So, you think you are a great manager…

Some uncomfortable reading for managers this week in the shape of a CIPD survey which suggests many are somewhat ‘deluded’ about the effectiveness of their leadership style.

Three quarters of employees questioned for the research said they rated their managers pretty poorly on the leadership front and felt they had an ‘inflated opinion’ of their ability to manage people.  Perhaps not surprisingly, managers themselves had a different view, with eight out of ten saying they thought staff were either satisfied or very satisfied with them as a leader.

This somewhat alarming reality gap appears to hold true when it comes to the nuts and bolts of performance management too.  Six out of ten managers claimed they met at least twice a month with each person reporting to them, to talk about their workload, objectives and other work-related issues.  Only 24 per cent of employees, however, agreed they had the opportunity to meet with their managers this frequently.

Three quarters of managers said they sometimes or always discussed their employees’ development or career progression during these face-to-face meetings – again, a statement that only 38 per cent of employees recognised.

It’s easy to put this report in the “not happening here” pile, but, as an article in HR Magazine points out, this ‘disconnect’ is really quite a serious issue.

Research shows that there is a clear link between employees who are happy with the way they are being managed and those who are engaged with the business and willing to go the extra mile.  In challenging economic times, when businesses need everyone to perform at peak, they simply can’t afford to let a lack of basic management competence hold them back.

The CIPD – as one would expect – is calling on employers to address this worrying skills gap and to find new and creative ways of building management expertise.  But there’s a case to argue that businesses also need to take a step back and look at why the pieces of their employee engagement and performance management processes aren’t fitting together.

I would suggest it is often mindset – rather than a pure lack of management ability – that is at the heart of the problem.  Many managers still think that managing people is what they have to do ‘as well as’ the day job.  What they often haven’t recognised is that managing people well and keeping them on track with their objectives is the day job. It is also true that employees may have unrealistic expectations – perhaps believing that their managers have far more control or expertise than they actually do.

Now line managers tend to get the blame for everything – and it’s important to acknowledge that this situation isn’t entirely their fault.  Many have been catapulted into management positions because of their technical expertise rather than an ability to lead others.  They are just expected to get on with it and are often given very little in the form of support or training.

The relentless pressure of today’s working environments doesn’t help.  Faced with impossible deadlines and demanding targets, managers are often forced to retreat into ‘fire-fighting’ mode and have to hope their teams will just get on with it. Employees find themselves with precious little time to pause for a moment and think about what they really expect from their managers – and whether this is realistic.

Of course the best managers understand that they need to prioritise spending time with their team – because frequent communication, direction and support are by far the best ways to get the most out of people. As importantly, good employees understand that the relationship is two way, and that communication, direction (where appropriate) and support from their side is important too.

So, do you recognise this divide in your own organisation – and what are you doing to address it? Are there initiatives that have worked for you that you’d be prepared to share? If so, please send them our way (or tweet us your views to @cezanneHR).

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