Creating Culture for Manager Excellence
“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker
For business leaders, great managers are a critical asset for the organization’s success. The business leader must address Drucker’s assertion that management is only about making it difficult for people to work. Creating the management team and setting the environment where managerial excellence is possible rests on the shoulders of the business leader. When the environment is established correctly, the role of the manager is to institute processes and protocols, and monitor those operations to facilitate the work; it is not about being an obstacle to work. In so doing, the business leader and the organization win.
Here are a few simple prescriptions that the business leader should consider in creating an environment that promotes manager success:
Avoid Centralizing Decision Making
Although this is perhaps one of the best ways to achieve total control for the business leader, it can be the root condition associated with bottlenecks within the organization. The myth is that a centralized decision-making process will avoid bad decisions. While this may be true to some extent, there is always the issue of who is reviewing decisions at the centralized source to prevent such decisions. As a business leader, one must understand that unless a manager is able to make mistakes and learn from them, the organization will never be able to develop expertise through experience. Celebrating learning from failures is as important as celebrating successes. Centralizing decision-making is sure to kill this developmental process for upcoming leaders / managers and ultimately will be a drag on business growth.
Delegate and Provide Working Space for Managers
Delegation is a key process for the organization’s leaders to be effective with their time and workload. This requires that they entrust tasks and responsibilities to their subordinate managers and agree upon a time frame for achievement of objectives. However, business conditions often change and the well-planned delegation of duties can become no longer relevant to the current conditions. In the “heat of the moment” the leaders’ anxiety or aggressiveness, and sometimes over-enthusiasm interfere in the trust that is required in the relationship. Chasing the subordinate managers for action and results is detrimental: it demoralizes and severely limits the working space of the managers. The managers may be spending more time in complying with commands rather than focusing on operational priorities and important tasks. Rather than being an aggressive interferer, the leader should regroup, reevaluate what is important and agree upon a revised timeframe for completion. Otherwise, the organization is headed for disaster. Important tasks will be “put on the back burner” to comply with the frequent and aggressive follow-ups required by the organization’s leaders. Regrouping to meet changed conditions promotes effective delegation and re-establishes working space for managers.
Listen to the Managers
While experience is an asset and leadership vision is important for the direction of the organization, a business leader must be able to effectively communicate and listen to all the members of the management team. The existence of the omniscient leader is few and far between. Making decisions without listening to the managers only results in cultivating clerks in the guise of managers; lost is any initiative for effective change. Subordinate managers are important sources of tactical and strategic information. They are closer to the day-to-day issues and challenges; and are the conduit for customer/client input and comments. It is critical to cultivate the ability to effectively listen to the voices of managers. Setting up a process for information sharing and ensuring that it is an ongoing effort is the responsibility of the business leader. The entire organization wins in the process.
Refrain from Micro-managing
In general, delegation is a difficult task for any business leader. Once broad goals and objectives are set and specific time frames and key results are outlined it is important to let go and let the managers perform. Yet, business leaders often interfere and place themselves in the middle of the process; meddling with the execution at every stage. Why?
Micro-management stems from a lack of trust and confidence in those to whom tasks are delegated. For some leaders, it arises because he/she has an over-inflated perception of his/her own abilities. This often is a mask to cover feelings of inadequacy and a fear of being overshadowed by others. Success happens only under the leader’s steel-hand control of all aspects of the process. Micro-managing in this manner deflates any enthusiasm and creative thinking that the executing managers may have brought to the process. Over the long term, the leader is left with increased workload and a supporting management team that is left demoralized.
A second situation occurs when the leader has not been true to creating the best supporting team possible. Under-performing individuals have not been critically evaluated and no corrective measures have been taken to remove them from the organization. The result is that the leader feels the need to micro-manage so that there is no risk in failure by an under-performing individual. The antidote to micro-management is to have self-confident business leaders surround themselves with exceptional individuals who have a shared mindset and shared ambition. Only then can trust be built, effective delegation can occur and micro-management removed.
With these simple but difficult mindsets, business leaders can establish a culture of shared teamwork and responsibility in an organization. Management efforts to institute processes and protocols are complementary to the overall organization’s goals and objectives and become part of a way to become more effective with work, not an obstacle to getting work done. Empowering individuals across the management structure allows everyone to have responsibility and ownership of the organization’s success.