Management effectiveness is ultimately about developing a strong team capable of delivering company objectives. There are two crucial components of a manager’s job – operational management and people management. In this article Tricia Cunningham outlines the people aspect of the role and what managers need to get right in order to be successful.
Tricia, what is management effectiveness in practice? A great manager has two fey focuses. There is the technical or operational side of their role and there is the people side of their role. So for a great manager there are two components to the management role, with 4 elements within each component.
As Marcus Buckingham, prolific writer on best management practices points out, there are four key requirements on the people side that an effective manager needs to get right:
1. Select the right people for their team 2. Set and agree on expectations with the team members 3. Motivate the individual members 4. Develop people for long-term contribution to the organisation
Management effectiveness is about achieving results through optimum use of the resources available, the key resource being the people on the team. If you really want to be a great manager you need to pay attention to both the operational and the people aspects of the role. Our experience of working in the SME sector for nearly 20 years has highlighted the need for management to understand how to manage a team effectively. That’s the most challenging part of the role.
Our Management Effectiveness Programme doesn’t focus on the technical aspects of the role because that is very specific to each organisation, but the issues and challenges around managing people are common across all sectors and all industries. This is the area we zone in on and explore comprehensively with participants – building their confidence and competency in a range of management skills.
1. Do you understand how to select the right talent for your team and for the organisation?
2. Do you know how to set expectations and measure results? – do you regularly review expectations with feedback sessions with your employees? – do you know how to measure performance effectively? – how about annual performance appraisals with your team members?
3. How will you keep your team members motivated so that they want to keep coming in to work and continue to do the very best job they can?
4. Finally, when you have developed a great team, ask yourself how are you going to keep them in the organisation long-term? You need to keep them engaged and that requires further development. Have you a long-term development plan for your team?
When the New Year began many of us committed to being more organised and structured at work. We made great efforts to tidy our desks and eliminate the clutter we’d magically accumulated. We committed to using our calendars more effectively and to prioritising tasks and actions. This is all good and indeed necessary. Now it’s time to expand our focus and consider additional actions to assist us in becoming more effective and efficient.
The big complaint many have is the amount of time spent at meetings. Ask anyone about the greatest time wasters and invariably attending meetings will be mentioned. People get frustrated when they consider the time spent at meetings versus the results achieved. Too often they consider meetings exhaustive, repetitive and worst of all a waste of time! When you add up the cost of each person attending the meeting and the length of time of the meeting, what is the cost to your organisation? Can you say this is good value for money? If not, what are you going to do about it?
To address this issue begin by looking at the meetings you have control over. Work to make these meetings as efficient and productive as possible. Consider the following:
1. Define the need for the meeting
Every meeting should have a clear purpose which is evident to all. Simply having the meeting because you’ve always had it is not good enough. Define the outcomes the meeting needs to achieve e.g. measure progress on the project versus what was planned and identify next steps.
2. Determine who should participate in the meeting
Everybody’s time is precious. Don’t include someone unless you can clearly articulate the reason why they should attend and the input you expect from the person.
3. Develop an agenda and distribute it to all involved with sufficient time for them to prepare for the meeting
An agenda needs to have structure. It is not a list of bullet points. An agenda should include a directive e.g. Agree the response to senior management on the new process for resolving customer issues. An agenda should also have the items prioritised and times assigned to each so attendees also know they key issues that will receive the greatest focus.
4. Anticipate how you will facilitate the meeting
The facilitator’s job to keep the meeting on track and ensure the issues identified are addressed. The key skill required is communication: the skill of actively listening, challenging contributions, drawing in reserved people and limiting others who are dominating. In advance consider how you will manage these different challenges and anticipate your responses to the dominant person or indeed the reserved individual.
5. Following your meeting evaluate effectiveness
Review the agenda and determine progress made in terms of achieving what you had identified. Ask others about the meeting: how was it helpful and how could it be improved? Be prepared to stop meetings if they are no longer required.
Of course when it comes to meetings in which you participate you need to consider how you can influence the facilitator to take on board your recommendations for managing the meeting more effectively. Also, query your participation on meetings. Be disciplined and consider your value to the organisation: would you be more valuable to your organisation by attending the meeting or focusing on other deliverables? Of course, when opting out of meetings you need to consider how you communicate that to the facilitator. Again, communication skills are critical.
Whether you’re a newly appointed manager or one with extensive experience, managing a demotivated team is challenging, frustrating and time consuming. Here are 3 common management mistakes often made that result in teams being demotivated and unproductive:
1. Demonstrating a lack of interest in the person
Generally speaking, people spend more time interacting with their colleagues at work than they do with family and friends – people may be at home for 14 hours on a work day but they spend a significant amount of that time sleeping! So the workplace is an important place in their lives. People who don’t feel valued and supported at work become demotivated with a corresponding drop in productivity.
