GTP21: A message to leaders - take good care of your managers

Orange and Blue UK

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2021 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2021 this involves 8 free online workshops taking place throughout March, and a virtual Growth Through People conference on 30th March. In addition, throughout the campaign the Chambers will be publishing thought leadership podcasts, videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Headline Sponsors – Aston University, BMet College and the University of Birmingham’s Work Inclusivity Research Centre - all workshops are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more and register to attend Growth Through People workshops here, and the Growth Through People conference here.

As we emerge from the shackles of Covid the full impact on businesses will become clearer. Some will flourish, some will flounder. The job retention scheme or furlough will soon end, loan repayments will soon begin, many organisations will have disappeared altogether, most will have restructured in one way or another and aside from a lucky few, most businesses will have shed or will have to shed some people.

Most commonly in this situation, middle managers, supervisors, project managers and team leaders become major casualties, with older and wiser managers cut for younger, less experienced and dare I say, less expensive people. Existing busy managers inherit additional staff as teams are merged and departments are amalgamated.

The overall impact is inevitable, fewer people will have to take on more responsibility, it always happens, that’s life and it will continue to happen every time we face a severe test. What is also inevitable is that this will have an impact on your managers’ levels of stress and anxiety, as well as affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

So what can you do to help mitigate the impact on your managers? How can you manage their mental health and wellbeing because another inevitability will be that the surviving managers will get squeezed from all sides, by colleagues, suppliers, clients and of course you.

Here are a few considerations to help you take more care of your key managers:

  • Judge less, help more- that’s right, stop being so judgmental and start asking “how can I help?” I see this repeatedly throughout businesses where leaders simply complain rather than offer help and support. Be their coach rather than their critic.
  • Set crystal clear objectives and expectations- there can be no room for misunderstanding and miscommunications. Be clear, be concise and be realistic. Written goals and plans with realistic timelines. 
  • Seek regular feedback- this is singularly different to micro-managing. Set clearly defined measures and reporting structures, regular touch points, check in with them rather than check up on them. 
  • Give regular feedback- don’t forget that feedback is a two-way street. Let them know when they’ve done a good job and encourage them through difficult periods. Oh and by the way, a simple “thank you” goes a very long way.
  • Have your managers back- it is most probable that a mistake or two will happen so make sure they know you have their back. Remember, ultimately their performance is a reflection of your own performance as a leader.

  • Treat them like your best customer- have you noticed how we never quit on our best customers? We never knowingly let them down, we always show up for them. Guess what, treat your managers like you treat your best customer. 
  • Show empathy- take a look at the world through their eyes. Everybody wants a piece of them, everyone else’s problem is their problem, everyone else’s priority is their priority. Cut them some slack from time to time. 
  • Look, listen, learn then lead- Let them think, let them work through stuff. The higher you are in an organisation your ideas sound like orders, so let your managers manage. Stop trying to prove how clever and smart you are and stop trying to win every conversation which only undermines your managers, negatively impacts on their confidence and eventually impacts their stress and anxiety levels. 
  • Show them you care- eyes and ears open all the time, notice things, pay attention and be present for your managers. Don’t just “hear what they say”. Listen attentively to them, give them your full focus and attention.

"People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care"

Mark Tonks
Managing Director
Orange and Blue UK

Specialists in leadership development, executive coaching, job fit benchmarking and profiling