Manager Effectiveness: It's Time for a New Playbook

Name a metric that your org cares about right now. Employee engagement. Productivity. Customer satisfaction.

Whatever KPI you’re thinking of, I’m willing to bet that one of the key drivers is Manager Effectiveness.

Managers have a huge impact on people’s experience at work. And, in turn, customers’ experience with your company.

But the pandemic fundamentally changed what it means to be a good manager.

During the throes of the COVID-19 lockdown, managers were called on to act as therapists, confidants, and perhaps the only social connection point a person had during their day.

Then, as the immediate health threat subsided, managers were called to play a new role, acting as company cheerleaders - or hall monitors - to get butts back in seats.

Those were hard jobs. Jobs made harder by constantly changing guidelines.

But now, most of us have reached something like a steady state.

And regardless of whether we like our new equilibrium or not, most members of the C-Suite are pushing their organizations to refocus on operational acceleration.

I think many of us Managers are excited by the prospect of some stability. But we’re finding that some of our old playbooks are no longer working.

What it means to be a good manager looks different now than it did before the pandemic.

  • Before the pandemic… You most likely led a team that was seated alongside you in the office. Now, even post-RTO, many teams are more distributed.
  • Before the pandemic… You may have led a small team that reported up through several layers of management. Post-”delayering,” many of us have flatter org charts.
  • Before the pandemic… Most of us were in the office 5 days a week. Now, it’s more common to have 2 or 3 anchor days and be remote the rest of the time.

These shifts in how we work have changed what it means to be a good manager.

But very few organizations are deliberately coaching managers on what “good” looks like in this new work model.

If we were running this year’s Manager Offsite at your company, here’s what we’d want your frontline leaders to know:

Insight 1: Isolation is the strongest predictor of “quiet quitting.” And low manager engagement is a big contributor to feeling isolated.

Old Thinking: One-on-ones are nice to have, but skippable. You probably just saw each other at the coffee maker this morning.

New Guidance: One-on-ones should be treated as sacrosanct. If you’re meeting with your direct reports less than once every 2 weeks, you’re doing it wrong.

Insight 2: People’s work networks shrink when they’re remote. That’s mostly driven by a decline in cross-functional collaboration.

Old Thinking: ICs depend on their managers to have close relationships with the higher ups.

New Guidance: ICs count on their managers to have relationships that span across the organization.

Insight 3: Anchor Days have concentrated a week’s worth of collaboration into 2 or 3 days. Many ICs struggle to cram their individual work into their non-office time.

Old Thinking: Creating an esprit de corps is critical. Managers need to focus on building a strong team culture.

New Guidance: Protecting focus time is a manager’s top priority. The best managers are hyper-focused on helping direct reports make the most of their time.

Managers are the lynchpin of your company.

If what “good” looks like has changed, we need to make sure they know why – and what to do about it.

We’ve made it easy to get the word out.

Share this 8 slide deck to help your frontline managers focus on what matters most.

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