Setting Managers Up For Success

Managers are in a really tough spot these days. Most of us have seen the statistics that say employees

Don't paint your managers into a corner.

Don’t paint your managers into a corner.

don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Managers are being viewed as the employee engagement lynchpin. They’re expected to not only get the job done, but understand all the personalities of employees and motivate them accordingly.  At the same time, many are being expected to do more with less, given the economic constraints. The result is some seriously stressed out managers, who, not surprisingly, might take out their frustrations on employees because they feel overwhelmed.

Having a manager who snaps at employees is pretty counterintuitive for what companies are trying to accomplish. But there is a way to set managers up for success and take a load off their shoulders.

For many managers, the worst thing is to be stuck between a rock and a hard place: They’re given a job to do, but not the tools or authority to get it done. For example, if executives want to do the hiring themselves rather than letting the manager do it, the manager has to work with whoever the C-suite picks, regardless of whether the manager believes the person has the right skill set, fits with the team, or has an attitude that the manager himself can work with.

Or it might mean that the manager has to check everything he or she does with someone in the C-suite, which means taking the time to explain the situation, the available resources, the obstacles, and waiting for a response, while the deadline rolls toward them like a freight train.

It could also mean tying up financial resources so that the manager is supposed to make a high-quality hire, engage a contractor or pay for supplies that are expected to be top notch—with a bargain basement budget.

We call this “Setting someone up for failure.” It sucks.

The flip side of that, of course, is giving managers the authority to take action without the accountability. We’ve seen how that runs amok, with government agencies and major corporations like Enron. If a manager is given the authority to make a decision, he or she also needs to be accountable for the outcome. Say for example, a sales manager is responsible for choosing the CRM software or a vendor for implementing it.  She needs to be able to show how she did her research, what her budget was based on and how the final decision aligns with the company’s goals. Otherwise, the product or service may be chosen based on a steak dinner, free sports tickets or a favor to a relative.

In other words, you need to make sure you hire managers you trust to manage—and then give them the time and resources to get the job done.  Make sure you consider: What are the manager’s responsibilities in terms of getting the outcome we want, and what tools and authority does that person need to build momentum toward reaching that outcome? Are there any ways the executives are hobbling that manager? Conversely, does that manager have a really clear responsibility to reach goals in a specific time frame and budget?  Is the manager held accountable if goals are not met?

If you’ve got stressed out managers, it’s not always easy to pinpoint what the problem is or how to solve it.  We can help.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at or call (512) 420-8267.    

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