Video Transcript

Hi, it’s David Patmore here from CAL Corporate Solutions. I just wanted to bring you a quick thought around a Harvard Business Review article I read recently that was entitled, Managers Can’t Do It All.

The synopsis of the article was that the role of the manager has dramatically changed with the events of the last two to three years, with many leaders left feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. So, let me read an excerpt from this article that I believe says it best. “After the pandemic, when companies and employees were forced to embrace the possibilities of flexible work, this was a watershed moment. It dramatically altered how and where work was done. Once employees were no longer tied to a physical workplace, managers lost the close control that they used to have over employees, performance and behavior. Also, employees began to realise that they could tap a greater range of job options, far beyond commuting distance from their homes. And these changes were liberating, but they placed even more of a burden on managers who were now also expected to cultivate empathetic relationships that would allow them to engage and retain the people they supervised.”

The first thing that we can see from this and the last two to three years is the emotional impact on leaders to meet employee demand, requiring engagement strategies that cultivate this connection. We all know that some leadership styles find this more difficult to apply than others without a significant skill support, and can easily end up feeling burnt out without the right structure around them.

Gartner reports that in a recent survey, 68% of leaders are overwhelmed, but only 14% of companies have actually taken steps to alleviate their burden. 75% of employees surveyed by McKinsey said the most stressful part of their job was their boss reinforcing the old saying that people join companies, but leave their managers.

The article went on to say, “We have closely observed the changing job of the manager, and we can report that a crisis is looming. The signs are everywhere.” But what is that crisis? Well, we’ve already seen that retention risk issues and loss of talent have increased in recent times dramatically. This places a high expectation on leaders to find solutions. Now we can bury our heads in the sand, but if we don’t have a clear strategy to combat this, the trend will only get worse. So what does it all mean? Firstly, this certainly won’t just fix itself will go away. So we need to acknowledge that the issue is real. Secondly, it’s going to require a partnership between organisational support and intentional leadership strategy so that we can stay at the razor’s edge of relevancy to our teams, motivational and skill needs.

Here’s a case study as well as some trend data. Microsoft found that when they supported their leaders to help teams do things like prioritize or nurture the culture and support work-life balance, employees feel more connected. Doing things like weekly one-on-ones during uncertain time led to a 54% increase in engagement, a 35% increase in productivity, with a 15% decrease in burnout. This is an example of organisational and leadership support partnership.

Other organisational trends we need to think through, like with the increase of flattening hierarchies, so many managers have been put in that place of player coach. Requiring them to work on team tasks, thus reducing cost, but making their lives a lot harder and demanding. This place is demand for today’s leaders, particularly in the flexible work models, to be strong people leaders, which acknowledge the greater demand for human connection. Things like building trust, aligning teams and embracing feedback have all become the high value traits leaders need. There’s also been a major shift from performance management to performance development where new skills such as creating these mindsets and skills training have become vitally important for sustainable performance.

Here’s a selection of some of the critical skills I believe leaders need to develop for the hybrid model. One of those would be how to build trust and develop inclusion, but strategically. Communicating well and often. The ability to drive focus with accountability. Creating a strong team culture, but in fragmented work schedules. Displaying empathy to avoid team burnout, and having strong emotional intelligence skills. Driving passion and purpose, in other words, using a high degree of spiritual intelligence, more value driven skills. This means people skills have now taken prominence over the hard skills and leaders will need a high level of these skills to lead a hybrid workplace model. It requires drive, collaboration, empathy, and compassion, resilience, as well as dealing with all of the ambiguity that comes with it.

Some organisations have taken deliberate steps to create a partnership model and actually reimagine what that role of a leader looks like as we move into this permanent hybrid work future. Now, this is a great approach as it marries the organisational support and the strategy, as the title suggests, because managers can’t do it all.

I hope some of these thoughts have resonated with your own leadership journey and have given you some thoughts or provoked some thoughts. I’ll put a link to the article below so those who would like to read it can.

Thanks for watching and bye for now.

Managers Can’t Do it All – HBR Article by Diane Gherson and Lynda Gratton