on concrete actions within each employee’s control.
  • Monitor, measure and document in writing each individual’s performance.
  • Follow up. Provide regular, candid, coaching-style feedback.
  • Follow through with real consequences and rewards based on how performance relates to expectations.

High-structure/-substance conversations provide a clear window into employee problems before they become crises. Engaged managers use this tool to learn what’s really going on. Doing so each day, starting with a minimum of 1 hour, will prevent potential challenges from exploding into fires.

Use these conversations to identify and memorialize any negative behaviors. Be sure to:

  1. Pinpoint problem language, tones and gestures.
  2. Connect behaviors to tangible work outcomes.
  3. Reference performance requirements or best practices from which negative behaviors deviate.
  4. Suggest replacement behaviors, and have the employee commit to trying them.
  5. Continue to follow up in future conversations.

If any of your people complain during your meetings, ask them to provide solutions to the problems they see. Have them prepare an executive summary that covers key points:

  • Here’s the issue.
  • These are the options.
  • This is the option I propose.
  • This is why my option is best for the business.
  • Here’s what it would cost (money, time, people, other resources).
  • This is where we could get the resources.
  • This is what the plan would look like.
  • Here’s the role I propose for myself in executing that plan.

This approach teaches employees to focus, troubleshoot solutions and participate in making changes. You’ll boost productivity and overall quality almost immediately.

Today, in a fast – paced and competitive world, managers need to perform near-miracles. They increasingly use professional coaches like me to help them develop their skills to unleash the potential of their staff.

I offer a 30-minute telephone consultation, which will be scheduled at no cost to you. Request at motykoppes@coachmoty.com. I also welcome your referrals.

Let's Talk!

Call me today (949) 721-5732 to schedule a 30 minutes consultation.

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Moty Koppes is a certified master coach providing you with personal development, life coaching, relationship coaching, communication skills, personal power, life balance, career coaching, productivity enhancement, executive coaching and stress reduction in Newport Beach, Orange County, Southern California.