OHS Canada Magazine

Don’t just tell managers they are important to your organization: Show them


August 8, 2022
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety Human Resources leadership Mental Health WSPS

Photo: Jacob Lund/Adobe Stock

By Shelley Pacheco, vice-president, people and culture, WSPS

“The cheese in the sandwich.”

“The glue that binds.”

“Multipliers of talent.”

These are all expressions we hear that describe the role managers play in our organizations. Any way you look at it, they are essential to organizational success, but playing in the middle has always been challenging, and, in our new world of work, it has become even more complex.

Managers must find a way to work through their stress and uncertainty while achieving results through their teams, supporting well-being, and sustaining organizational culture and values. It can feel like continually solving a puzzle with moving parts. Many find this difficult and, too often, opt to leave because they no longer have the inner resilience or energy to contribute fully.

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Are we setting managers up for success and inspiring them to stay?

In this Inc. article, Gallup CEO Jon Clifton notes, “…here we are in the post-pandemic age and organizations continue to think of every reason to retain their workers — from more pay, more perks, more flexible work options, and more mental health resources, to name a few — without considering the role and impact that the manager makes on the employee.”

He notes, “The single biggest decision you make in your job – bigger than all the rest – is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits – nothing.”

I agree wholeheartedly. Often, competent, capable employees who possess technical expertise validly earn promotions to management positions whether they genuinely aspire to the added responsibility or are ready with the soft skills needed to be effective.

Evaluating manager candidates on a strong foundation — well-developed emotional intelligence and the ability and desire to show genuine care and concern for staff — should play an important role in hiring decisions. These factors are as important as technical expertise or market knowledge.

Leaders and managers directly influence employees’ decisions to stay or go and have the power to impact performance, retention and engagement. We must be extremely diligent in selecting the right individuals to move into these positions and provide strong support and development to close skill gaps quickly so they feel confident and competent.

Managers need so much more than technical expertise to be successful

Employees will not stick by managers who disregard their mental health and well-being. Nor should they. Most organizations agree that psychological health and safety are as important as physical health and safety and good for the bottom line. However, many are still trying to figure out how to manage mental health in the workplace, and managers feel tremendous pressure to turn commitment and intent into action.

They are responsible for holding people accountable for performance while acting as a trusted mentor and coach and protecting employee health, safety, and well-being. Too often, newly promoted managers are expected to find the perfect balance and figure it out on their own.

That’s not a realistic or fair expectation — especially when you consider the complexity of our work environments and the toll that recent events have taken on most of us.

Some managers have an innate ability to lead and build followship. They have an authentic, adaptive style, are open to differing points of view, and are adept at finding the brilliance in their team members and helping them shine.

Others find this challenging because it doesn’t come naturally to them. However, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t get there in time if they had the proper support and tools to improve self-awareness.

We need to provide the same support that we ask managers to provide to employees

Managers feel the natural messy humanness that exists in our organizations the most. Becoming a strong, confident manager who can wade through this, feel inspired and continue to inspire and motivate others is a journey. It’s not about perfection, and there is no endpoint. It certainly isn’t something that can be developed in a few days or months.

Managers, regardless of experience, need their own system of support and guidance to feel competent and equipped to be successful in their roles.

Budgets are always top of mind, but organizations will reap benefits from investing in managers. Providing them with formal training and high-quality mentoring and coaching will help them grow into this expanded scope of responsibility as modern, inclusive, caring managers.

Most importantly, as leaders, we must take the time to connect with our managers personally, inspire them to stay, and enable and empower them to shine.

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