The real problem that makes employees and companies dissatisfied with their managers is that there is too much of a tendency to take management as an art, a freestyle exercise that relies only on a certain talent and sensitivity, whereas it is a role that includes many imposed figures that are never formalized.
In this article
- The great managerial misunderstanding
- The manager’s Maslow pyramid
- There are delivery models for everything but management
- What to put in a management delivery model?
- How to get a management delivery model accepted?
- How to design your management delivery model?
The great managerial misunderstanding
What is managing? Ask around and you’ll often get the same answers: leading a team and individuals to achieve results, making them progress over time, maintaining cohesion, engagement and motivation….
If everyone agrees on the subject, why is it that if you ask the question “are you satisfied with your manager(s)” the answer is no, whether it is asked to the managed or to the managers of the managers or to the leaders?
I think I have part of the answer. Everyone will agree, or almost agree, on the manager’s objectives, and it’s all the more simple because they are usually clearly formalised in the job description, in the contract, and in the end this is what will allow the manager to be evaluated. But these are only objectives, the “how” remains very vague and is never formalized, left to the free interpretation of each person.
If I were to compare management to figure skating, we tend to believe that it is only an exercise in free figures where the sensitivity, the personality, the way of doing things and the way of being of each person are expressed. I think that in the end this is what makes the difference between a good manager and the others.
But it is also an exercise full of imposed figures, often passed over in silence because they lead to a job that some perceive as too administrative and far from the so-called prestige of the function, but they exist. Worse still, these imposed figures and the way they are executed differ from one company to another and even, within a company, from one entity to another.
And if for the business dimension of the manager’s role everything is well documented, especially for the sacrosanct reporting, for the purely managerial dimension we remain in the most complete blur.
The manager’s Maslow pyramid
- What is my role in the onboarding of a new employee?
- How do I declare a new recruitment, how do I declare a job opening?
- What should I do if I detect a case of work-related suffering?
- What should I do if an employee tells me he is leaving?
- I want to train an employee, what should I do ?
This is a really non-exhaustive list of questions that a manager often asks. He knows that in certain situations he must do something. But what should he do? And how?
On the other hand, on the employee side we hear other things
- He is late to validate my leave.
- He’s late to validate my expense reports.
- It’s August and I still haven’t had my semi-annual interview.
And finally on the HR side…
He is late in processing the applications we send him.
We haven’t received his evaluations for the bonuses.
There are several reasons for this.
First of all, this hidden side of the manager’s role, as I said, differs from one company to another. It differs in terms of attributions (sometimes a task is with HR, sometimes with the manager, sometimes with another person or another department), processes, and tools.
Then we take it all for granted. A manager knows what to do and how. Well, no. He knows what is expected of him globally but not in detail and especially does not know how it is done in a given company.
Finally, a lot is asked of managers. Between their business and operational roles, their leadership role and this more administrative dimension, they lack time and their attention is scattered. So they will unconsciously favour what is visible, has a business impact and that they know how to do over what is more vague and poorly documented. This is a logical choice when you are under pressure and lack time.
If we were to elaborate a very simplified Maslow pyramid of the manager’s role we would have this:
Everything is equally important, but there is a significant gap between what the company values and on which the manager will be mainly evaluated and what is important to the employee on a daily basis.
Hence the need to help managers to simplify as much as possible what is in the lower part of the pyramid. This can take two forms:
- Through processes and tools by simplifying, improving the user experience, making sure that tools communicate better with each other, automating what can be automated.
- Through formalization by providing the manager with a lifeline that allows him to know what to do and how to do it depending on the subject and the circumstances.
There are delivery models for everything but management
Every company has more or less elaborate delivery models for just about everything. For those who are not familiar with this term inherited from the IT industry but which tends to be generalized elsewhere, it is simply a reference guide that explains, in simple terms, how things are done.
The benefits of a delivery model are multiple and in our case I will mention two: to align the way of proceeding in the company (everyone does the same) and to provide a kind of lifeline to which anyone can hold on to in order to know what is expected of him in a given context.
You don’t need to do a lot of research to realize that although there are delivery models for just about everything, nothing exists for the managerial function, as if the manager who arrives in a company had an infallible science and knew everything about its practices, or as if the manager’s role was an exercise in free interpretation that left room for individual creativity and interpretation.
In other words, it is essential to ensure that operational staff follow a minimum of shared rules and operating procedures, that they do not forget (for whatever reason) a key task or step, but for managers this does not matter.
I said above that we tend to complain a lot about managers who don’t do their job, but if we do the same survey at the manager level they will tell you that they feel they are doing it well. Who is doing it wrong? Who is lying? No one is. There is simply no agreement on what a manager’s job is, so some expect things that the other doesn’t think are their job or doesn’t know how to do or tends to “forget” in the heat of the moment.
The purpose of a management delivery model is simply to remind the manager of what is expected of him and how to do it, especially concerning the basic and daily tasks that are often linked to the HR part of his function, but not only: you will see later that it is quickly tempting to include a business dimension to which I quickly succumbed. This has no other pretension.
The management delivery model will not make someone a good manager or a great leader. It won’t help them have a greater impact on the organization or the business. It will just help him not to be caught out on very basic issues that his teams judge him on a daily basis and that are for them the prerequisite for everything. A person can have a great impact and be an inspiring leader, it will not be enough to satisfy his staff if he fails on what is vital for them from a very down to earth point of view.
