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?
“Do I need to do a management development programme?” It doesn’t sound like a particularly difficult question but for some managers admitting they are struggling in their role is tantamount to admitting failure, or that their admission will be perceived as a sign of weakness. In reality it is neither. Mike Gaffney explains why looking for help in the form of a management development programme is a clear sign of strength not weakness. Keeping it simple, what’s needed is an open and honest discussion between the manager and the boss.
Try to clearly state what the actual need is regarding your current situation. It could be as simple and as frustrating as:
“Look I don’t feel confident in my management role. I used to work with these people 6 months ago. Now I’m their supervisor but they still see me as a colleague. I’m finding it hard to delegate and there’s one particular member of the group who won’t accept that I am now his manager. How can I sort this out?”
Very few senior managers or employers would respond negatively to such a request, because first of all the individual is showing huge commitment to the company but also to changing themselves in order to improve their performance. If you have somebody of that mind-set, they are valuable and you want to keep them and tap into more of their potential. They have had the courage to come to you and put their case to you. From the boss’s perspective, this is someone who wants to develop and contribute more so they should be willing to make that happen. The return on investment in getting managers performing to a high standard is very substantial.
By having that conversation with your boss, you invite open and honest discussion and get their perspective which helps to lock them into a commitment. It is not a sign of weakness to go to your boss and admit that you are struggling in the role and that you need help. On the contrary it is a sign of strength. When you make yourself vulnerable and challenge yourself you will often find the world responds by saying “fair play, you are giving it your best shot.” You might assume that people see it as weakness when really the world sees it as courageous. We don’t like being vulnerable because it’s an uncertain feeling and we don’t like uncertainty, but others often see it differently; they see it as a sign of strength.
With the economy improving we are finding more and more employers asking the question, “how do we retain our best people?” Well, one way is to provide them with all the support they need. So managers should ask for the support that will make a difference to you and your organisation.
The vast majority of people in management, bar military people that sign up to it, land in management roles because of their expertise in the area they work in. There is no evidence that they are predisposed to becoming an effective manager. For example, a finance person may become a financial director because they have a background in finance, they have their accountancy qualification, they’re good with numbers but there’s no evidence that they can manage a team of people.
So why do they get the promotions?
It’s based on their technical competence and they are good hard workers. They understand their brief so they seem like a safe pair of hands. Most people are not hired for management roles; most people acquire management responsibilities the more they prove themselves in their particular area of expertise. Because they are good foot soldiers, they are then given management responsibilities on the back of that. There is often little or no evaluation done by the company or the individual regarding their suitability to manage. They are getting managerial responsibility because of their ability to manage their own area of expertise.
What is meant by management capability?
It means having the skill set, the confidence and the awareness to be able to manage yourself, and manage the team you work with to ensure the company achieves the right outcomes. For example, the good salesperson who ends up becoming a sales manager. They are naturally good at hunting down potential customers and opportunities, and going down every avenue to make that sale. But when they become managers their natural hunting abilities are not required. They are now required to help people on the team who may have less experience and less ability than themselves. They must support them and coach them, but they are naturally more inclined to think in terms of sales and ‘going in for the kill.’ That hunting mind-set is poorly suited to the mind-set of supporting, mentoring and coaching teams who are not at the same level as you are.
So they are out of sync with the capability level of the team, but the company who chose them are basing their decision on the last five years of sales which were good so we’re making you sales manager. There is no thought given to the question of what skill set is needed to effectively manage a team. The person may have the mind-set of a sales ‘warrior’ but is that the correct mind-set for helping individual team members to become effective in their roles, and supporting them throughout their development? People can flounder and get very frustrated, and the company can get very frustrated with their lack of performance but that’s because they are a square peg in a round hole. People must take responsibility. The buck stops with the person who appoints people to management roles without proper evaluation of their management capabilities.
What should happen before someone is appointed to a management position?
The first thing is to clearly define the objectives of the role. Then decide how you are going to measure if someone is doing a good job or not. Identify what behaviours come naturally to them, then outline the key behaviours that you need to see someone demonstrate in the role. Are they good at dealing with people on a one-to-one basis? Are they good at confronting them when they are performing poorly, or their behaviour becomes unacceptable?
So it’s about people management skills and the behaviour of managers in keeping with the values that are critical to the organisation. Has the potential candidate demonstrated the wherewithal to support those values through their behaviour? Have they got the flexibility, the adaptability and the decision-making capability to align with company values and fit the managerial role? Their values and behaviours as managers will in turn effect the organisation as a whole.
What happens when business owners or senior managers choose the wrong person for a managerial role?