2. Refusing to address poor working relationships between team members
Most people dislike conflict. It isn’t the easiest issue to address as it has the potential to escalate or expand to involve others in the organisation. However, conflict can be successfully resolved and indeed avoided if addressed early. Disagreement is healthy as it can often lead to newer, more innovative suggestions being identified. When disagreement becomes entrenched or personalised it is unhealthy and a manager needs to tackle it immediately. Believing it will go away or resolve itself often leads to the issue escalating resulting in individuals withdrawing, taking sides or fuelling the fire.
3. Making assumptions that all is well
Managers are sometimes reluctant to ask the question “Is everything okay?” for fear that the answer may be “no”. Regularly asking the question allows individuals to raise concerns or issues early when they can be easily resolved. It builds stronger relationships between managers and team members enhancing communication and co-operation.
How well do you know the individuals in your team?
A successful manager takes the time to identify the strengths, skills and interests of team members, and then align them with long-term business goals. Business advisor Tricia Cunningham explains why knowing the individual yields positive results for managers, team members and the company.
Tricia, what advice do you have for managers on how to motivate a team?
Teams are made up of individuals. Each person has different drivers, different motivators. A great manager recognises this and works at determining what motivates each person; is it the opportunity to acquire new skills? Is it having the scope to do the existing job their way without interference? Is it the prospect of advancing a career within the organisation? Is it being allowed to take on new projects that are exciting and different?
Many managers make the mistake of believing that what motivates an employee is out of their scope of influence as they believe that job security, increased wages or promotion are all that employees are really interested in. This misguided belief hampers a manager’s ability to motivate employees. It basically operates from the perspective “there is nothing I can really do to motivate my team members”.
So money is a poor motivator?
Money is a motivating factor only up to the point where an individual’s expectations are met. In other words, if I am hired for a role, we agree a salary. My expectations are set; I expect to receive that salary each month. You can’t turn around to an employee 6 months or a year later and say ‘come on, let’s have a really good day today because you are getting paid’ and expect the person to be highly motivated. If you believe that the only way to motivate your team members is to increase salaries you may not get a corresponding increase in productivity.
So what really motivates individuals?
Studies have shown that employees are motivated by factors that don’t cost an organisation financially but cost a manager in terms of time and attention. Employees value being appreciated, being considered and knowing they are working for someone who considers them and their needs. When that happens an employee feels a part of the organisation and is more likely to want to do their best. Their engagement with the organisation is high. When an employee feels that nobody really cares about them (although they put their best effort into work and spend more time at work than anywhere else) their motivation and productivity drops. They become disengaged and withdraw, psychologically, from the organisation.
What structure would you recommend for SMEs trying to motivate and manage teams?
It’s important that managers have the scope and opportunity to meet with employees one-to-one to understand their needs and what motivates them. It is unrealistic to expect that to happen if a manager has an excessive number of employees on their team. Smaller teams are often more effective than larger ones with fewer managers or supervisors. Smaller sized teams facilitate one-to-one meetings and opportunities for a manager to observe how an employee performs.
What can a great manager do when an employee lacks motivation?
The starting point is having a conversation with the employee. Ask the employee about their job: what do they like about their job? What are they finding challenging about it right now? What’s getting in the way of them being able to do their job brilliantly? This conversation may raise difficulties for the manager but it’s better to know what the issues are and try and address them than ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. Knowledge is power. Once the manager has this information they can determine, with the input from the employee, approaches to address the issues raised. This in turn should raise an employee’s motivation and productivity.
Tricia Cunningham is co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.
Money is not always the motivating factor that drives people in the workplace. Many people are motivated by other things such as praise, training and development opportunities, and taking on different responsibilities. Managers need to understand that offering financial incentives is not always the right way to motivate team members. On the contrary, sometimes financial reward systems create the wrong kind of company culture. In part 1 of this blog LEAP’s business advisor Tricia Cunningham explains the benefits of creating a merit-based culture where individuals are motivated by more than just money.
Tricia, how can managers keep team members motivated without financial incentives?
Managers face a difficult task in trying to keep teams motivated. It often feels like there is little they can do to motivate people. There’s a belief that staff only want more money – everything comes back to financial reward. Particularly in organisations where there are middle managers who have authority over financial rewards. But even leaders in organisations, given the times we have experienced, are probably not in a position now where they can randomly grant increases.
And of course this raises expectations anyway when wages are increased for individuals. So for multiple reasons financial rewards for employees need to be given serious consideration before any commitment is given. If a manager links motivation to remuneration, there’s a feeling of helplessness, there’s nothing else the manager can do to motivate staff; that’s a myth. To explode that myth you need to remember that once people’s expectations regarding remuneration are addressed then money is no longer the motivating factor that we think it is. People look for other things to keep themselves motivated and very often those things are within the control of the manager. It’s about a manager shifting his/her thinking; the manager’s thinking needs to be focused on the employee:
1. Do you know the individual? Do you know what they like to do?
2. Do you know what their strengths are, what they’re good at, what they’re capable of doing?
3. Have you aligned their strengths to the results they need to achieve, or the requirements of the business?
Aligning employee strengths with business goals
When you align an employee’s strengths with the business goals and requirements, you’re more likely to have a motivated employee working on your team. Increasing somebody’s application of strengths by 5, 10 or 15 per cent will allow them to enjoy their job more than they currently are. The results will benefit the organisation and the individual. That’s a motivating mechanism within the manager’s control.
