The manager in 2021: a change leader according to Talentsoft

2021 has brought managers face to face with the duality of their role: keeping the machine running and getting the best out of it in terms of performance, while at the same time leading the change that the complexity of the economic, competitive, human and technological environment makes necessary.

This is a paradoxical injunction that they have been aware of for ages, and which they have more or less accommodated in the past by prioritizing the business and so much for the change and adaptation that took place when there was bandwidth for it, i.e. rarely. In their defense, it is extremely difficult to make “run and build” coexist within a team, especially when the organization wants to make the most of the existing potential without leaving time for the rest.

But in the last two years, this approach has shown its limits: the health crisis and its impact on the organization of work and operations has forced managers to do both at the same time and, therefore, to rediscover, or even discover for some, the role of “change leader” that they had little opportunity to take on.

The reason I’m talking about this topic today is because I just came across a very interesting little e-book from Talentsoft called “The Role of the Manager in 2021“. It was released in 2021 but is still relevant today.

One fact: there will be a before and after COVID

Some will say that the ebook starts by pushing open doors, but things are always better when the starting postulate is established.

The crisis has accelerated the digital transformation of businesses: this is a fact, but one that I think is debatable. Indeed, if the use of tools has logically increased, I still doubt that their use is the most relevant, as businesses have tried to do remotely as they did in the office but using tools, nothing says that the soufflé does not fall back once back in the office.

Employees have new aspirations. Again, my reading is a bit different: I don’t think they have such different aspirations than before, but the difference is that they have become much less negotiable than in the past.

But in the end it doesn’t matter, the conclusion is the same: change is necessary and it doesn’t matter if the COVID crisis is the cause or the catalyst.

The limit of French-style management

In order to get into the real world, an explanation of the limits of the French management style follows. Well, it all depends on which version of the ebook you read because Talentsoft has taken a rather clever approach here: the French version (here) talks about French-style management and the English version (here) offers a more macro reading of management across Europe.

Rational rather than instinctive, centralized and hierarchical, promoting quality operational staff to management positions rather than people with real managerial skills, it is presented as an out-of-date model for various reasons.

These include goal setting that has not changed in decades, lack of recognition of soft skills and others.

Europe is not the United States

If you read the English version you will have a comparison between management in Europe and in the USA and this is a point that I find very relevant and that is missing from the French version. Too often we refer to studies that concern the world of management and HR in the US which, for cultural reasons, is totally different from what we know here. Studies that, therefore, struggle to convince European decision-makers who can easily take refuge behind an argument as old as the hills: the MCID for “my country / company is different”.

Without going into detail, you will learn, among other things, that US businesses have developed a more important culture of “care” than in Europe (although I would have liked to see a benchmark between the northern European countries and the others) and that where Europeans think more in terms of team balance, Americans have a more individualistic approach to the contribution of each person to collective performance.

Knowing that there is no such thing as a European management style and that we are talking about very macro trends here, I will take this with all the necessary precaution, but it does show that the US model is perhaps more resilient and adapted to remote working on the one hand and that, if the two cultures are different, the US model seems to be more suited to the current challenges than the European model in general and the French model in particular.

Which manager to lead the change?

To ask the question of the typical manager to lead the necessary transitions is to ask the question of what are his primary qualities.

The manager must be able to communicate more but, above all, wisely so as not to add to the existing noise in a distributed team. I notice that the existence of clear norms is put forward (I had already said that the post COVID business will have more formalized operations) as well as the need for the manager to become a connector (a point that Yves Morieux identifies as one of the ways to fight organizational complication).

In a business that will have to move towards a results-oriented culture, it will also be important for the manager to be clearer about the expected results and the way they are measured.

How to support your managers?

You have two options: bet that you can recruit managers who check all the boxes or train those who don’t. The ebook urges you to take the second path, since according to a Gallup report, only 1 in 10 people are innately talented managers.

Then, you are offered a methodology borrowed from Gartner to define the profile of the “ideal manager” and to set up the pathways to reach the target.

But the most important thing, in my opinion, is not there. We are told that it is essential to offer alternatives to management, i.e. to offer your employees other career development paths than the managerial one. From my point of view, if this had been effectively put in place, HR would not have had to go and do the work of managers during the COVID and this is essential to avoid what I call the double penalty: losing both operational performers to gain bad managers who sometimes did not even want the job!

Conclusion

An ebook that will not change the face of the world by new revelations and a magic method but that has a double merit to formalize a problem that everyone is aware of and to stimulate the reflection on the subject.

One should never take reports and white papers at face value: sometimes their hypotheses and proposals are questionable or their answers do not work in a given context. But if they allow everyone to start thinking about how to determine “their” model, that is already an excellent thing.

Bertrand DUPERRIN
Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
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