How Do I Manage?

23 Apr 2019

Yet more research has emerged this week about the butterfly effects of poor management and management styles on the workforce and in particular their productivity and wellbeing. 
According to a new report from the CIPD and Simplyhealth, 37% of UK businesses have seen an increase in stress-related absence over the last year. 

The top cause (62%) of the issues have been attributed to heavy workloads and the second biggest contributing factor is poor management styles which has risen from 32% to 43% in the last year.

83% of respondents observed ‘presenteeism’ or going to work ill having increased by 25% since the previous year. The report also found that there was a lack of awareness in managers about the stress related issues and there was inadequate development of managers to manage in the current environment.

For those of you who have either attended one of our Leadership and Management programmes or have read any of our articles before, you will know we understand the difference between the adverse affects of stress and the benefits of certain stress in the workplace. Not all stress is bad! This report does highlight the lack of appreciation between the 2 aspects as well as the lack of effective management development to cope with the current workplace environment. So what are the solutions?

•    Know your role
•    Slow down
•    Stop killing the goose
•    Reduce illbeing 

Having been a manager at various levels in a range of different organisations and been responsible for designing and delivering Leadership and Managerial development programs for over 26 years, I’m confident in my belief that the role of a manager is more challenging today than it has been before and this is due to one or more of the following reasons.

1.    The role of the modern people manager.

The role of the manger has shifted over the years. Gone are the days where there was a distinct dividing chasm between leaders and managers as more is expected of the modern day people manager.

Even if you manage projects you are still responsible for leading people, their output, their health and safety, their welfare, their budget control, quality, customer satisfaction etc..... The manager in the modern world has infinitely more roles in their job than ever before. On day one of our Management Academy programme we talk about the many hats the modern manager wears in their role.

For over 20 years we have noticed increasingly more hats added to this pile some of which are practical (Referee, First Aider, Problem Solver, Decision Maker) and some a bit more obscure (Relationship Counsellor, Financial Adviser, Police Officer, Psychotherapist, Agony Aunt). The point is that these roles increase over time as different generations join the global workforce and they have different expectations in the workplace, different motivational drivers, communication channels, value sets, career ambitions etc.

The modern manager needs to be an amateur psychologist as well as a master in the art of magic. The expectations of the modern manager are not only greater in volume, but more diverse in scope and complexity.

Understand what is expected of the modern manager in your organisation and then assess the current performance of your managers and develop the knowledge, mindset and behaviours required to manage. 

2.    Pace of change.

The pace of change now is faster than it has ever been. This seems to be a continuous process. So next year the pace of change will be faster than it is today.

I recall being asked a maths question at school many years ago about the formula for working out the 100m sprint world record time and then being asked why this is flawed.

The flaw comes with the limits of human capacity. Perhaps this pace of change also has a flaw in that humans are only able to adapt to, and sustain a defined amount of change before acceptable points of failure are surpassed. For example, the acceptable speed of package deliveries might create higher risks of wrong deliveries resulting in further increased delivery costs or perhaps more concerning an increased risk to health, safety and wellbeing.

Take the targeted expectations of the delivery driver during the Christmas gifting period. The expectations of customers seem to increase and they are often left underwhelmed because the expectations are not being managed in the workplace with the constraints placed upon them.

This is another role of the manager to balance the equation of time, cost and income. Are we asking too much of our people by demanding too much from our managers? Do you have a clearly defined range of acceptance within your business?

This is what is expected and can be expected from our business to our customers. Look at your ‘Fit for Purpose’ as you operate now, today! Then consider what you need to be competitive in your chosen market (defined segmentation).

When you have done this the focus should be on how you embrace change and consider ways in which you can improve your delivery of expectations without killing the product capacity. 

3.    Stop Killing the Goose.

I’m fond of the famous fable about the Goose and the Golden Egg. To summarise, the farmer collects eggs from his goose on a daily basis and he and his family sell the eggs to make a basic living. One day it appears the goose has laid a golden egg.

Suspicious of the authenticity of the egg he gets it checked out and sure enough it is indeed a solid golden egg. The same thing happens the next day and the next. The farmer is richer than his wildest beliefs and enjoys his new found wealth.

With this advantageous lifestyle comes an impatience to get more. Greed takes over and despite trying a number of tactics to increase the amount of eggs the goose lays (production) the goose lays one golden egg each day.

The impatience and greed intensify which leads to the farmer taking extreme measures to get more golden eggs and one day he cuts open the goose in the search for the origin of the gold and as such kills the production capacity.

Consider this in terms of the people in your business.

Does the level of expectation on your people reach the point of killing the production capacity either through burn out or them leaving your organisation?

Does our greed as business owners, or senior managers blind us to the issue of over stretching our people to deliver the results we demand?

Why do your targets have to increase year on year?

I appreciate the shareholders expectations and venture capitalist pay-outs, but there are situations where the status quo is the best case scenario in the current climate. This is neither defeatist nor pessimistic, it’s realistic in some cases and by increasing the targets you run the risk of killing the goose and then you’re left with nothing.

So I encourage you to honestly answer the question.... are you killing the goose? 

4.    Burn out.

Burn out is one of the worst case scenarios for illbeing (opposite of wellbeing) in the workplace. Degrees of illbeing include stress and the apparent inability to cope, over-anxiousness about performance against targets and measures, dysfunctional team dynamics resulting in a lack of cohesion and joined up working to name a few.

Wellbeing is subjective as is happiness and motivation. Elements of illbeing are fairly consistent across many people and scenarios.

Despite the fact that we design and deliver a series of Wellbeing interventions the focus should not only be on this development piece, but on understanding the causes of illbeing and working to reduce them.

Ideas include considerate distribution of workload, effective working practises versus established working practises, eradicating workplace politics, challenging silo working patterns, recruiting for cultural fit, on boarding and development that is pragmatically applicable not just quick and easy to administer etc. 

Expressions Partnership’s “The Management Academy” is a management development programme which tackles all the issues facing today's managers. It covers all learning styles and includes FREE Unlimited phone coaching and email support.

It is run as an Open "Public" Management Academy and a Bespoke In-House Academy and caters for:

  • Managers who have had some time to acclimatise to their role, but wish to be more effective and contribute more.
  • Managers who have not had any structured development.
  • Managers new to the role.
  • For those who need a refresher to invigorate their outlook.

Note: 8 out of 10 companies who send a delegate on this course enrol more of their staff on the same course.