There is a trend in corporations that seems to have accelerated in the past 10 years. The trend is cutting costs by downsizing areas that don't appear to have a direct link to ROI.
In fact, the term 'working managers' appears a lot more today in job descriptions than in the past.
I have directly experienced two problems with this downsizing trend.
The outcome of this shift is that companies develop a “figure it out on your own”, sink or swim culture. This culture means that new employees do not ramp up as quickly or as effectively as in the past. For example, I had an experience where you couldn't call IT directly but had to put in an electronic ticket. It took me the better part of a week to get a resolution to an easy problem that should have only taken 10 minutes.
Despite the increased burden on working managers, it is still essential we find time to coach and train our employees. Making employees figure it out on their own is not the best practice. In fact, it is a significantly less effective way for them to learn, grow, and develop.
Additionally, employees who grow can take on some of the responsibilities of managers and reduce our burden. In fact, this article suggests there are several great benefits of delegating work for both the manager and the employees.
Therefore, it is critical that managers find the time to invest in their employees. Here are 3 areas that I believe we must invest in as managers.
In the daily grind, we miss countless opportunities to give our employees feedback. As working managers, we likely find ourselves in back-to-back meetings all day. Then we catch up at night. If we don't manage our calendars, our calendars will manage us. So, be sure to carve out 10 minutes after important meetings where your employees will be present to provide them with feedback.
Also, we need to make sure to provide both positive and constructive feedback. For example, “here are the 1-2 things you did very well, and here are the 1-2 things to work on next time.” Be sure to ask if the person would like any help in improving the 1-2 areas. They may not know how to improve but could be afraid to ask.
Managers should have weekly scheduled time with their direct reports. This ensures that if all our free time gets sucked up with other stuff that we still have dedicated time to each employee. I have found the best format for this is to have the employee create the agenda for the meeting. However, it is best to provide some guidance like: “this is your time to ensure I'm up to speed on all key projects, to seek my guidance/alignment on key project decisions, and to gain feedback.”
On the other side, I have found there are several things throughout the week that I need to run past my manager. When I've not had weekly meetings with my manager, it was a challenge to find time with them as we both were always in meetings. Instead, I email them but I do not get a reply because it is lost in their inbox. As a result of this lesson with my manager, I have made weekly meetings with my direct reports a priority. I schedule 1-hour meetings and if we don't need the full time, then I have extra work time. I have found that 30 minutes is simply not enough time to cover everything I mentioned above.
At a minimum, managers should schedule annual employee development plan meetings with their direct reports. The purpose of these meetings should be to understand their career aspirations. We should also put plans in place to help them grow and develop to help them achieve those goals. These are even better if we can do it every 6 months, if possible.
I find some managers are worried about these meetings because they wonder if the company cannot satisfy the employee's long-term goals. I have found it much better to understand that and discuss it with the employee instead of avoiding the topic or being afraid of it. If we know the employee has aspirations that will have them eventually leave the organization, we can still provide them with opportunities to grow and develop and help move the business forward with the time they are working with us. Knowing that they may eventually leave also enables us to properly prepare for that situation instead of being surprised when they resign. I have also found that helping someone to grow and develop means that they are more productive while they are still working for us.
I have experienced many working manager roles. Therefore, I will be the first to say that executing the above is a challenge. There are high expectations for working managers to be full-time executors. However, like everything else in life, it comes to prioritizing. We all need to choose what we feel is most important for long-term success. For me, personal and business success comes from focusing on developing my direct reports. By enabling them to grow, they are able to take on more from my plate.
What step forward are you going to commit to implementing this week in order to put this tip into action?
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