By: Sarah Kyo
Peter Drucker was known as “The Father of Modern Management Theory” – and for good reason. After all, he influenced the way we view effective management today. Before Drucker’s theory, managers were more reactive, stuck to familiar processes, and kept tighter reins when supervising their employees. However, Drucker believed they should be proactive, efficient leaders who are open to innovation and collaboration. In his words, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
Successful managers play an influential role on their teams, benefitting both employees and the overall organization. According to Gallup research, teams with talented managers saw a 48 percent increase in profitability, a 22 percent increase in productivity, and a 30 percent increase in employee engagement scores. Considering that change is constant in today’s digital world, it’s important for organizations to continue innovating and not get too comfortable with the status quo. According to PwC research, 79 percent of CEOs are concerned that their workforce’s lack of essential skills will threaten their organization’s growth. Even the top-performing managers need to stay updated with the latest technology, strategies, and best practices.
While the executive team may see the long-term value of investing in great managers and their management skills, there may be some disconnect between that desire and the actual execution. Unfortunately, most managers feel like they’re lacking opportunities to further develop their managerial skills and career: Only about 33 percent of managers strongly agree they have had learning and growth opportunities in the past year, according to Gallup. Meanwhile, LinkedIn found in their research that just 27 percent of Learning and Development professionals report that their CEOs are active champions of learning.
Workforce development was one concept that Drucker highly valued in his writings and teachings: “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes,” he said. Ongoing training and education can help cultivate and improve both managers and their teams. By supporting that type of employee empowerment, organizations can reap the rewards of having strong contributors with a continuous learner’s mindset while increasing the likelihood of retention.
To help your managers be more effective in their roles while upskilling them, review these best practices with your leadership team.
1. Encourage ongoing conversations
Weekly or daily team stand-up meetings are an opportunity to check in to see how everyone is doing, what projects they’re working on, and figure out if they need additional support. Scheduling one-on-ones with each of their team members will help the manager and their employees establish a stronger connection over time. Managers should also encourage their team to reach out to them and set aside time. Even an informal one-on-one could work if that conversation fits into both parties’ schedules.
2. Establish a sense of trust
Are your managers creating a safe space, allowing employees to provide constructive feedback, bring up concerns, and ask questions? If not, managers need to be genuinely open and transparent in team meetings and during one-on-ones, while also being active listeners who acknowledge their team members’ thoughts and feelings. Perhaps an employee is bursting with potential great ideas that could improve processes or help the business in other ways, for example – they just need to feel comfortable enough to say them. After all, in the words of Drucker, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” By establishing a culture of feedback, team members will feel encouraged to take the initiative, offer suggestions, and execute them.
3. Shape key programs
According to Accenture’s research, only 34 percent of leaders believe their current approach to performance management is highly effective at helping employees rapidly adapt to change. Front-line people leaders regularly interact with employees, discussing their performance and making compensation decisions. They have some first-hand knowledge on employees’ motivations, mindsets, needs, and more that may be unique to your company culture. That’s why they need to be included when you’re updating or creating a new program. Find ways to empower managers in strategic communications for performance management and other relevant programs in order to encourage employee buy-in.
4. Provide trainings, coaching, and mentoring
One of the top employee motivation strategies is education and training development. Managers also need upskilling for their own career and personal growth and to help stay engaged with their work. Your organization can consider educational reimbursements for industry conferences, relevant certificate programs, and other opportunities. Additionally, you can bring in expert guest speakers focused on industry knowledge or management training. Your HR, Learning and Development, or People team can also set up talent management journeys focused on performance management success, feedback and coaching, and career development. That way managers can properly engage with their teams and make informed decisions that are in line with your company. Arm them with the training, resources, and information they need in order to properly discuss these key programs with their team members.
5. Use change communications
Companies are undergoing a variety of changes nowadays, whether it’s a merger, acquisition, process change, new program, or digital transformation. In times of change, effective communication can be challenging to implement on short notice, especially in the middle of a crisis. Before launching your company’s new initiative, create a communication plan to roll out related processes and tools. The initial audience for any change communications should be your managers in order to increase the likelihood of employee buy-in. After all, they could potentially face many questions from their team members, so make sure they understand the reasons for why the changes needed to occur. Connect back to the idea of organizational alignment and your workforce’s productivity.
“Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations,” Drucker wrote. Successful managers play an important role in influencing their team and business outcomes. They also still need access to the right tools and development opportunities to further enhance their managerial skills and knowledge. If executive leadership provides those resources and actively champions learning, managers will be in a better position to help your team and organization succeed.