Nine out of 10 managers—regardless of level or industry—fail to practice the leadership fundamentals regularly and consistently, falling into a state of undermanagement most or all of the time. Most new leaders and managers in the private sector are promoted with no significant leadership training, further exacerbating the issue. And there are significant larger workplace trends making it harder than ever to manage people today.
Most leaders find themselves in a high-pressure, low-support position when it comes to managing people. The most common complaint from managers is that there is simply not enough time to do all the work. The problem is, when managers aren’t practicing the fundamentals, there are seven critical things that don’t get done, which ultimately affect the bottom line.
1. Delegating new tasks, responsibilities, and projects to team members
Without consistent high-structure, high-substance dialogue, effective delegation is practically impossible. Without effective delegation, either the manager becomes responsible for work that should have been done by someone else, or projects go off in the wrong direction for weeks before anyone on the team realizes it. A routine and systematic way of establishing guidelines, expectations, and next steps with direct reports is the solution.
2. Onboarding and up-to-speed training for new team members
Onboarding and up-to-speed training is a pain point in many organizations, and it’s made much worse by undermanagement. Now more than ever, employees want leaders who play an active and engaged role in setting them up for career success. If managers aren’t providing that level of engagement and support from the beginning, superstars quickly will start looking elsewhere, and average and low performers will have no hope of improving.
3. Providing employees with troubleshooting and feedback that is both timely and effective
Managers usually provide feedback after it’s already too late and the employee has no opportunity to course-correct accordingly. If leader haven’t been meeting regularly with their employees, not only are they unable to catch problems early, they also have no opportunity to establish an effective rapport with each direct report. This typically means feedback is even less effective, because it fails to consider the individual strengths of, weaknesses of, or obstacles faced by each person in his or her work.
4. Helping employees meet and exceed goals and deadlines
If managers are checked out of the process, it’s much more likely they will fail to provide the right support and resources at the right times. The employee is either left to figure out a solution on his or her own, which may or may not be the best solution, or the work is slowed down indefinitely. It’s crucial for managers to be there when they’re needed, in order to keep things moving along.
5. Recognizing and rewarding above-and-beyond performance
Rewarding above-and-beyond performers only works if managers are paying enough attention to recognize their performance in the first place. This means not only keeping track of an employee’s progress at every step of the way, it also means establishing the guidelines and parameters for great performance at the outset. Nobody can exceed expectations if those expectations are never made clear to begin with.
6. Helping employees meet work-life balance needs
People rely on their managers more than anyone else at work to negotiate for the work-life balance accommodations they want or need. The biggest hurdle for employees seeking remote work, for example, is making the case that they will maintain the same standards of quality and productivity as in the office. If that person’s manager has been keeping concrete documentation of their performance as evidence of reliability and self-sufficiency, they are much more likely to get the flexibility they’re asking for.
7. Implementing effective performance improvement plans, particularly with low performers, and terminating those low performers resistant to improvement
The most pernicious cost of undermanagement is that low performers are able to hide out, unnoticed, while still receiving a paycheck. If managers aren’t tuned in to the ongoing performance, strengths, and weaknesses of their individual team members, they will have no hope of implementing performance improvement plans that actually work. They also won’t be able to spot those low performers who are resistant to improvement and need to be fired, until there is a huge crisis or confrontation. Those low performers sap morale and bring down the rest of the team in the process.
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Tulgan is the best-selling author of numerous books, including “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy” (revised and updated, 2016), “Bridging the Soft Skills Gap” (2015), “The 27 Challenges Managers Face” (2014), and “It’s Okay to be the Boss” (revised and updated, 2014). He has written for The New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training magazine, and the Huffington Post. Tulgan can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com; followed on Twitter @BruceTulgan; or via his Website, www.rainmakerthinking.com.