Well it’s very stressful for all concerned. It’s stressful for the individual who has been dumped into a management position. They are trying to prove themselves to the company and they sometimes behave in a reactionary way towards team members who are not performing well. They don’t respond in a healthy way; they don’t give people the space or time or proper support they need to improve. As manager you need to find ways to effectively engage your team members, and not just keep banging on the table because you feel under pressure to prove yourself. Becoming a manager is often an ‘accident’ imposed on an individual who is ill prepared for the role, selected by senior staff who have not gone through a proper evaluation process. So it ends up becoming a very stressful situation all round.
But if someone is already in the role and they are clearly not a good fit, what should happen then?
Well usually it’s a case of the manager not fitting well as opposed to being the wrong fit entirely. The person has an understanding of what needs to be delivered in terms of the business; the challenge is how to get the team to do it as opposed to doing it themselves. Nobody told me I was going to be a manager but you are a manager now, and you have to step up to the plate. First you must increase your self-awareness and how you communicate with the people around you. In the past you focused on being right, but now as manager you have to focus on getting the right outcome for the company. You can no longer be happy to be right all the time; you must now focus on getting a team of people to achieve consistently good results. The emphasis is now on the team’s performance not on you as an individual.
So the new manager needs to develop a new mind-set.
Absolutely, and of course you can acquire new skills and knowledge. You can work on communication skills or time management or conflict management, but it’s crucial to adapt the new mind-set first. You have to be clear that you are no longer here to show how good you are at sales but to lead a team. You have to think, I am here to get the most from my team and get the best outcome for the company.
The more effectively you can change your mind-set and adapt to a new way of doing things in your work environment, the better chance you have at being successful as a manager. And it’s ok to make mistakes and get some things wrong if it’s within the context of your new role as manager. You test objectives and find that some worked and others didn’t, and you take time to reflect on those outcomes and understand why they did or didn’t work. Through that process you are acquiring the new skills necessary to be an effective manager.
At Supermac’s we believe in developing our core team members as we know that they play a critical role in our success. We work hard at developing both their technical and soft skills. The LEAP Management Development Programmes have been very helpful in developing the people management skills of our newly appointed managers. The focus of the programmes is on the practical application of skills – it’s not simply about the theory.
Mike Gaffney MD at LEAP with Pat McDonagh MD at Supermac’s presenting the Management Development Programme certification to Saša Marjanovi? Operations Manager at Supermac’s.
Immediate Impact on Managers’ Performance
As an organisation that is expanding rapidly and working in a fast paced sector we need to make sure that any time spent away from the store is worthwhile. There must be an immediate and positive impact on the shop’s performance. The 6 sessions in the programme were designed around our needs and given the experience of the trainer we knew that exercises and case studies would focus on what it’s like working in Supermac’s.
The response from our team members who participated on the programme has been very positive. There has been evidence of increased confidence and we’ve seen managers change their behaviours following training. We believe our managers are stronger and more effective as a result of the investment Supermac’s put into their development. Our participants not only attend the programme, they work hard at securing QQI certification which is important. This is a valuable tool for career progression. Our employees are proud of achieving certification and recognise that it demonstrates capability to their managers.
Management Training Workshops and ‘Positive Pressure’
I think participants find the QQI certification the most challenging aspect of the programme but that’s a good thing! It’s challenging because it gets participants to think about how they are applying learning. This means they must look at ways of using learning from each workshop and building new habits. Participants also share what they have applied with others at each workshop. Everybody has to explain what they’ve done since the previous workshop and this ‘positive pressure’ is good.
Continuous Support and Training for Managers
We continue to provide the Management Development Programmes for our managers because Supermac’s believes in developing and investing in people. We know there are many who join the Supermac’s team who are keen to build a career and not simply have a job. This programme is an important step for a person working on their careers.
Operations Manager, Supermac’s
If you would like to learn more about LEAP’s management training programme and other services, then get in touch with us. Our business advisors will be happy to discuss your training and development needs.
According to Mike Gaffney many businesses underperform because of a negative company culture, rather than aggressive market forces or macro conditions. It’s often the lack of recognition of underlying bad habits and leadership behaviours that cause stagnation in the business. But business owners can take solace in the fact that there is a way to address the negative habits that are holding your company back.
Mike, just how damaging can a negative company culture be to a business?
In working with companies throughout Ireland, it’s becoming evident that we totally underestimate the effect of bad habits and norms in the business. You may send your people on a management development programme, and embark on a strategic review of the business, but unless we take a detached perspective, and take a serious look at how we think and act within the business, then all the commitment to logical changes won’t take hold; those underlying bad habits must be addressed
What drives these habits?
