Get rid of managers and we’ll all be happier

This is the title of a provocative post over at Management Issues.

Rather than adding value to their organisations, two thirds of British managers actually create negative working climates that leave employees feeling resentful and frustrated.

Research by Hay Consultancy has shown that a fifth of UK workers are frustrated in their jobs, with rigid bureaucracy and poor management structures and systems hampering innovation and productivity.

Half of workers believed they did not have the authority to make decisions crucial to their jobs, with the same proportion complaining of being discouraged from participating in decisions that directly affected their work.

Managers were failing to design jobs in such a way as to capitalise on the talents of their workers, Hay also argued.

More than a third of the workers polled believed their job did not make best use of their skills and abilities.

The study of more than 3,100 leaders across 12 industries found that close to half of the managers were creating demotivating climates for employees, while a further 15 per cent generated only a neutral environment.

Good managers who really add value (in the eyes of their employers and their team members) are few and far between.  Just a quarter of managers were able to create a high-performance climate, according to employees, and only an additional fifth managed to generate a ‘moderately energising’ working atmosphere.

But while the findings do not surprise me the headline (Get rid of managers and we’ll all be happier) does.

Getting rid of managers is not the answer.  Managing their failure to perform is.  In my experience if we manage managers well – tackle management under performance – and make sure that they manage effectively using feedback, coaching and delegation it is possible to quickly build a management culture that promotes high performance.

Wally on Leadership

I regularly read Wally Bock’s blog.  He is always coming up with great insights and ideas.

In a recent post he reminded us that:

  1. Leadership is behaviour.
  2. Theory doesn’t count unless it turns into behaviour.
  3. Principles don’t matter until you incarnate them.
  4. If it doesn’t find its way into what you say or what you do, it can’t be leadership.
  5. Leadership is situational.
  6. One size doesn’t fit all.
  7. What works in one situation may not work in another.
  8. Your choices of what you say and do depend on the situation.
  9. If you aspire to leadership, understand that leadership is about actions measured by results in a specific situation.

Much the same can be said of management. I even agree with the situational nature of leadership – although I also believe that a single, simple management system can provide the basics of good organisational practice in the vast majority of situations.  A system where you:

Thanks Wally.  You can read the full post here.

Sue Wiley on Why and How PMN Works for Her

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Sue Wylie is the office manager at re’new in Leeds.

She has attended four PMN workshops and has used much of what we have covered in her work.  In this podcast she talks about PMN and how it works for her.

Sue explains why;

  • she thought she would never have enough time for 121s – but now would not be without them, and
  • how 121s actually save her time and avoid interruptions in her working day
  • how the principles and practices have driven progress in her team
  • the impact that 121s with her manager have had in her

You can listen to the podcast here.


Many thanks Sue!

If you have attended PMN training and benefitted from it, and would like to make a podcast with me – just let me know!  You could become an iTunes star!

Affirming Feedback and Praise

I meet a lot of managers who confuse praise with affirming feedback.

Affirming feedback is a tool used to:

  • make someone aware of a specific behaviour or action that they have taken,
  • understand specifically the positive nature of the impacts of that behaviour or action,
  • increase the chances of further examples of that behaviour or action in the future.

Affirming feedback is a powerful tool primarily for influencing future behaviour.

Praise on the other hand is about the past.  It is about ensuring that someone feels recognised and valued for something that they have done.  It is usually MUCH less specific than feedback and sometimes given with much less clear intent.  It is just as powerful as affirming feedback and effective praise should be encouraged.

However, praise is not without its risks.  If praise is:

  • ill timed
  • embarrassing
  • diluted or over-inflated
  • undeserved

It can certainly do more harm than good.  For more on the problems of praise read this post.

10 Ways to Make Your Employees Love You

This is the title of a great blog post written by Alison Green.   Now I am not sure that we necessarily need all employees to love us but I bet that her list (which I have paraphrased below) contains some insights and clues into how most of us could become MUCH better managers.

  1. Don’t shout, disparage or attack people – nor employees, not customers, not bosses.
  2. Be reasonable. Hold people to high standards, but that don’t demand the impossible.
  3. Keep your word.
  4. Make your team feel respected and valued: Act in ways that show you care about their quality of life. And don’t underestimate the impact of regularly making sure great employees know you think they’re great.
  5. Solicit feedback. Ask for input on everything from how the employee thinks last week’s event went to what you could be doing to make her job easier.
  6. Stay focused on results. Don’t have rules and policies for their own sake; make sure each is connected to an actual business need, and be willing to bend the rules if it makes sense overall.
  7. Workout what people need to do their job better, and help them get it.
  8. Recognise and take the difficult decisions as well as the easy ones
  9. Be honest about performance problems.
  10. Don’t assume you know what’s going on.

