3 Reasons Why the Typical Manager is Now Irrelevant
July 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
We have been taught the wrong way to lead. We have been taught a top down authoritarian model of management that damages three important organizational competencies. This model makes the typical manager irrelevant in the current context of global business. One might even claim that the current management model is damaging results in immeasurable ways. Managers need to be supportive facilitators not bureaucratic overseers.
There are reams of data about the current quality of managerial skills. Employee engagement levels are stagnant even though most research confirms it plays a critical role in performance improvement. Change efforts fail at least 70% of the time (some research says it’s 90%). A recent leadership survey revealed how the most important skills of dealing with and developing people were not only underdeveloped but undervalued as well.
Ask yourself, what grade would you give the quality of the job the typical manager does now? The rating is probably below average. Why is that? How can this be? How is it I predict that almost anyone will rate management performance below average? It’s because they have become irrelevant.
They unintentionally damage employee engagement
Employee engagement is one of the hottest Human Resources topics today. Study after study demonstrates that when an employee feels a positive emotional connection with their team and organization they consistently contribute toward increased productivity, customer service quality, and they are more loyal.
The typical manager damages this engagement and they can’t help it. Their responsibilities and way they have been taught to carry them out clashes with what employees need for engagement. To optimize employee engagement a work environment should have these five elements: a clear understanding of how their work contributes to the benefit of the whole organization and the customers it serves, a sense of autonomy in their decision making, a sense of challenge that matches the employee skills, consistent feedback, and a sense of progress toward a desired result.
The typical environment is set up so that the manager is the only conduit for these elements. The manager is the parent and the employee is the child who cannot be fully trusted to act on their own. These manager dependent environments prevent the achievement of these five engagement elements.
For example, employees are most often assigned tasks. They have little or no choice in them. If they are lucky they are told the strategy of the organization. More likely they are merely told what their goals are and they have little choice in their creation. Their feedback is dependent upon when a manager wants to give it and often it is delivered poorly.
They unknowingly stop innovation
The manager dependent environments send subliminal messages about the difference in status between an employee and a manager. The message is “the manager is the parent and the employee is the child.” Naturally if you treat someone like a child it increases the probability they will act like one. Organizations need adults who are innovative not children who comply. The typical manage stifles risk taking and innovation because they are responsible for evaluating their employees. Manages are also evaluated by their managers and so on all the way to the top.
This hierarchy of criticism makes the reward for being truly creative small in comparison to the damage one mistake might make to a career or reputation. Furthermore, that mistake will go in the file and everyone who considers that employee for a future position will be able to read it and know how and why they messed up. This fear of failure, and the label the employee might carry, stops innovation in its tracks.
Managers are told to evaluate employees. They do it and unknowingly damage the very thing that could improve the organization’s competitive advantage.
They accidentally impede adaptability
Today increasing the capacity for change is necessary to match the the speed of change in the global economy. For example, just a few years ago Research in Motion dominated the cell phone market. Today they are dwarfed by Apple and Google. The ability to adapt is probably more important than ever before yet our managers accidentally slow the pace because they are focused more on themselves and less on the elements that create adaptability.
The war for talent contributes to this inability to adapt. Focus is given to improving the parts of the organization (the top talent) while the adaptability of the organization’s system suffers. In the war for talent managers compete with each other for attention and success. These intelligent individuals are often able to manipulate their own success while creating unintended negative results in another part of the organization, e.g. selling more than the operations can deliver or over promising to meet a performance goal. Usually the setting of numeric goals that must be achieved to receive either a pay for performance bonus or a “results oriented reputation” are the root causes of this behavior.
The focus by senior leadership on attracting and retaining talent can accidentally damage the organization’s ability to adapt because the focus is on those individuals and not on encouraging the cooperative effort to detect the subtle important changes that need to be made to continuously respond to changing customer needs and wants. Focus on the wrong things accidentally damages adaptability.
Managers are consistently rated poorly by employees and employee engagement scores are stalled. Why? It’s because managers are being asked to play a role that is irrelevant for the current needs of employees and the needs of the organization. The typical manager unintentionally damage engagement scores, stops creativity and prevents adaptability. Senior leaders need to recognize that the typical manager must be replaced with a facilitator who understands how to lead people to greatness while optimizing a system. Managers need to be supportive facilitators not bureaucratic overseers because bureaucratic overseers are now irrelevant.