Every organization has a key role which is named Manager or Supervisor or something else, who is responsible for delivering results through a team. This is one of the most critical role and often the most misunderstood one as well. I say misunderstood one because of the fact that organizations just can’t decide how they would define this particular role or what exactly they expect out of this role. Sometimes it is called people manager, sometimes doubled up as project manager, sometimes a functional lead, sometimes and a product owner and so on. Different organizations define it differently and within an organization expectation could be very different from different managers. More often than not they are supposed to carry the message from higher management, internalize it and explain the same to team members. However issue is that most of the times immediate supervisors or managers are not part of the decision making process but are expected to be on board with the decisions being made.
Coming back to the other aspect of defining this particular role, though most organizations will have roles and responsibilities officially called out, however reality could be very different from that. It seems like it all depends on the circumstances and the expectations can change with change in leadership, circumstances, operating modal and many other factors. These changing expectations and priorities makes it difficult for managers to execute their duties and diminishes the opportunity to build a committed and engaged team.
Question is that if this role is so important why it does not have proper clarity around role expectations or why it is ignored many a times. Why expectations from this role keeps changing time to time? What can be done to ensure that a manager role is effectively and in true intent developed and nurtured? Organizations would need to look at many aspects while handling a manager role and also would need to understand the impact of not handling it properly:
· Clearly define what you expect from your managers. Ideally managers should manage the people in terms of growth, skills & trainings, career development, resource alignment, employee motivation & engagement, issue resolution, work prioritization, performance management, coaching & mentoring and connecting the individual work with overall organizational goals. If organization cannot clearly define the expectation, desired results are hard to come by. Once you have clearly defined the expectations managers can be held accountable for delivering up to those expectations.
· Being a good manager is a specialized skill, not every bright employee can become a good manager. This role presents a different set of challenges which can only be handled by the people interested in dealing with people. A lot many times project managers, lead developers or team leads are naturally progressed into the manager role, and more often they do not have the right mindset of dealing with people. They could be concentrating more on the technical or business results rather than concentrating on the people development & management. So select your managers very carefully for their interest and skills in managing people and not anything else. Considering people management to be easy or something anyone can handle will not help build a strong organization.
· Managers need not be an expert in technical or functional areas but should be having a great repo with people. It is not saying that managers should not have technical or functional understanding but rather saying where the focus should be. If you are looking for a project manager or functional expert please do so but do not use your managers to play an additional role of this sorts. In the process of handling multiple roles and assignments they would lose focus of their core area which is people management. Manager need not be the smartest person in the team, he should rather have the ability to manage the smart people.
· Allow some decision making power to your managers, not just in the talks but in terms of managing the operation like hiring, expenses etc. People need to see that their manager has decision making abilities or power to take decisions, if not manager will not be taken seriously by the team itself. A manager running around to get approvals for even the small decisions or expenses does not go very well with the team. Also the manager would not have the sense of independence. Powerless managers could be the worst set of employees in your organization as they would not only impact themselves but many other they are managing.
· Do not let your managers be in between managers where they are considered management representatives by the team members and team representative by the senior management. Many times immediate managers seems like Jokers to employees whose job is to entertain the senior management and push the employees to implement or execute something they may not be convinced about.
· Encourage & listen to your immediate managers or supervisors very well, they are the once who know the real pulse of the organization. Without knowing the ground reality it would not be worth implementing people initiatives in the organization. Organizations try hard implementing loads of employee friendly initiatives but still can’t motivate the employees for this very reason.
· Encourage managers for management innovations. Sounds little odd as not many people would have heard about management innovations as they may just be used to technical or process related innovations. Management innovations are about finding out newer ways to keep employees engaged and motivated. Same and routine management practices, boring meetings and same old ways of recognition will not help generate energy needed by people and organizations to deliver better results. Managers are the best people to bring in innovative ideas as they are closest to the people. There are NO best management practices, there are only best managers. The managers who understand what is required in each situation while dealing with people.
It is rather easy to ignore manager as a specialized role when you want to cut the cost and want your people to execute many things at the same time. Why waste a resource for just doing managerial tasks when he or she can be used to do many other things as well? The reason is very simple, all other things like technology or processes can be controlled through a defined set of rules, budget or priorities. But unfortunately people can’t be managed in the same manner. Ask yourself again if you have the right set of people managers or just a bunch of Jokers focused on everything else except for people management.