So think about the individual, their capabilities, their strengths and think about the results; align them and you will have the individual working towards a common goal that benefits themselves and others. Follow up with employees. Offer them praise when warranted. Remember “thank-you” and “well done” are important to individuals and motivate employees. Discuss obstacles they are encountering and work with them to remove those obstacles. Actively work to involving the employee further in the business. These activities will help you motivate your employees further. They are within your control and require no additional financial investment. They simply require an investment of your time, focus and energy.
Since 2008 it’s been a rough ride for small to medium sized businesses. Economic recovery has been painfully slow, and for many business owners and managers survival has been the name of the game. But as LEAP’s Tricia Cunningham points out, there is an inherent danger in companies remaining in survival mode for too long and not focusing on what they need to do to move beyond this stage in the development of their business.
Tricia what are managers telling you about the challenges they face?
Simply put, the greatest challenge managers face is delivering results in a way that keeps a team motivated and individuals committed to delivering results, month after month. In these times there is huge pressure on businesses to deliver results. Everybody has to stay focused on targets, take the eye off that and the business slips. However, as well as focusing on that, managers are realising that they need to stop for a moment and consider how we are achieving results.
You can achieve results in a way that builds a strong team, ensures people are working with you, and that people remain motivated and committed to the organisation. It doesn’t mean that results slip. At the moment there seems to be a heavy emphasis simply on the results. Managers are working to achieve results not recognising that, in the process, people are finding it overly stressful and chaotic. Practices are scattered, there is poorer communication across divisions and across team members. Everybody is focusing only on what they need to achieve themselves, because this is what they are being measured on.
There is such a focus on the business and what they’re being measured on that they’re not asking themselves am I doing it the right way? Am I doing it in a way that is drawing on the strengths of others, or in a way that ensures information is communicated to other departments? All of those good practices are being ignored to some degree as managers focus exclusively on targets. The impact of course is that there is duplication of work, or opportunities are missed, or people are drained to the point of being unmotivated and unable to contribute effectively.
Why do you think managers lost focus on the ‘good practices?’
They lost focus because the pressure is on businesses to deliver, particularly in the last number of years. Companies are under severe pressure to be competitive and reduce costs, to increase customer numbers and margins. All of those factors are at play and they are very important. But when we focus exclusively on those things, we lose sight of some of the good things that have helped build the organisation to the level that has allowed it to manage through the difficult times.
There is a danger that companies will achieve targets, but realise too late that many of the good practices that could allow them to move beyond survival mode and into success mode, have been lost. If they don’t get back to those good practices, they will remain in that survival mode mentality where it’s just about the targets. They forget the other vital areas like how the team is functioning together, and communication between departments.
Was this a conscious decision by companies?
No, it wasn’t conscious. What happened is that businesses had to get leaner and more focused because things got so tight. There was no fat allowed so it got trimmed back to the bare essentials. Organisations acted as though it didn’t matter if people were happy or not. Their mind-set was I have to get the numbers or the business will close. I have to increase customers and margins and cut down our costs.
Cutting back and being very lean became the sole driver, but some managers stopped asking themselves an important question. Are we still maintaining good working practices? Practices that will allow us to achieve the numbers in a way that keeps people motivated and involved in the business, and will help us therefore move to sustainability and not simply survival.
We have had 5 years of an economy in survival mode. Are any companies you work with showing signs of becoming more conscious of good working practices again?
There definitely is a move towards wanting to look at this area again. Companies are recognising that they have some really good people who have stayed with them, and worked hard for them to try and survive through difficult times. Now they are thinking, if I am to keep this person long-term I need to start looking at what I can do to develop the person and keep them engaged with the business.
Long term businesses won’t succeed if they keep the disciplines of survival mode; it’s not good for the business. In that mode they’ll never get the business to the next level as the skills that got them through the survival stage are not necessarily the skills that will get them to the next stage, which is about success. So they are recognising there are things they need to start doing to develop their skill sets to get them to the next stage.
With that in mind what’s your advice to SMEs in terms of managing teams?
Managers have to hit the pause button. They have to figure out the best ways to achieve results, so start looking internally at the organisation and start addressing three key questions.
1. Are we building strong collaborative teams across different functions?
2. What are we doing to improve communication across different functions?
3. What are we doing to keep people involved and motivated so they are able to be more productive and achieve results?
We’d like to hear your thoughts on the issues raised here. Please leave your comments in the box below.