It’s 15 years since Gallup coined the phrase ‘people join companies but leave managers’ and most people who have been in the workplace that long have a challenging story or two to tell.
But those same people can also cite brilliant managers who left them feeling enthused and enlightened, and created highly productive teams that went the extra mile.
What is it that these brilliant managers do that creates such liking and respect that they leave a positive lasting legacy in the minds of their team members?
Embracing line management 2.0
So what does a contemporary line manager do? At times it can feel as if the answer is ‘everything!’ You have to balance the needs of the people reporting to you with the needs of the people to whom you report.
That can mean being a teacher, a translator and, for the unfortunate few, a referee.
It means making sure members of your team don’t feel neglected and that you don’t have favourites. As most workers are desperate to be treated as individuals it means working to find out what motivates each one of them and acting upon it wherever possible.
This may mean adjusting your style or getting them the training they need. The good news is that most employees recognise the demands made on their line managers’ time and usually sympathise with the challenges this brings.
Traditionally, a line manager’s role was to ensure the results expected from his or her team were satisfactory by directing the work of the team’s members.
But the changing role of HR plus the changing nature of the workplace has created a new list of responsibilities that includes:
- recruitment and selection
- onboarding and induction
- learning and development
- coaching and guidance
- performance and appraisal
- discipline and grievance
- and sometimes pastoral care
Declining trade union membership means that in some workplaces line managers may also be the voice of the workforce.
So how do you solve the problem of finding the time to meet the challenges of the role?
Here are some time-saving tips for line managers:
1. make sure you’re doing your job as a manager – people are often promoted into line manager roles because they are so good in their existing role; the temptation is to carry on doing that activity because you’re quicker and better at it than anyone else. But now you’re a manager it’s your job to develop someone to fill your shoes. Obviously, in an emergency you can still show your brilliance but that should be the exception rather than the rule.
2. talk don’t write – unless you are communicating with several people in different locations it is usually quicker to pick up the phone or walk over to someone’s desk than send an email (you can tell at once whether they’ve understood you or not).
3. complete any actions from meetings as soon as possible rather than waiting until just before the next meeting, that way you can still remember what that strange abbreviation in your notes means.
4. organise yourself – whether it’s email rules, ‘to do’ lists or blocking off time for big projects, find a system that suits the way you work.
5. don’t be afraid to decide not to do something – if time and resources won’t allow it then accept it won’t happen just now, move on to the next thing and don’t dwell on what you've decided not to do.
6. if you use a ‘to do’ list, categorise it in order of priority – A for important, B for nice and C for unimportant. If you haven’t got round to items in your B and C lists after a fortnight it’s probably OK to delete them.
7. before you go home check your diary for the following day – that way you’re less likely to forget something.
8. take breaks – a 10-minute walk or a quick look at a news website will give your brain chance to refresh.
9. tackle the difficult jobs first – it gets them out of the way and saves you wasting time as you find an excuse not to do them.