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4 Important Steps that Support Managers in Being More Successful

It wasn't that long ago that anyone could be a leader. Work enough hours in a company and before long, you were tapped on the shoulder to lead a team.

The result was lots of people became leaders who were more about their technical prowess, rather than their ability to get things done well through a group of people. This was compounded by the fact that people became leaders with little, if any, leadership training.

It became very common for teams to be overworked or mistreated through leaders who valued results over people. While at the other end of the scale, you had leaders who cared more about being nice than holding their team accountable to achieve results.

Today, employee and even societal expectations have changed. People want a leader who supports them in their career goals and cares about them as a human being. Command-and-control leadership is finally on the decline. Now, leaders are expected to be inclusive, mindful of people's wellbeing, teachers, coaches all while delivering results. 

Being a successful leader today is no easy feat. Leaders need to know the best people strategies to save them time and their sanity.

It's no wonder that a recent study by Gartner has found that managers are struggling - 54% are suffering from work-induced fatigue and stress. At the same time, only 50% of employees believe their managers can help their team succeed in the coming two years.


And when you really think about it, who even wants to be a manager? The responsibilities are enormous, expectations are high, while both time and support are limited.

Middle managers are often caught between trying to please their reports and managers above them. 

Research from McKinsey revealed that some middle managers spend up to two days a week on individual contributor work and a day a week on administrative tasks, in addition to their management responsibilities. It's not uncommon for leaders to prioritise their people during the day and do their own work after hours.
Excessive workloads, coupled with insufficient time and resources, results in numerous overwhelmed managers, who are almost twice as likely to leave their employer, according to research from Microsoft.
Managers are organisational linchpins that holds team and enterprises together. They help attract and retain great talent. They help people see the meaning and importance of their work, they customise the work environment, they patiently train employees and help with change initiatives.

But how much is being done to help managers be successful? We always focus on the employee experience, but what about the manager experience?

If you're a manager, are you being empowered, developed or even resourced to be successful in your job?

Let's take a look at what leaders need to be successful in their job:

1. A strong desire to want to lead people - The well-worn path of promoting (and even pushing) employees into managerial positions based on their individual contribution needs a rethink. Another way of looking at is getting employees to nominate themselves for managerial roles. According to the same Gartner study mentioned previously, one in five managers said that given a choice, they would rather not have that position.

At WPS Health Solutions, candidates in the leadership training program are given a week to self-reflect on how the manager role differs from what they expected, what they find the hardest about it and whether they want to pursue it. Rather than stigmatising their decision, the company celebrates those who opt-out from being a manager. They are able to continue being an individual contributor expert and are regarded as being just as important to company success as managers.

2. Build effective leadership habits - According to the HBR article, Reimagine Your Managerial Pipeline, managers need to build habits - not just skills to drive long-term, sustained behaviour change.

Yet, building new habits is tricky. It's hard to stick to new habits on our own. That's why Alcoholics Anonymous has been so successful at transforming alcoholics into sober members of society.

Change happens in groups.

As Lee Ann Kaskutasm, the senior scientist at Alcohol Research Group says "There’s something really powerful about groups and shared experiences. People might be sceptical about their ability change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend belief.  A community creates belief.”  
When it comes to improving leadership skills and habits, the fastest growth occurs when leaders are embedded in a supportive group.
The Tribe of Trusted Leaders Community is an example of where leaders from different organisations come together to build new practices and habits in a supportive and accountable environment. Interactive challenges, monthly leadership lounges and weekly actions, ensures leaders achieve results and transformation that are hard to do on your own. 

3. Organisational support - It's time for organisations to better understand the value managers bring and reevaluate their responsibilities and reset expectations.

This includes removing burdensome tasks so that managers are freed up to focus on work that brings the most value - including elevating the work of others. Empowering managers to reimagine their role is key. This will go along way to reduce managerial stress. 

4. Leadership training - In a recent AIM Leadership Survey, over 72% of Australian workers leave their jobs due to poor leadership, with communication skills and emotional intelligence seen as the critical skill gaps that Australian leaders are facing.

Unfortunately, not all training is created equal. Adults learn differently to children. Putting employees into classes and expecting them to learn is outdated. The research shows that people have to want to learn and more importantly, be challenged. 

In fact, a study found that leadership training that makes discomfort an explicit learning goal is more likely to motivate than if leaders focus on what to learn.

To make learning more manageable, leadership programs need to reduce the intensity. Often, leaders prefer meeting every two weeks over a longer period of time. That way they have the time to self-reflect, do the homework, take action and share their results.

One such program that includes adult learning best practices is the Tribe of Trusted Leaders - Leadership Mastermind. Here leaders meet online for 90 minutes or less every fortnight to join master classes, group coaching and learn from others. Within six months of being in the program, leaders are noticeably increased engagement in their teams and delivered better quality results.

Focusing on the Manager Experience

Organisations expect a lot from their managers. Yet, are we really setting them up well enough to succeed?

In an interview on the future of work, CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella mentioned that "If you want the company to stay alive for a chance to thrive in these volatile times, managers need actionable mental and emotional support for their well-being from senior leadership."
As Gartner's study shows, promoting managers into leadership positions is not enough on its own. Nor is putting people through training courses. There needs to be other actions such as allowing employees to nominate whether they want to be a manager, enabling managers to reimagine their roles, eliminating bureaucratic processes, as well as providing access to supportive leadership communities.

By offering a variety of resources to managers, organisations can cultivate a rich pool of leaders who are not only thriving, but their teams as well.


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