The Forum: Avoiding management blindspots

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It's become a cliché to say that people join organizations and leave managers - but it's a cliché because it's true. In the interests of improving the people management skills of line managers, Human Resources Daily asks a panel of three experts for their top staff management pitfall, and what can be done to prevent it happening

Tip 1 - Being a manager is more than just having a title; it requires action
By Richard Dunks, managing director, Vantage Human Capital

This is the top staff management pitfall and it has tremendous consequences, leading to lack of staff motivation, negative workplace culture and high staff turnover.

Nine times out of 10 people leave managers, not companies. This pitfall costs Australian businesses wasted time and millions of dollars each year - it costs about one year's salary for each employee you lose.

Being a manager is not about the corner office or comfy chair. It means you are meant to 'manage'; this requires action. 

Uninspiring managers are seldom capable of motivating staff to reach their brilliant best. To achieve performance excellence, you need to understand your people. The first step on taking over a management role is to make the time to talk to each of your staff privately, and develop a professional rapport.

Identify the issues that are stopping your staff from reaching their full potential. A confidential staff survey can assist you to work out the real business issues you need to address.

Whether you have 15 staff or 6000, work out a plan so that over a six month period you speak to as many staff as possible.

Managing does not mean bullying, intimidating, humiliating your team or stealing their ideas without recognition. I've interviewed thousands of job candidates and people always remember how the boss has treated them - if treated poorly, they will leave at the first opportunity.

Managing also means being organized. Strategically think through your plans, to understand the repercussions and benefits of change. Consult, gather information and execute your business changes professionally.

Remember, 'do what you say and say what you do'.

If you inspire people and have their respect, this is when you actually have people in the workplace who are excited to be there. Just think about how your business would perform if people were excited about giving you 110% effort.

Tip 2 - Manage the organization, but lead the people
By Pia Lee, CEO of LIW, a leadership consultancy based in Sydney

'Micro management' by the boss is the most cited reason for people leaving their jobs. However, there are two problems with this view. First, it is the word 'micro' where there is more focus on the detail instead of the bigger picture. Even though you are probably in your current role because you were great at your last one, it's time to shift your focus from the technical detail to the business of people management.

Secondly, it is the word 'management'. Management is important but it's something you do to resources, not people. People want to be led so it's important to manage the administration, and lead the people. 

Your primary responsibility as a leader is to create the key conditions for success (Clarity, Climate and Competence − the 3Cs) for those who report directly to you. 

The 3Cs provide a simple checklist for any leader to maximize their team's performance, and are a practical shift away from simply monitoring your people, to enabling them.

Effective leaders should go through the 3C checklist and ask their team members:

  • What are you trying to achieve and how are you measured? (Clarity)
  • What resources do you need to succeed? (Climate)
  • What skills do you need to do the role? What behaviours and attitudes will gain success? (Competence)

These key conditions are closely aligned with business results, according to the latest Gallup research Employee Engagement: What's your engagement ratio? which surveyed over a million workers worldwide, and demonstrated that effective leadership not only drives retention, but the bottom line too.

Tip 3 - Don't suffer in silence
By Kevin Chandler, CEO of Chandler Human Resources, and executive chairman of First People HR, a newly formed labour hire company in the indigenous employment space

I will tackle this from a different angle and suggest that the first bit of advice should go towards the employees themselves.

Most of us at some time in our careers come up against 'the boss from hell'. The boss can have a variety of faults: excessive micro management, a domineering personality, be completely insensitive; or be just plain negative. Perhaps they just don't like you. Others may have been riddled with insecurity, or have drug or alcohol related problems. Perhaps if they weren't the boss we might feel sorry for them.

But no, the problem arises when they impact on our security in the company or on our career opportunities. One of life's truisms is - if I don't like or respect you, the feeling is almost certainly reciprocated. If you have found yourself in this position you ask two questions - who put them in their role in the first place, and secondly what are my options. Do I stick it out in the hope that the company comes to its senses and moves the problem? Often this is the right approach as these 'bosses' often are found out. Unfortunately it takes longer than some staff can wait and you end up just another labour turnover statistic

From my experience if you see 'the boss from hell' as a barrier, so do others and unless management is completely off the ball, action will eventually be taken.

So my advice is - hang in there, but make sure everyone in the department knows the issue. Don't suffer in silence - talk to HR or other more senior managers before taking the ultimate step.

HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

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