How has the role of a manager changed?
The role of a manger in today’s world is far different than what it used to be even just a decade ago. It’s no longer about assigning tasks, tracking attendance, and delivering a top-down authoritative style to get your team to produce results. This transformation is largely due to the type of workforce we have seen emerge in the second decade of the 21st century. Today’s workforce
- seeks meaning in their work – it’s about more than a paycheck.
- wants to be involved in decision making. They don’t like hierarchical layers, so come on out of that stuffy board room.
- interacts more and more naturally every day in a social and collaborative online environment.
- will “follow” you not because of a title, but rather because you are trusted, respected, and communicate a compelling vision.
- is fairly capable of “managing” themselves, in the traditional sense of the word (and prefers that autonomy).
- is smart and driven.
So, where does that leave managers? Well, in a very critical role actually. Just as the workforce has evolved, the competencies of organizational managers and leaders have evolved as well. Take the following list for example…a decade ago, we didn’t hear much about the following terms in a business context:
- Emotional intelligence
- Employee engagement
- Virtual teams
- Talent management
- Results-oriented work environments (ROWE)
- Social enterprise
In today’s world, we need to focus more on the function of management versus the role of a manager. The new(er) primary function of management is to create an environment in which employees thrive, accomplish personal and professional growth objectives, and therefore inherently contribute positive results to an organization’s bottom line. In short, the function of management is to drive individual and team performance, which drives organizational performance. You do this by putting on your coach, counselor (and sometime psychologist!) hats.
Focus on the 3 R’s
Time to put your coach hat on! Any runners out there? I’m an avid runner; it’s my Zen and just about the only thing in my life that keeps me sane. It has recently become very clear to me that the 3 R’s I adhere to in my running world translate directly into 3 R’s of effective management for today’s workforce. So, here they are…
Take time to REFLECT.
As I prepared for my long run this past weekend, I reflected on the following: How did last week’s run go – Mileage? Elevation? Time of day? Traffic? Ankle brace? Pre/Post nutrition?
You will similarly want to reflect with your team on past performance, and for two main reasons:
1. To learn from the past – Identify what went well so you can repeat it and what didn’t go so well so you don’t make the same mistake twice. Don’t just look at individual roles and departments, but look more broadly across the entire organization to learn from other teams as well.
2. To build team spirit – Why does it feel so good to gather with friends and family over the holidays and share old stories, or REFLECT on times gone by? Because you’re creating shared meaning through storytelling, building camaraderie, and inadvertently solidifying the strength in your relationships with one another.
Make sure your team REFUELs.
When I run long distances, I strap a water bottle around my waist and take a sip every mile or so. In addition, I’ll eat a GU pack every 5 or 6 miles.
Keep your eyes and ears open, and be aware of when your employees need “refueling”…whether it be something quick in short intervals (the water sips each mile) or something a bit more substantial (the GU pack). Encourage them to refuel by creating an environment that makes this possible. Below are a few things they might need:
- A day at home after travel
- A walk outside during that rough 3:00 hour
- An early Friday Happy Hour and some social time with colleagues
- A new environment – maybe they’d like to take their laptop to a coffee shop for the rest of the day. Sometimes all we need to refuel is a change of scenery.
- A quick trip to the gym
- A vacation completely unplugged – don’t bother them and work with them in advance to put a plan in place to cover everything while they’re gone
- Sleep! A late start in the morning is very valuable every now and then.
- Sabbatical – sometimes a longer-term refueling is needed.
It’s important to Model the Way and demonstrate that their leader refuels too. This makes it acceptable. One of the first things you can do to help promote an environment that allows people to refuel is to visibly show your team when YOU refuel. Try some of the things above yourself, and your team will naturally follow.
REWARD your team for their achievements.
For those of you who know me well, you know about my obsession with ice cream. I absolutely eat a Dairy Queen blizzard, Sonic Blast, or UDF hot fudge sundae the night of every long run. Why? Because I earned it, and I love it. I look forward to it, and it feels so good when I get it. I even think about it during my long runs (no judging!), and it provides me with motivation to keep going.