Building Confidence – Using Feedback

One of the commonest scenarios that managers face is that of working with employees who appear to lack confidence at work.

The starting point for helping employees who lack confidence is to recognise that this is just a label that we have attached (often unconsciously) to a set of behaviours. It is recognising these behaviours and helping the employee to manage them effectively that provides the key to building confidence.

I recently worked with a manager who presented exactly this challenge and we started by listing the behaviours that were at the source of the problem:

  • crying frequently at work (2-3 times a week)
  • prefacing suggestions with self deprecating comments such as ‘This is probably a stupid idea but…’ and ‘I doubt that this will work but…’
  • periods of withdrawal and silence especially in meetings

Frequent crying is always a worry – as it maybe a sign of some deep problems that may require specialist support.  However it is not unusual and sometimes it is not a deep seated problem at all.

We then looked at the role of the manager in giving feedback, frequently and consistently, to the employee about these behaviours and the impact that they have in the workplace – ensuring that the employee is left with the responsibility for making changes.

We also looked at areas where the employee was performing well and where confidence was much less of an issue.  Again we spent a bit of time digging for successful behaviours and again agreed that the manager would increase the amount of feedback that was given to encourage these behaviours and to make the employee absolutely clear that their positive contributions were recognised and valued.

In most cases simple, clear and consistent feedback is enough to help the employee to remove the poor behaviours from their repertoire and as if by magic the label ‘lacking in confidence’ disappears.

How to Manage Whelmers

A whelmer is someone who we manage at work who neither overwhelms us with their professional expertise. enthusiasm and commitment, nor underwhelms us with their lack of talent and commitment.

They inhabit the middle ground of mediocrity.

Whelmers are a problem because they act as cultural magnets, performance benchmarks in the organisation.  They are the experts in knowing just what has to be done to be seen by the organisation as ‘acceptable’.

So what should we do when we recognise that we have a whelmer on the team.  The first thing to do is to look in the mirror.  The person you see is the one who has allowed a human being with energy, enthusiasm, talent and passion (you did check for those things when you recruited them didn’t you) into a whelmer.  In order to change their response to your management style, you need to change the way you manage.  Keep on doing what you have always done….

The first thing to do is to invest time in building a relationship with the whelmer.  Let them know that you know they are capable of giving more and ask what you need to do (or stop doing) if they are to give of their best.  Don’t just do this once.  Keep doing it.  Regularly. Not just at annual reviews but at least monthly, preferably weekly.  Let them know that you value them and that you want to see them doing well.  Make it clear that you EXPECT MORE.

Secondly focus on the behaviours that they exhibit that make you think ‘whelmer’.

  • Is it that they never accept delegation?
  • Never volunteer to work on projects?
  • Hardly contribute to meetings?
  • Rarely smile or express a positive reaction?

Get specific about the behaviours and then use feedback to make sure that the whelmer knows exactly what they are doing that causes you, and no doubt others, to be ‘whelmed’ by their contribution to the workplace.  Give the feedback freely and consistently and make it clear that yo expect them change.  Feedback must be given properly for it to e effective though – so come along to one of our training events to learn how to do it well!

Thirdly spend some time understanding what they are looking for from the organisation.  Most whelmers join with high hopes and every intention to be an overwhelmer.  But as ambition is thwarted they slip into the ranks of the whelmers.

Maslow is relevant here.

Most whelmers wanted to achieve something of importance.  They not only wanted a salary and a sense of belonging but they also wanted to make the world a better place when they chose to work for you.  But you have failed them.  They have recognised that they are unable to achieve this higher purpose in the organisation (no doubt due to resource restrictions or politics) and so have given up on this higher purpose and settled for the monthly salary and a quiet and unspectacular working life.  Often the whelmers will do their self actualising outside of work where they will show incredible passion, skills and enthusiasm for anything from stamp collecting to binge drinking.

So re-visit their hopes and aspirations for working for you.  Talk to them.  Re-kindle their belief that they can achieve something worthwhile at work and then re-double your efforts through feedback, coaching and delegation to give them the opportunities that they need to be a real force for progress in the organisation.

By helping a whelmer step up to being an overwhelmer not only will you and they have a much better time at work but also productivity is likely to increase by 25-40%.