This is what often leads to differences in perception within a company. Where outsiders will see a leader and someone who gets things done, team members will say “that’s nice, but it’s been 3 weeks since he validated my leave, I haven’t heard anything about my new job or the training I asked for, and I’m still waiting for the interview I asked for”. Or to put it another way, “if you want me to excel at my job, try setting an example by doing your own.
Or the art of losing the trust of your staff and seeing their engagement diminish for things that may seem anecdotal when you have a lot of issues to deal with but which, for them, are the vital minimum without which they will give little importance to the rest.
What to put in a management delivery model?
Each company can be free to design its management delivery model as it sees fit, depending on the role it gives to its manager, how it articulates it with HR, the shortcomings it observes and the scope it wants to give it, if it also wants to include business processes….
As far as I was concerned, I opted for something that follows the life cycle of the employees in the company: recruitment, onboarding, training, interviews, daily operations…, exit.
The form must be as simple as possible: we are talking about a guide, a reference point, not a collection of procedures. So within each part, events and tasks with the only organization: what, when, how and even who when interactions are necessary with other functions.
It’s as simple as that. A management delivery model is not the result of a management innovation contest or a thesis in management science, it is simply writing down how things are done.
The real challenge is rather twofold: to make the principle accepted and not to make it a pile of useless and meaningless rules.
How to get a management delivery model accepted?
I assume that no one ever refuses what makes their life easier and the management delivery model fits well in this case. Go and say to someone “here are some practical sheets of all the things that are not obvious to you and that you don’t have the time to try and remember” and you will generally be well received.
We are not talking here, I remind you, about how to manage, just the basics not to forget about the operational and HR dimension of management or even business, so no risk of hurting egos.
But as always when you put a tool in place (yes, it’s only a tool) you have to give it some purpose and this purpose will come from the very method used to design the management delivery model.
How to design your management delivery model?
The risk to avoid is that your tool is seen as just another set of rules, when in fact it is only things that already existed but were poorly known and poorly applied, causing harm to both the employees and the organization.
So the management delivery model must be seen as something useful, that has added value and that makes sense.
A big mistake would be to design it based on the manager’s role as you conceive it: you risk forgetting things and, conversely, overloading it with unnecessary things.
We must not forget that a management delivery model is part of an employee experience logic, in which the manager’s role is major, and that he or she must therefore be part of the intellectual logic of the approach.
- 1°) The company makes a promise to the market, its customers and its candidates
- 2°) The manager and the organization must help the employee to keep this promise
- 3°) The organization must help the manager to help the employee to keep this promise
The starting point is the promise made to the market, to customers and candidates, and what it implies for the employee, regardless of his or her job. From the salesperson to the logistician, everyone is concerned by this promise and contributes to keeping it in one way or another.
To keep it, the employee needs skills, feedback, peace of mind, to be able to apply for jobs where he/she will be the most able to contribute to keeping this promise, to be in a sufficiently good physical, mental and nervous state, that the validations and arbitrations he/she needs to do his/her job are done in time, etc… Try this exercise and you will see that you will be able to link a large number of subjects to the simple fact of keeping this promise! Much more than you think. And very quickly you will even realize that you will want to extend the scope of the management delivery model beyond the “basic” things to include business processes! Personally, this is what I did very quickly.
The next step is to determine what the manager must do at his or her level to ensure that the conditions are met that will enable the employee to keep this promise. This is the heart of the management delivery model and it is essential to link each task of the manager to the employee’s expectations of the customer.
But we can’t put all the weight of the world on the manager to whom the company too often says “here are your objectives and get on with it”. The manager must also know what he or she is entitled to expect from the organization to help the employee. This is the third phase.
In fact, this requires some building work but a priori nothing needs to be created: everything already exists.
By starting with the customer, you give meaning to the process and make it indisputable. Who wants to go against the customer? And you make sure that everything that is necessary is made possible. The process of creating the management delivery model ensures that the organization is well aligned and equipped to deliver on its promise to the market and provides you with a ready-made storytelling to sell the result internally.
By making explicit what the manager can expect from the organization (and making it happen) you transform what can be seen as a constraint into a tool at his service.
The method also has a hidden advantage that I didn’t realize until afterwards. I had a lot of things in mind that I thought would be useful and that I wanted the managers to carry. But when I built the model I realized that they didn’t fit: I couldn’t connect them to something that helps the manager or helps the employee. It might have been nice to say “I’ve put this in place” but it would have been things that had no impact, therefore no use and that would have wasted the managers’ time. The construction of the management delivery model has therefore also allowed me to remove things that were inducing a workload without any benefit in return other than the satisfaction of having added something that contributed to complicate the organization.
The construction of the management delivery model is therefore an opportunity to ask yourself “why are we asking this of managers?”. “Who benefits? “What does it contribute to in the end? “Can we automate it or do it differently? You will realize that we love to implement things that complicate the lives of our subordinates for the simple pleasure of implementing them and seeing them work. So this is the opportunity to identify them and quickly abandon them.
Initially a lifeline for overwhelmed managers, the management delivery model contributes to a better employee experience, a better manager experience, and helps simplify and align your organization with the promise you make to your customers.