by Deidre Koppelman, Founder and CEO of PEAR Core Solutions
The most common factor that pushes employees out the door is their relationship (or lack thereof) with their manager. This is despite the fact that the employee may actually like their job or their company. It makes sense when you consider that an employee’s manager is their most frequent and important connection to your company. If the manager and employee don’t get along, then the employee’s options to improve the situation are limited, and it’s usually easier for them to throw in the towel and move on.
This situation places tremendous pressure on managers to maintain strong relationships with their employees while simultaneously getting their “real” job done (e.g., closing sales, completing projects on time). The pressure travels up to human resources representatives who are responsible for filling open positions, maintaining company engagement numbers, and frequently “keeping the peace” between managers and employees.
Why are so many managers bad at being managers?
Most of us want to move up in our companies or careers, if for no other reason that higher-level positions mean more pay. However, the desire to move up does not always mean we want to manage other people. A CareerBuilder survey asked this very question, and the result was that 52% of those polled were not interested in a leadership role. We can safely assume that there are many managers out there who do not want to be in the position of leading others.
It is my belief, however, that a far more powerful factor contributing to managerial shortcomings is that managers are setup for failure by their own company.
How companies setup their managers for failure
The scenario usually goes something like this:
- Janet was great at her job. She understood her role well, clients liked her, and she made (or saved) the company money.
- Her manager was promoted and Janet was the logical person to fill the empty seat based on a combination of her skills, past successes, and tenure.
- The company offered no leadership training, and Janet’s manager (who also just got promoted) is too busy with his new responsibilities to provide Janet with coaching.
- Janet’s new direct reports (those employees that were once her peers) come to her with all kinds of work, personal, and interpersonal issues. Some even expect her to treat them favorably because they already have an established friendship.
Leadership development isn’t just for leaders
If you wait until a manager becomes a manager to teach them how to lead others, you are already behind the proverbial 8-ball. The overwhelming demands of their new job means they are doubly challenged in getting situated into their new role while simultaneously going through training that takes time from their day. This is not to say that you shouldn’t provide training to new – or even experienced – managers, but whenever possible you want to start the process before the promotion!
If we start training for leadership skills at all levels of an organization, we are not only preparing all of our employees to be future leaders, but we are also raising everyone’s current skills in such areas as teamwork, accountability, and conflict management to name just a few. Timeless leadership training concepts are helpful to every employee and are applied immediately to their jobs. When the time comes to hand out a promotion, you can be confident that the employee you are promoting will be much better equipped to hit the ground running as a manager of others.
Self-awareness » self-management » people-leadership
It’s a matter of some irony that those who provide the best leadership to others tend to be hyper-focused on what seems like a very selfish process: getting to know and lead themselves better. It becomes clear how this focus leads to better leadership of others when you ask a couple of simple questions: How can you expect someone to manage others if they don’t understand how to manage themselves? How can you expect employees to emulate leadership and teamwork behaviors if the manager doesn’t model them?
Leading others starts with leading oneself which starts with self-awareness. That may sound overly-philosophical, but it’s a simple truth that can be applied with practical tools such as assessments to reveal behavioral preferences. These assessments provide the employee with an opportunity to look in the mirror and understand both how and why they react the way they do to the daily challenges of life and work. When you get an entire team involved in the process, you are widening everyone’s scope of knowledge to include awareness of each other’s behavioral preferences, and this paves the way for more effective communication and teamwork. Combine all of this with regular leadership coaching through a mentor or coach, and you are providing a solid foundation on which your managers can stand. Setup your managers – and all of your employees – to succeed and they will help your business reach new heights!