effective managers

Your Managers Are Struggling. Here’s What They Need To Be More Effective.

By Baili Bigham

Managers have always had a tough job, but the events of this year have made managing even harder. In our 2020 Workplace Report, we found that most managers are struggling to perform, and direct reports are feeling the direct effects. To help leaders as they strategize new ways to uplevel their managers, we surveyed hundreds of managers and employees to understand what it is that managers truly need to become more effective.

2020 Workplace Report

But first, what makes an effective manager?

An effective manager is one who takes a human-centric coaching approach to managing rather than simply focusing on pushing business needs forward. Effective managers don’t just motivate their direct reports to perform, they increase the capability of their teams by helping individuals hone and leverage their unique strengths, create consistent feedback loops, and challenge their reports to reach their full potential.

Our CEO and co-founder David Hassell often says that “Managers are the lynchpin of any organization’s success.” Because when managers are effective, they boost the effectiveness of the entire organization.

Great managers positively impact all areas that drive organizational success, including employee engagement, growth and development, productivity, and attrition. To be effective, however, managers need the right tools, structure, and practices–but most people leaders lack this key element.

The top issues managers are dealing with today

Managers aren’t just working through their own issues, they’re also coaching employees through theirs. This additional responsibility is significant and has lead to managers feeling less prepared and more challenged than ever before. In fact, 65% of managers say they’re finding it more difficult than usual to perform their job effectively during the pandemic, and this feeling increases to 76% with senior-level management. 

There are endless reasons why your managers could be struggling today, including personal, financial, or health problems, but our survey unveiled two primary issues: 

1. The added stress of the pandemic
Most people are balancing more than ever before—both at work and at home. Managers have the daunting task of tending to their people’s emotional needs just as much as their work needs, and they don’t have the right practices in place to do it properly.

2. They’re spread too thin
Most managers (70%) are trying to support teams with five or more direct reports, making it more difficult to provide the psychological and job-related support employees need. 

With added stress and lack of time, managers are struggling to make the most of each meeting. But leaders can help free up time for managers and give them the tools to support their employees by encouraging regular, structured one-on-ones.

Increasing manager effectiveness through one-on-ones

Unsurprisingly, many managers find their one-on-ones very or extremely helpful in supporting their direct reports, but for direct reports to get the benefits they need, one-on-ones must be held frequently and consistently.

Over 80% of employees with at least weekly one-on-ones say they’re getting the support they need during the pandemic from their managers compared to 66% of employees with less frequent meetings. 

Whether in person or via video chat, these meetings help build trust, drive accountability, support development, and actively reduce turnover. Employees with infrequent one-on-ones are 1.4x more likely to say they are currently looking for a new job, and when compared to employees with less frequent conversations with their managers, those with at least weekly one-on-ones: 

Express more trust in senior leaders at their organization
Feel more comfortable bringing up problems and tough issues with their managers 
Are more frequently motivated to go above and beyond their role 
Are more inspired by the work they do 
Better understand their contributions and how they help drive the company’s overall goals 

Quality one-on-ones give people leaders uninterrupted time with their employees throughout the week. This time helps managers learn important information about their people, such as their primary goals, challenges, and unique strengths. And when managers use this information to create opportunities for employees, you’ll help them increase their overall effectiveness.

2020 Workplace Report

Baili Bigham is the Content Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, OKR tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360° reviews. When Baili isn’t writing, you can find her binge-reading a new book or strategizing ways to pet every dog in San Francisco. 

Image credit: Shutterstock


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