02 Apr Managers, Deliverers of Hope
Some time ago, I arrived to call on a tenured manager after a candid discussion with his region manager. The conversation was brutally honest and difficult. After years of management neglect, his inability to effectively manage his department now came into the light. Walking in the office, his facial and bodily demeanor spoke loudly of embarrassment, rejection and defeat. His white flag hung low. Very low. His conclusion…he had nowhere else to go and his career was over.
He lost hope.
This manager was disheartened – losing hope. No future in the company. To him, it was time to pack up and quit. And the message was painfully truthful and to the point. He was in the wrong role for his skills, knowledge and talent. It was a complete disservice – taking dreadfully long for management to communicate the subpar performance issues with him. The message was too clinical and delayed which surprised the manager and it magnified the problem even more. Management should have recognized his true talent and offered an alternate role for him to flourish – years before this conversation.
Shame upon shame… management should take the blame.
Once an employee loses hope in their work, performance plummets. Providing genuine (not false) hope encourages higher engagement and supports a colorful dimension to company culture. Hope supports and encourages a bright future ahead. It’s more than a monotonous job. Hope is an open door for a promising future brimming with career development and growth opportunities. It’s a lively expansive space in the hearts and minds of employees – that great proactive managers can fill – with coaching energy, relevancy, significance, and motivation. Hope gives employees enhanced assurance for a more secure future – where they are best valued for their best work in a “right-fit” role. Hope can be inspirational on an individual and collective basis.
Here are some suggestions of how a manager can make hope a reality to employees:
1. Be a student of your employees– what motivates them and where do they thrive? Review their roles and/or project successes in innovative ways (outside that stale and unrealistic job description) pulling out the ingredients of excellence. Evaluate their true talent early and help them develop well-suited responsibilities. Your employees are not robots but uniquely equipped for different and great work.
2. Evaluate the available seats – communicate the necessary and realistic expectations of the role and share what the employee does well. Is the role a right fit or not? A manager needs to explore where the employee can best contribute – leveraging their best-used talent. What is their best seat on the team bus? Once seated, don‘t assume they can be left alone. Visit often and challenge them to continually invest using their instinctive strengths for peak performance. The best sports coaches do this habitually.
3. Continuously communicate with candid clarity – with your employees where successes are found (and where weaknesses lie). Performance feedback highlights progress and raises the bar where they excel with their natural strengths. Don’t settle for average (an archaic metric). Develop joint (with employee) opportunities to invest in her/his strengths. If performance is sub-par – don’t use your ego to beat up the employee. Don’t berate, condemn or condescend. Respect their strengths, manage weakness and humbly speak with professionalism. And don’t insincerely overpromise hope and then under deliver (that’s bad).
4. Focus on today – avoid procrastinating and waiting until the last minute to discuss performance. Stay away from playing desperate cleanup. Don’t ignore the employee or treat her/him as an impersonal corporate statistic. Treat them with respect, trust and show some empathy. Help them see their value in the organizational mission and where they could thrive and add improved value. Keep hope at the forefront and fresh in your communication style with each employee. Stay ever present with their development.
Whenever I anticipated a complex conversation, where hope could quickly evaporate – I had to spend serious time evaluating the uniqueness of that person and their talent. My best service was to spend time with them, listen to their needs, evaluate previous reviews, ask questions, accentuate their strengths and find the proper tasks (or role) for stellar performance.
Your employees know their wheelhouse for their best work.Your role is to leverage to the benefit of the employee and the organization. To thrive, not fail. To perform with excellence.
Where could you give them the greatest hope (not a pipe dream) for the future?
There are many success stories with employees who thrive in refined or expanded roles or where management assisted them to move to another position. It took frequent management involvement and interest in their career growth and development. It was about honesty and authentic concern for the employee.
If you are a manager who cannot deliver a positive and caring message to an employee who is sinking and failing, partner with another manager who could sit with you to fill in your gaps. Find creative ways to communicate a direct and optimistic message of hope. And sometimes it’s just plain hard; especially when you have to let an employee go.
Your relationships with your team (and each employee) should be treated with upmost care; building trust, consistently measuring, inquiring and coaching them to solve their problems. Share your messages of hope often.
Manager, you are the one to deliver a message of hope to your team!
A good ending…after many bumpy conversations, we were able to save the manager. Hope was revived as he happily prospered in a new role becoming a valued contributor.