Employee engagement and satisfaction can make or break a business. Everything from company culture to benefits to schedule flexibility can affect the employee experience. Companies to go great lengths to maintain a happy population of employees, but what is the one thing with the most power to influence the employee experience? Managers.
Frustratingly, many managers are placed in their position without being trained. Often high performing employees are selected to become managers because they’re great at their job. However, just because someone is excellent at organizing and executing their own work doesn't mean they're ready to manage a whole team of people.
When you have a manager who needs training, your employees are going to know it. But will you?
How to know your managers need some help
1. Employee frustration at seemingly small internal hiccups
If you’re finding that group morale dips when relatively small issues need to be addressed, you might be seeing a symptom of poor leadership. Employees that are already at the end of their rope dealing with poor communication or direction, due to lack of leadership, are going to get easily frustrated when issues arise, even if they’re relatively small.
There is a threshold for the amount of juggling and direction change a group can take, and if their manager is adding to it, they’re going to have a much lower bar for what frustrates them. Are you familiar with the term “the straw that broke the camel’s back?” Then you get the gist.
2. Confusion about role clarity
As a team is organizing a project, do you see confusion around responsibilities? Do things slip through the cracks?
If employees are unclear about their responsibilities, it could mean they aren’t getting enough direction from leadership. Or it could mean their manager isn’t following a consistent plan when delegating projects. If you have a manager assigning projects and tasks based on whom they prefer, and bypassing employees' job roles, it’s going to create confusion at best, and downright resentment at worst.3. You don't hear new ideas from your employees
If you’re wondering why your employees aren’t offering up new ideas and solutions to streamline processes, fix issues, and strengthen your company, you’ve probably got a problem with management. The fact is, everyone working at your company is going to have opinions and ideas. They just won’t share them if they’ve been shut down in the past, or if they’re afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes.
Your employees are your best resource because they’re on the line doing the work. Your managers should be doing everything in their power to engage them and get them thinking about how to improve the company. If your managers are critical, dismissive, or even uninterested in their team’s ideas, all you’re going to get is a lot of silence and wasted opportunity.4. You get pushback when things change
Company culture comes from the top down, and if you have a manager or leader who is resistant to change, you’re going to see that translate to the way employees handle change. Let’s face it, you can't run a successful business without continually looking for ways to improve and grow, which means you have to be open to change.
Managers who resist change are working against the natural flow of any company and ultimately end up stifling innovation and growth. Train your managers to expect change as part of the job, so they take it in stride and see it as an opportunity for growth. By doing so, you’ll develop a more agile and robust company.5. You only hear about the same few people on their team
If a manager only ever reports on the same people, this could mean one of two things. Your manager has favorites among their team who get special attention and recognition. Or your manager is failing to properly coach and lead their entire team, leaving people to become isolated and lose support.
Either way, your manager likely isn't looking at their team holistically but is picking out (either subconsciously or consciously) people they more readily connect with. This favoritism is detrimental to promoting diversity, which has proven to be an excellent resource for building teams. Plus, you never know what Shy Sam from tech might have to offer if he isn't coached into being more comfortable sharing his thoughts.
If any of these are hitting home for you, don’t lose hope! There are countless ways to train your managers and help them learn the skills they need to become great leaders. Chances are, you just need to give them the opportunity. When you provide your leadership team with development and learning opportunities to help them grow as leaders, you’re investing in them, in everyone they manage, and in your company.
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Photo by Rachata Teyparsit