Rewards in the workplace should work the same way. Whether it’s through something as small as a handwritten thank-you note, or something as complex and formal as compensation (and everything in between), make sure you are providing rewards and recognition in a timely manner when you observe behaviors that you would like to see continue.
Check out another Core Chat post for an easy-read on 3 Ways to Make Recognition Meaningful.
It’s not easy, but there’s a starting point for everything
All of this talk about the three R’s is a little more complicated than assigning tasks and tracking attendance. Your role as a manager in the 21st century is no easy feat. You’re dealing with human psychology and trying to motivate certain behaviors so that your organization will see repeat performances week after week, month after month, and year after year.
One place to start as you further develop yourself as a manger is to Reflect with your team on the past, Refuel your team for the work that lies ahead, and Reward positive behaviors all along the way.
I’d love to hear the strategies you use to accomplish the 3 R’s, so please share by commenting below!
When we were young, our teachers rewarded us with things like pizza parties, “You’re Super!” stickers, and the privilege of lining up first for recess. Our friends motivated us by attending our theatrical performances and yelling our name from the audience or writing on our car windows with shaving cream the night before a big game.
We’re not in grade school anymore, but our need for motivation hasn’t vanished. According to Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett Packard, “Men and women want to do a good job, a creative job, and if they are provided the proper environment, they will do so.”
As a manager, how can I create a motivating environment?
Gone are the days of old-school management. It’s an individual choice to perform or not— it can’t be a directive. You need to create that environment Bill Hewlett referenced. How, you ask?
- Catch your employees doing things right. Pop over to their desk and interrupt them to give thanks or say job well done…versus with a “fire” that needs to be put out.
- Hand over the wheel. Empowerment builds excitement! 92% of employees want to be asked for their opinions or ideas, and 89% want to be involved in decision-making.
- Don’t forget about pizza parties and stickers! The same simple and cost-effective forms of motivation work for adults too. Need ideas? Purchase the book 1501 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson, PhD.
As an individual contributor, how can I create a motivating environment?
Think you’re off the hook because you don’t manage people—wrong! We’re all responsible for creating a motivational environment, so do your part by:
- Igniting energy in others. Raise your own energy level while at work – it will be contagious.
- Sending along kudos. Recognize individuals or teams for something awesome they’ve done. You can do this by sending an email to their supervisor, calling attention to them in a team meeting, or submitting a note to the employee newsletter or intranet editorial team.
- Being nice and exuding positivity. Back to the basics on this one—please, thank-you, good morning, etc. People want to work with colleagues they get along with and will be motivated to work constructively with you if you’re pleasant.
I hope these “back-to-school” tips are a good reminder to us working adults that motivation drives performance!
Take the photos to the left for example. In the note, she is thanking me for two projects I took on that hit around the same time and consumed quite a bit of my energy – including some late nights and two back-to-back trips away from my family. What made this form of recognition so meaningful to me? Three things:
1. Her message was SPECIFIC. Although only a brief 2 sentences long, she called out exactly what she was grateful for. No guessing on my end why I got this note or what behaviors I should continue to emulate in the future to be appreciated.
2. It was TIMELY. She dropped this note off just slightly more than two weeks after the projects concluded. Many managers might wait until an annual performance review to give praise, or even worse not provide any recognition at all. It’s important to recognize positive behaviors as they happen to provide ongoing motivation to your employees.
3. She PERSONALIZED both the delivery and the gift. A hand-written note only takes a few minutes, and it’s much more meaningful than a verbal thank-you, email, or sometimes even public praise depending on the preferences of the receiver. She also personalized the gift by choosing a frozen yogurt joint she knows I frequent. Both of these gestures raise the “sincerity bar” significantly.
The next time you plan some type of recognition for your employees, make sure it’s Specific, Timely, and Personalized. The impact on their motivation will be much greater. And remember, it doesn’t need to be complex or expensive. Sometimes just a pen and paper is all you need.
I’d love to hear what you do to recognize employees and/or meaningful recognition you have received. Please post below!