This behaviour is natural, the human brain is programmed to develop habits, like driving a car; the first time it’s awkward and clunky. After a while it becomes a subconscious behaviour, that’s how the brain works. So if you’re going to make serious changes in your business and maximize new opportunities, you need to recognise the subconscious habits and often limiting behaviours that are holding the organisation back. Without recognising and addressing them you won’t achieve the changes that are necessary to transform the business.
What should business owners do to change negative habitual behaviour?
It was Einstein who said ‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ The big issue here is the lack of recognition of underlying negative habits and behaviours of business owners and management. Making statements to staff such as ‘we need to change’ isn’t good enough. And you can map out a new strategy for the business, but that won’t work either if you don’t address people’s negative behaviours. A fundamental change in behaviour must occur for any real progress to be made. Highly successful businesses recognise that they need three things.
1. a clear vision for where they want the business to get to
2. a mission statement as to why they exist now
3. a clear set of values that underpin the organisation’s culture & behaviour
If they can get their people to buy into those three areas, then they can address those old negative habits and develop new positive ones, and a new mind-set for the organisation.
Does that mean confronting staff who are not aligned with the company core values?
Before business owners can implement change they have to let people know what they want the company to change into. Clarity is required – clear vision, clear mission, clear values – so that people know what’s expected and are given a chance to adapt. Unless people have clarity in terms of what’s expected of them then people won’t change, and that clarity must come from the business owner. If there are certain values that are critical to the success of the business, and if people deviate from those values, then they are out of the organisation.
Does articulating the company values usually get the results business owners want?
Articulating it is not enough, the business owner has to walk the talk and lead by example. Sometimes the people who are most resistant to change are the most senior, longest serving employees in the organisation. Their attitude is ‘that’s all very well for the troops but I’m ok doing the same old routine.’ But if everyone acknowledges their underlying negative behaviours, and agrees to buy into a new set of core values and behaviours, then together you can take the company to the next level. Without that buy-in everyone will just continue pulling against each other.
What tools can businesses use to help them clarify their vision, mission and core values?
As part of the futureSME methodology, a method that we use ourselves, we sit with the management team and have them craft a vision, a mission statement, and 5 or 6 core company values that will become part of their new visual strategy for the business. It’s just one part of what is known as visual mapping; a tool that business owners and management teams can use to great effect, with real tangible results.
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.
Tricia Cunningham has designed many management training courses over the past 12 years, including programmes for new managers. Working across a variety of business sectors, she has gained many insights into the challenges that emerging managers face when trying to build high performance work teams. Here Tricia discusses motivation and how to motivate teams, a common problem for new managers.
Q. Tricia, what is the most common problem that new managers face?
The most common problem is motivating team members. Often managers complain that ‘I can’t motivate a person.’ They feel that everything is out of their hands in terms of the factors that motivate people. For example they think I can’t increase their pay, I can’t promote them up the career ladder, there are no promotions going. So managers feel like they have no leverage to motivate an individual.
In LEAP’s programmes we look at the real factors that motivate individuals. We try to get managers to look at each individual team member and determine what the manager can do to motivate that person. The factors that motivate an individual are usually within the control of the manager, but the manager doesn’t always see that. Factors such as having interesting work to do and playing to strengths are very powerful and need to be used to better effect by managers.
Managers need to find ways for employees to play to their strengths within the defined role. Another factor that’s within the manager’s control is employees feeling they are involved in things and understanding what’s going on in the organisation. When the employee understands that this is the direction we’re going in, this is what’s happening, this is why my role is important, they are more concerned about the business and its success. When managers start looking at it this way they start to see that actually there is something they can do about motivation. It isn’t always down to money or steps on a hierarchical ladder that needs to be climbed.
Q. How effective is this approach with new managers?
It’s very effective because you’re getting managers to see things differently, and that’s what a manager’s job is; to constantly look at a situation or problem from a different perspective and come up with a workable solution. They are at least beginning to think more constructively and positively.
Q. There are some tasks that people don’t want to do. Is it difficult to get an entire team motivated by playing to each of their strengths, and at the same time making sure that all tasks get done?
Of course. People are realistic. If 80 of my job is made up of tasks I really love doing and 20 are tasks I don’t like doing, then I’m probably very happy in my job. We try as much as possible to get employees to play to their strengths so they will enjoy what they’re doing, so the other tasks that they have to do, they don’t mind doing them as much. It’s when the balance is incorrect, where nobody gets to play to their strengths, where 80 of the job are things they don’t like, and only 20 are tasks they like, well then they start to hate their job.
It’s not about changing everyone’s role in the team. You don’t have the scope for that. It’s about the manager stepping back and figuring out what the person likes and what their strengths are, is there scope within the role, and within the organisation, to get them playing more to their strengths?
When the employee says ‘yeah this suits me better, I like this.’ Then they are motivated.