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  • Heather Polivka

Will We Start To Value Managers?

In this blog series, we continue to explore considerations for the NEW, new normal emerging in the months and year ahead.

In our last post, we looked at what the role of the office is, what purpose does it serve, and is it…by default…a physical space?

We are going to continue our discussion about designing work experiences in the NEW, new normal, and more specifically, how leading and managing needs to evolve.


Pre-pandemic, do you know 98% of middle managers said that they felt less than half of first line managers were prepared for their jobs?

And…what’s the #1 reason people leave their jobs? Their manager!

Google did a study of their various teams and discovered that the manager accounted for 70% of the difference in employee engagement.

Managers are vital to the work experience, team performance, talent retention, and productivity. So why is this group the most under prepared, under supported group of employees in most companies?

The leap from individual contributor to getting work done through others is no joke. Rarely does the best salesperson make a great sales manager, and yet that is often how promotions to management are determined. The challenge with this approach is that DOING the work…. even doing it exceptionally well…is a different skill set than managing others doing the work, helping them to grow and develop, and gaining their trust.

Then, as first time managers, they hardly get any training to help them be successful. Sure, they learn how to enter timecards, but do they learn how to build trust? Maybe they are taught about the mission and values, but are they guided on how to apply that to their team meetings and statuses? They learn policies, but do they learn about the power of recognition, the necessity of prioritization, and the importance of communication? I’ve worked in Fortune 50 companies and advised for many companies of all sizes and the resounding answer to these questions are, “No.”.

Most managers learn by trial-and-error or mirroring what they have liked or disliked about their previous managers (who also weren’t trained and supported). This leaves many businesses, and their business performance, at the effect of accidental success. That is no way to do business.

Now we add to the challenges of managers lacking support or training pre-pandemic with asking them to lead and manage remotely! Or hybrid teams! Again, with little training or support.

When managers don’t have the skills they need, they tend to hold on tightly to what they know…..and they turn into micro-managers of people and work. It’s human nature. That was true and a big part of what was not working with respect to managers pre-pandemic. That approach did NOT work in 2020 as people were working remotely. And that approach will not work as we move forward.

Instead, we need managers focused on managing outcomes, instead of the work itself. Their people will do the work itself, so the manager needs to support their people. A manager needs to communicate a shared vision, how the work supports that vision, and a clear prioritization of the work to be done to make that vision a reality. A manager needs to support people by helping them learn new skills, remove roadblocks, listen to their ideas that can make things faster, better, or more effective. The great thing about shifting to people-centric and output-focused management? It works for in-person, remote, and hybrid work models!

One other thing about managing: it is not truly valued, recognized or rewarded in most companies. Most managers have their own production metrics to hit or work to do. Promotions further up the management chain are rarely determined by who are great people-leaders and instead by production metrics. We consistently send the message in most organizations that it is WHAT you do that will earn you that next role, versus HOW you do it. Managing…and leading teams…. requires strong people-leadership skills. And yet, when was the last time you saw a promotion of someone to a Vice President calling out their earning and deserving that promotion due to their ability to lead people, grow and develop talent, and inspire innovation, collaboration, and problem-solving?

One of the questions I’ve been working with companies and leaders is on the role of the manager. What is their role and how do they add value to the company and their people? Do we need them managing people or managing outcomes and supporting people? What do they need to do this? How do we support them to be successful? And will great people-leadership be recognized and rewarded to be promoted….. REALLY?

What we were doing for managers before the pandemic was not working. That was just exacerbated during the pandemic. Reverting to the past or staying the course will continue the revolving door of talent

It is only in creating a new path forward that makes it possible to create a new paradigm for managing where the talent that already exists in our companies and teams are maximized to grow, succeed, and innovate.

Bottom line: Train Managers. Manage Output. Support People.

Join us in future blog editions as we explore leadership through the NEW, new normal!

Interested in exploring what’s next for your organization? Schedule a no-obligation 30-minute strategy call with Heather by clicking here.

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