What Your Managers are Missing: Two Steps to Breakthrough Results

on September 6, 2017

You want your managers to deliver results. Not just any results – breakthrough results. In order to get that done, they must be viewed by their teams as smart, likable, hard working, and caring. But there’s more that can make or break a manager’s pursuit of success.

According to the America’s Workforce Survey, only 40 percent of U.S. workers believe their managers understand the company’s strategy or goals. If your managers don’t understand the strategy and their team’s role in delivering it, you can be sure every individual on the team is also working in the dark.

When managers don’t understand the big picture:

  1. Teams lack context for the work they do every day, leading to frustration and disengagement.
  2. Individuals don’t feel supported when issues arise which can directly erode trust.
  3. Individuals may inadvertently be making poor decisions or making decisions that only benefit their particular business unit, not the company as a whole.

For people to succeed, they must be engaged. To be engaged, they need to understand how the business runs and how their particular role impacts the operation as a whole. Too often, employees have no idea how they contribute to meeting corporate business goals.

In a recent global study from Strategy&, more than half (53%) of the C-Suite executives surveyed reported that they don’t believe their strategy is understood by employees. Ultimately, this responsibility falls on managers – they are the linchpins of your organization. They need to know and understand the strategy from the leadership team and filter it down to the front line. If your managers aren’t executing on the company strategy, it might be because they just don’t know it, they don’t understand it, or they simply don’t realize the critical role they play in it. Here are the two key areas managers need to brush up on in order to get the most from their people:

Know the Business

Managers can only get their teams to execute successfully if they start with themselves. They must understand the strategy and how internal/external forces and trends impact the business. They must know the customer needs and be a role model of the culture, behaviors, and values of the organization.

Here’s how to help managers know the mission and goals of your business:

  • Engage in a two-way dialogue with managers to help them focus on what matters most. Leaders need to consistently disseminate the strategy and any changes to it. But simply sharing the information isn’t enough. They need to engage with managers one-on-one to ensure they’re clear on how their function connects to the strategy. Creating focus and alignment with managers can have a powerful impact – imagine what’s possible when they’re all pulling on the right levers of the business.
  • Invest in manager capabilities and knowledge. Managers need to have the right skills to successfully lead a team. It takes more than just being a “people person” to get a group of individuals engaged and motivated. The business has a responsibility to educate managers and give them with the right capabilities to effectively communicate with their teams about the big picture and strategy.
  • Encourage managers to take ownership of their role and develop a mindset of continuous learning. Encourage managers to challenge themselves to say, “Here’s what I understand today. Here’s what I’m unsure about. And here’s what I’m going to do about it.” They should have the opportunity to take advantage of every resource accessible, like annual reports, strategy decks, town hall meetings, webinars, and more, and be motivated to use these tools to educate themselves.

Share the Knowledge

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Informed managers have to translate and share the information with their people, leveraging every opportunity to connect the dots for team members. As the leader, your job is to give managers the skills to talk about new strategies with their teams:

  • Be transparent. Managers need to share information as soon as it’s available. Nothing impacts engagement more than team members who feel they are being kept in the dark. Even if details are still evolving, managers should say just that, sharing what they know and what is still in question.
  • Be vulnerable. Let managers know it is okay to admit when they don’t have the answers. But, they also must commit to finding those answers and following up with the team.
  • Encourage questions. When managers discuss the vision, strategy, competition, etc., they should also be giving teams the opportunity to process and internalize the information, and ask questions to clarify their understanding.
  • Use experts. Managers should be introducing their teams to experts from other parts of the business. Establishing relationships across departments and geographies is a smart way to leverage talent and lets managers bring information, ideas, and skills from other areas to their teams.

When managers know the business and share the information early and often, then individual contributors see how what they do impacts the big picture. They then understand their importance and are more likely to put in the discretionary effort that drives success and the breakthrough results you seek.

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