18 May 2022

6 Questions To Produce A More Meaningful Management

I have a close friend who loves her job and hates her boss. She loves the company, the culture, the team of managers that work under her, and she loves most of the day-to-day work that she does, solving problems and helping her company to run smoothly.

I have a close friend who loves her job and hates her boss. She loves the company, the culture, the team of managers that work under her, and she loves most of the day-to-day work that she does, solving problems and helping her company to run smoothly. She reports to the CHRO and has more than 350 direct reports, and their reviews of her are incredible. But she’s ready to quit, because her boss is a , “discouraging controlling presenteeist micromanaging jerk!” (my paraphrase). She is outperforming on every KPI, and yet her company is about to lose her as a committed and powerful community actor, due to mismanagement.

You’ve heard it said that, “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers.” And I can tell you after 25 years of working with thousands of managers (and tens of thousands of employees), the adage is true. The biggest problem is that these managers that people are quitting, think they’re doing a good job! It’s a tragedy.
So let’s re-orient something: who decides if a manager is doing a good job? Their direct supervisor? No. We need to stop that thinking.

Here’s a few things that might help you to figure out how you’re actually doing as a manager, and manage more meaningfully:

Look Down
Stop looking up the organization chart for indications of how well you’re doing. Your executives can tell you if you’re meeting your targets, but they can’t tell you if you’re a good manager or not. For that, you’ll need to ask the people you are managing. Invite honest feedback, and be grateful for every piece of it you get. Good managers eat feedback for breakfast, and you should be greedy when it comes to getting an honest review on your management from your team.
Try using these 2 questions:

What am I doing well?

What would you like me to do that I’m not doing now?

The first question gives your team member the chance to applaud you for something so they’ll feel a little more engaged with you and willing to be more transparent. The second question isn’t phrased like a critique, so your team member won’t feel that answering it honestly is dishonouring to you. It gives them an open door to make a request for change from you, and in that request, you’ll see where you as a manager can improve. Even asking the question will help your team member to feel heard and valued.

Humans, Not Resources

No one likes being treated like a number, a target, or a KPI. Each member of your team has a life outside of their work, and improving the quality of that life is the real reason they show up to work every day. Try asking these two questions of your team members to reposition yourself as a colleague rather than a boss.

What’s your career plan?

How can I help you achieve it?

This postures you on their side of the career advancement equation. Rather than seeing you as an obstacle they need to overcome, they’ll start to see you as an ally that they can count on. You work within constraints that make it impossible for you to give them everything they want, so be honest about those constraints, and work with them to solve the puzzle of their next big career move. Whether it’s lateral, up the ladder, or out of the company, they’ll be more loyal to you in the process of getting to where they want to go, and they’ll perform better when you’re not looking as a result. They’ll also connect their current work with their future plans in a new and more meaningful way. That will impact their productivity as well.

Connect, Don’t Command
Your team’s targets are your targets. And you can’t control their level of discretionary effort. Let those two facts sink in for second. Your best bet at getting done what needs to get done is not going to be a product of you barking out the right orders, but in inviting your team to play well together with you as the team captain. For that, you’ll need them to be aligned to you socially, and emotionally. Try these 2 questions for moving from commanding to connecting:

How are things going in your life outside of work?

Can you help me with a challenge we’re facing here?

Most of your team’s productivity will come from a simple mindset shift when they move from working for you “because they have to” to working with you “because they want to.” Your team members will be better co-ordinated and higher performing when they want to work with you, rather than feeling like they’re stuck with you as their manager. When they feel heard, understood, and valued by you, their view of you will change. Then when you ask them for help, they’ll be more inclined to try, even when you’re not looking. People hate being told what to do, but they love being asked for help.
When you frame your targets as puzzles that you need their help to solve, rather than numbers that they need to achieve while you monitor their progress, you’ll find discretionary effort and commitment will go up. But you need to start by truly connecting, caring, and valuing your team members in order to get there.

Let’s face it, you’re not managing your team most of the time anyway. You’re doing other things. And your team is managing their own productivity with only a few minutes of input from you each day. Your margin is made in the dark, when no one is “managing” at all, and your team is deciding for themselves what to do with the information and resources at their discretion. For people to do well when they’re not being watched, they need to feel connected and cared for.
The friend I introduced you to above doesn’t allow her manager’s poor management style to trickle down to her team. She stopped the flow of that bad management at her own desk, and leads her team very differently than she herself is led. That has produced some amazing results for the organization, and a more meaningful experience for her and her team at work. But the end result is that after more than 5 years under her manager, she’s now looking for another job.

Are you looking for a meaningful manager?

Article by: Dr. Corrie Block

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