The relationship between a manager and managee is very crucial to strengthen an organization’s culture. One of my observation throughout my professional life is that the team members performed better and owned the work if there was healthy relation between the manager and managee. Any tension between the two always effects the quality of work. Another observation is that even when the subordinates were not happy with the organization they still owned their work if there was trust relationship between the manager and managee, as they do not want the team leader to fail. Hence the role of manager is very very crucial. As an individual climbs the seniority ladder, he/she has limited involvement in everyday functional work. Among other strategic involvement, his/her primary role is to support their managee so that they can perform better, own organization’s vision and remain committed to the organization for a longer span of time.
All managers wish to have team members with whom there is proper tuning at work. Personally, I also always wish to have subordinates with whom I can be confident as a team. In my decade long professional life, I have struggled to manage some of my managee and would never want to repeat those experiences. In some instances, when I wanted to replicate some of my successful practices which had helped me to build good rapport with my managee in the past, it surprisingly backfired. For many years, I applied the “Hit and Trial” method which sometimes worked and sometimes made the situation worse. Struggle between members in a team directly effects the efficiency of team and is a huge loss for the organization. Except for few hiring mistakes – mostly non alignment at values level, I strongly believe that we can build alignment with subordinates with correct ways of support. “To learn about effective hiring, wait for my other blog”
For some years now, I have followed the management framework shared in the picture below. It has been very helpful for me to exercise my leadership in a better way. The framework has helped me to change my personal leadership approach while supporting my team members, keeping their motivation and skills in mind.
However, in a professional set up, it is very challenging to understand the state of your team members. One of the things that has helped me immensely is listening to them more and controlling my urge to intervene when they are sharing their thoughts. When an individual has high motivation but not enough skills, we should not give them very challenging work at the beginning. Rather we should engage them in a way where they can still be in the exciting state (see A: exciting engagement) by breaking down the work and giving smaller responsibilities to complete at first. The sense of achievement will motivate them to take up more challenging work later. Success is always the biggest motivator. Now when an individual is in the B quadrant (low motivation, workable skills) focused support by the manager is needed like 1-1 support and guidance in each step. Working collectively would help in such situations to gain skills and regain motivation. When a team member is in the C quadrant (low motivation, high skills), managers have to be very cautious. In this scenario, purposeful guidance is required. When a skillful staff can not perform it effects the energy of the entire team and weakens the organization culture. In comparison to A and B quadrant, a manager’s capacity to support a team member in C quadrant is highly dependent upon his/her own adaptive skills. The manager needs to work as a coach here i.e. getting off the dance floor and onto the balcony. The role of the manager over here would be to find out the ways to make the individual believe in their skills. Sometime situation may get tensed as other team members may not trust him/her due to their low motivation. Manager over here needs to advocate loudly about the strengths of the managee not only to them but also to the entire team. The conviction of the manager as well as the team may reinforce the positive energy which will ultimately push them for the effective execution of tasks. In this quadrant, manager should believe that their role is to bring environment back to normal so that it can motivate the employees to perform better. The D quadrant is the stage where future leaders are shaped. It also relieves the manager from day to day functional tasks. Here manager should completely delegate tasks to the managee and make sure to provide backstopping. The manager should build the relationship with the managee as a thought partner by creating an environment where managee can take the actions independently following their own judgement of risks and opportunity. The ability to delegate fully is only possibly by having the complete trust of the potential of managee.
Some managers consider hiring as the initial stage in this framework. A general understanding is that the A quadrant is the first stage of an employee and D quadrant is the final stage of the employee. However, I would recommend to implement this framework reflecting upon the task and internal and external environment and not necessarily take it as moving from first quadrant to second to third and so on. Beside this, it also depends upon the manager’s own perspective. Some managers focus on skills of the managee as they believe in achieving the goal while some prefer wellbeing of the team instead of focussing majorly on goal. Limitation on mangers’ mindset to take both into consideration as per the situation can have repercussions, as the saying goes, “If your only tool is hammer then every problem looks like nail”. Both motivation as well as skills are very interconnected and it can not be same in the all the situation.
The current lockdown demands new kinds of skillset that employees may not have gained in their years long experience. Works are being done virtually without any personal interaction with the team. Mastery of technical tools was never as important as now. Apart from that, the ability to maintain focus and discipline and working with limited supervision is a big challenge. While working from home, there are other important engagements like looking after the children and household work which sometimes blur the lines between work and home. Locked down with other family members and parents can bring tensions due to several differences. The irritation could be simply because of no social contact with external world like previous times. Managing the relationship with children and spouse can also be challenging. There may not be house help, which can further add to the stress. The ability to adapt to this changed context is something that could be very new to most of the employees. Adapting to all these new changes at once could be extremely frustrating at times.
Now, if the manager blindly focuses on efficiency, it can backfire. Neither does it support the employee to perform nor motivate the employee’s mindset to work in adverse condition. There is no readymade solution to deal with the situation. The only thing that can help is reflecting relentlessly and evolving. Some things work and some don’t. Continued reflection would help to understand successful practices and continue it while eliminating the bad practices. This would eventually pave way for innovation.
Apart from that, manager themselves may be facing the above mentioned challenges and struggling to deal with it. One of the mistake managers may make is thinking that everyone is going through the same emotion like them (good or bad). The other error they may make is expecting same proficiency out of the team members. The situation has changed and only one thing is same i.e. not all he staff fits in same quadrant at all the time. The key is to exercise leadership with this awareness. Blanket approach can be very fatal. If manager are aware about the managee states it would help them to not only to make their life easy but also can sustain the employee’s energy. This will definitely affect the organization’s ability to survive in the pandemic. If organizations survive this pandemic definitely they are going to thrive the coming time.