As managers in the new business normal, our whole approach to getting results in the workplace is continuing to change, and those on our team look to us for guidance and strong, steady leadership. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.
After working with managers for decades and being a manager myself, I have come to realize that we all have an opportunity to add value and contribute so our team members do in fact look to us with confidence. We can capitalize on this opportunity if we are committed to seeing ourselves as we really are and making changes needed to keep us improving.
As we develop an awareness of ourselves to improve our effectiveness, let’s consider two words that employees often use to describe how they perceive their managers. Helpful is one word and hindrance is the other. These words are antonyms and on different ends of the continuum. How we are perceived in relation to those two words speaks volumes to our potential effectiveness as managers.
As people in the workplace, we all approach what we do from our unique individual perspectives. As managers, what matters to us most might or might not mean as much to employees who work with us. Our team members will generally respond to us as managers based on what they perceive to be in their best interests, which might or might not be the same as ours. What matters to them is whether or not we act in ways that help them get their jobs done or hinder them from doing the work they need to do.
One of the best questions that we as managers can ask ourselves on a regular basis is this:
Are my actions as a manager perceived to be helpful to my team members or do my actions hinder excellent performance?
Let’s not take the easy way out here and exclaim, “Of course my actions help performance! I want my team to achieve their goals, because they are my goals, too! Why would I possibly take any action that would hinder performance?” Instead, let’s look at what makes a manager perceived as one who tends to help or hinder performance and see where we fit.
Helpful Managers provide value added support and assistance to employees that enable them to take action and move forward toward their goals. These effective managers:
- Aid employees in problem-solving and are solution focused; no problem is too big for them to tackle with their team members.
- Remove unnecessary obstacles. They use their resources to clear obstacles beyond the scope of employees and insist that employees tackle their own obstacles.
- Act as lubricants in keeping work flowing and moving forward. They demand action.
- Add value and contribution by drawing on their experience, knowledge and resources
- Are approachable and known for their expertise as coaches for performance and effectiveness in performance interactions
- Trustworthy—they are honest, possess integrity and are competent
- Pay attention to what matters most and avoid managing with a command and control style
- Don’t make excuses or blame others for the way things are. They are experts at working within the system or organizational constraints to get things done!
Managers who are perceived as hindering managers more than helping can be described in these ways:
- Create unnecessary work
- Clog up progress by slow decision-making or failing to approve actions needed to move forward
- Unapproachable because of their management style (too busy, difficult personality, incompetent, micromanage, etc.)
- Take no accountability for situations and are masters at passing the blame buck to others for why things can’t be done
- Don’t know how to coach or interact with people to get performance results
- Don’t listen to what’s really going on and required to support their staff in getting results
At the end of the day, most employees really just want to work with managers who help them get their jobs done. They realize that having helpful managers improves the quality of their work lives and is valuable to them in their future career aspirations. These helpful managers are sought out by the best employees who aspire to be the top performers. Managers who hinder employee performance are tolerated when necessary and avoided whenever possible.
Most of us as managers operate at various stages of being helpful or hindrances. The key is to work on transforming ourselves as managers so that we make progress in becoming more helpful to our team members. As we change ourselves, we will continue to improve our performance and effectiveness as managers in the new normal.
How do you see yourself as a manager? Have you ever worked with a manager that was either extremely helpful or a real hindrance?