People can get promoted to first line managers because they are good at their job or have length of service. However, they may not be given all ‘the tools’ they need to lead and manage their team. These same people may then be criticised for not performing. Is this fair?
More than a third of line managers have not been trained in how to supervise people. This creates relationship and culture problems, according to CIPD research. (2013). Lack of manager capability was cited as one of the main concerns of businesses by the Neuroleadership Institute in a recent webinar (May 2017).
First line managers can have the single largest positive or negative impact on your business. They influence employee performance, engagement, satisfaction, productivity, efficiency, and turnover. These, in turn, effect the overall health of your business.
“Every decision, action, behaviour and utterance by a manager contains a negative or positive stimulus potential” David Freemantle: The Stimulus Factor
Good management doesn’t just happen. Managers don’t inherently know how to lead and manage people. As an employer, you have an important part to play in ensuring your managers have what they need. This is not just about training. Are you by your actions, ‘cutting their legs from under them’? Here are some aspects to consider.
Clear Job Description and Responsibilities
‘You don’t need a written job description, you know what you have to do’ was a comment made to one manager recently. It is easy to assume that people know what they should be doing. Their perception may be very different to yours however. The key foundations for building confident managers are explicit roles and responsibilities; and checking understanding of them. It is also important to regularly review the reality of the role and the responsibilities that brings, as things change rapidly in modern businesses.
Communicating those roles and responsibilities clearly to the rest of the team is another critical step.
Authority and Structure
Linked to responsibility is the authority that person has. This is in decision making, resources and performance management. A manager, who is unclear about their authority, can feel very under-confident when dealing with difficult situations. How much autonomy do your managers have and do they know that?
Even where managers have clear authority, the danger is having that authority undermined. This can be done inadvertently by not supporting them in performance management issues or chastising them in front of their team.
Another common way of undermining line managers is by micro-managing. Learning to let go is one of the most difficult aspects of leading a team. If you have delegated authority and responsibility to your manager, then let them manage!
A finite structure and line of communication gives a clear message to everyone. The worst thing that can happen is ‘leap-frogging’. This is when it is accepted that an employee can by-pass their manager and go higher up; or the manager is not included when directions are given to team members.
Role Model and Direction
I was once asked to coach a manager, who was aggressive with his team. The reality was that he had joined the company at sixteen, and for twenty years, his only role model and training was from his employer. His style of management was a reflection of his boss.
Good leadership and management starts from the top. As a business leader, it is important to consider what values and behaviours you are displaying, as others will follow your example. It is showing your people what good management looks like and fostering a growth mind-set. People need to believe they can achieve the standard required.
One of the most frequent aspects raised by delegates on our leadership development is lack of direction. If people don’t know where the business is going on a short and long term basis, then effectively directing operations and making good decisions is very difficult. It can lead to high frustration and low morale, which impacts on the team.
‘We soon hear when things go wrong, but rarely hear when it goes right’ is another comment from first line managers. The skill is to give properly evaluated and constructive feedback, whether for praise or improvement. This is another key aspect for you to role model.
Regular feedback can help managers develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours your business needs. This does not mean just the once a year performance review either. We encourage managers to be looking for opportunities on a daily basis to give their teams a thank you, praise or feedback. It is about building a culture of continuous improvement.
A great way to improve your evaluation and feedback is to join a local Toastmasters Club. I have found this invaluable in learning to give and receive feedback.
Line Managers’ Development
Effective leadership and management development comes in many forms. Is your development offer fit for the 21st century and the pressures your business is under? Are you building a culture of learning for your business to grow? How much training and development do your managers actually get? How much have you had in the last year?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that employers with fewer than 100 employees provided only 0.8 hour – that’s only 12 minutes of manager training per six month period. And organizations with 100-500 employees provided only 0.9 hour (6 minutes) of training for the same time span.
Yes it is an investment. Training and development take time, energy, resources and money. A lack of managerial leadership has a direct correlation to high turnover and low productivity. The feedback I get is that it also leads to frustration, anxiety, low self esteem and greater stress. What is the cost to your business of not training?
Also published on Medium.