After the rockiest of roads created by a global pandemic that stopped the world in its tracks for months on end, the future of work is here. The way we worked for decades shifted in a few months, and now, for a variety of reasons, the wants and needs of employees have changed. And the effect is massive. We’re seeing that managers – the people tasked with motivating the masses to do the work necessary for the organization to survive – are being significantly impacted.

A recent Gallup article states that “managers report higher stress and burnout than the people they manage. This means, mathematically, the 130 million managers leading the world’s 1.3 billion full-time employees struggle with their mental health more than their teams do.” This same article tells us that “only 20% of full-time employees worldwide are engaged in their work.”

Uh oh. It’s very clear that workers need more motivation and encouragement before engagement rates dip more. But if those acting as the lynchpin between the top leaders and disengaged employees are feeling more intense levels of stress and burnout, what does that mean for the state of the business? For an organization to be successful in today’s ever-changing marketplace, all employees need to perform at their best. There’s never been a more critical time for leaders to support managers with whatever they need to be successful. When you make your managers better, they make the company better.

Four Things Leaders Can Do to Support Managers Right Now

  1. Arm managers with the skills needed to lead in a hybrid workplace.

Leaders need to create, or improve, the training provided to managers so this invaluable group has the knowledge and resources to lead today’s hybrid environment. Things are different now that we aren’t all working in person together, and managers need to prioritize connecting with their teams, both collectively and as individuals. This means that leaders need to help their managers:

  • Adopt new tactics to foster relationships with and between team members. Managers need to do more to ensure they are connecting with folks near and far, and this starts by holding more frequent team and one-on-one connects.
  • Practice the art of active listening. People often feel the need to talk more in order to establish themselves as informed leaders. But talking less is a real sign of a great leader. Therefore, managers need to know how to ask the right questions, talk less, and listen more. It’s the only way to gain a real sense of how a person is doing, as it pertains to work and to that individual’s overall well-being.
  • Ensure in-person and virtual team members feel equally important and heard. Some folks might be itching to be back in the office full-time, while others might want to be remote, and others might be seeking a combination. Regardless of where an individual is physically, managers need to ensure that each person receives the same attention and opportunities and has an equal share of voice in meetings.
  1. Help managers adopt a change mindset.

Mindset is key to being able to adjust and adapt. After all, change is the only constant, and the person who believes the status quo is the only course to take is the person who will get left behind. Therefore, it is instrumental for managers to have a change mindset and be ready to navigate current shifts in work, and any future changes too. Having a change mindset includes the ability to:

  • Understand that change is emotional, not intellectual. Often, emotions override decision making, so even if we intend to change, our emotions get the best of us and prevent us from making the decisions that lead to change. Leaders must help managers through their reactive responses to the change first, so the managers can help their teams do the same.
  • Have a solid understanding of the big picture strategy so they can understand their team’s role in it and pass that information down. It’s much easier to put together a jigsaw puzzle with the box top image. The same goes at work. If people have context and a visual that connects all the dots, it will be easier to understand why the changes are being put in place. This in turn directly impacts a manager’s, and their team’s, willingness and ability to adopt these changes.
  • Understand that saying, “I don’t know” is okay, and is often times the best answer. Instead of having all of the answers all of the time, managers need to feel comfortable with adapting in the moment and mitigating obstacles as they arise.
  1. Ensure managers are proficient in core leadership competencies.

With all the uncertainties and challenges we now face, leaders must ensure their managers are well- versed in the core leadership skills. There is a lot that managers need to know, so it can be helpful to break it down into four areas:

  • Know My Role: Managers need to view their people as the No. 1 priority. It’s not about succeeding as an individual contributor, but it’s about harnessing the talents of a team, inspiring and motivating them to deliver results.
  • Know My Business: Managers must be grounded in all aspects of the business – including any changes (before they happen). Leaders must arm managers with knowledge of how the business operates, what the organization is working toward, and ensure they have a true understanding of the company’s vision, strategy, and culture so they can guide their teams appropriately.
  • Connect My Team: Leaders need to help managers lead with empathy – connecting with employees on an intellectual and emotional level. This means managers must share information about the business with their teams in a compelling, meaningful, and memorable way.
  • Deliver Results: Managers need to know how to couple a change mindset with business knowledge and the ability to engage and inspire their team in order to deliver results. It’s important that leaders encourage managers to celebrate their teams’ wins, big and small, and support their people via coaching and development opportunities.
  1. Support managers’ mental health.

If we want to stop manager burnout, we need to do more to prevent them from reaching that point to begin with. This means that leaders need to better connect with their managers – just like managers need to do more to establish meaningful relationships with and among their teams. A recent Human Resources Executive article tells us that, “More than four in 10 employees (44%) say they are more burned out on the job today compared to a year ago, according to a recent survey of 2,800 workers from global staffing firm Robert Half. Nearly half of employees experiencing increased fatigue (49%) blame it on a heavier workload.”

The business world doesn’t need another study or survey to prove that managers, and the entire workforce, are feeling stressed, and leaders need to react ASAP. Ways for leaders to combat this issue include:

  • Creating a workplace culture that is proud to recognize that employees are people first. People want to work for leaders who are honest, authentic, and empathetic. And they’ll no longer settle for a culture in which behaviors, processes, and policies trump their needs.
  • Blocking out time each day to check in with managers. And they must remain diligent in this task. This might be a phone call, or something as simple as a text or Slack message. The point is establishing an opportunity for a two-way dialogue, in whatever medium works. The goal is to let managers know they are on your radar and that you care.
  • Being on the lookout for clues. If you’re connecting via zoom, what’s happening that might give you a clue as to how that person is feeling? Are they constantly being bombarded with interruptions from family? Do they always have a full cup of coffee on their desk? Ask questions about what you see – without being invasive – and you might just spark a meaningful conversation that helps you better understand what an individual manager needs.

Managers Must Be Supported Today

Neither the amount of change being faced in the workplace nor the pace of change is about to let up. Leaders need to work harder to ensure their managers are ready. This means giving managers the hard and soft skills needed to help employees adjust to new ways of working. Managers need to know how to coach and guide with empathy in a hybrid environment, to adopt a change mindset and share that with others, and possess the core capabilities that enable them to engage, motivate, and connect people to the bigger picture. It’s a lot. But if a manager has the proper guidance and support from the leadership team, the impact on the business at large is powerful. Are your managers ready or are they approaching burnout?

July 13, 2021


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