One thing that doesn’t change from year-to-year is the pursuit of new technology to support business and individual achievement. Thankfully, product experts, tech analysts, reporters and consultants are available to help you assess, integrate and use software, applications, platforms and systems. This has become crucial in the crunch to support remote work and a hybrid workforce.
Most companies need this advice because technology and the business processes they support are complicated. But technology isn’t the only thing that makes a company run smoothly. Given our current climate of understaffed departments, overwhelmed employees and pressured executives, burn out is today’s reality. And one way to meet this head on is by investing in management.
How Companies are Adapting
Clearly, collaboration tools are unifying workers. But the question now is how are you using these tools? Because stress, work and meeting hours are on the rise, according to The Wall Street Journal. People are spending twice the amount of time in Microsoft Teams meetings, responding in five or fewer minutes to Teams chats, and they are receiving 10 percent more emails after hours.
But what is considered “after hours” in the flexible company of today? Companies are getting creative in how they offer flexibility and work-life balance, including asynchronous platforms and workflows to give workers more control of when and how they work. Why isn’t this lessening stress? What gives?
Gallup research indicates the factors mentioned above aren’t necessarily the culprit.The underlying root of dissatisfaction can come down to “unmanageable workloads, unclear communication and lack of manager support.” In other words, ineffective management.
Others say Covid brought on heavy social change. Employees are rethinking the concept of community, how they view work, how both fit in their lives and how they want both to fit into their lives, says Fast Company.
Regardless, it takes a certain amount of humility and vision to admit something isn’t working, seek to understand why and chart a course to fix it. The act and art of management may be a secret weapon today, where there is so much distraction pulling our attention.
Perhaps the right tools represent one piece of the puzzle. The way you use them matters, as does making the most of your work time. Your productive hours might require an overhaul.
Given all of this, what comprises good management today?
Characteristics of Effective Management
Re-vision the Goal and Strategy for a New Work Dynamic
Taking your meeting or process online doesn’t necessarily make it work more effectively. How might you adapt meeting strategy and workflow? You may need to consider a number of variables, including:
Boundaries: When Are You Working (and Not Working)?
Whether you have a global, remote, in-person or hybrid work environment, there are usually a few hours when nearly all time zones align. This is ideal prime meeting time, when conversations should be focused.
How many meetings do you really need? That depends on your project load and schedule, but at Tikit we’ve found that quick 15-minute check-ins with immediate team members and weekly meetings with broader teams helps everyone stay informed and focused. Sometimes breakout calls or chats are needed, but they are usually focused on a specific topic. For the marketing team, this schedule gives us just enough internal information to update our radar screen but not enough to bog us down in meeting overload and redundant updates.
Not everything warrants a meeting, and that’s when collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams are invaluable. Sharing notes, recordings, videos and other preparatory resources in a group manner is much easier than tracking and organizing email. And it can provide context, so that when you do have a conversation, it’s productive.
Finding the right balance and method / structure to keep teams informed and able to move forward with projects is what you want to shoot for.
The flipside of having focused business hours is respecting each time zone or employees’ sign on and off times. Having agree-upon work schedule or cycle of some sort is important. Companies can provide flexibility, but there should be some clarity around when you’re available and when you step away or disengage. Many companies are getting better at acknowledging and celebrating employees’ extracurriculars. Respecting sign-off and weekends as personal time goes a long way with making employees happier at work.
Improve Work Quality with Planning: Set Realistic Deadlines and Breathing Room
When there’s a lot to do, it feels like you should spend time executing. You may feel that you’re getting more done by doing, but you’re likely leaving your team in an information vacuum or instilling unrealistic time frames. Ironically, spending time planning instead of taking action, is probably the smartest use of a manager’s time.
Create a plan. This is information you likely know: document what are you doing, why, who is involved, what is the estimated timeframe, anticipated result, method of measuring results. But good managers have a way of:
- Being realistic
- Anticipating possible obstacles
- Developing plan B, or way to change course
- Building extra time into the plan
The idea of under-promising and over-delivering is a classic for a reason. Sure, the powers that be will always want results faster, but planning is about delivering from a place of quality with a well-functioning team. Appropriate timetables demonstrates that you understand and value the work your team has to do to make it happen. And that goes a long way toward their satisfaction, motivation and overall commitment to their role and working for you. After all, employees leave managers, not companies.
Understanding Skill Sets of Managers and Specialists—and Hire Both.
Your team won’t be effective if you haven’t hired the right skill sets. A major misconception is that if someone is a great at performing a certain skill or task, they will be great at managing a related project or people performing said task.
No. Management is a specialty unto itself.
First, what specific skills do you need on the team, and how are they represented in the market? We’ve all seen job descriptions that read like the world’s biggest wish list. They are basically the combination of five different jobs. While most people desire to learn and grow, they have specific strengths. That’s what you want to focus jobs on, hire for and evaluate candidates on.
Some of the best managers I’ve worked with maintain the big picture while concurrently monitoring status of numerous projects. They spot where obstacles are occurring and see how to dissolve them. They are specific about the goal and deadlines of projects, taking time to give verbal and visual feedback. They think about what others need to perform, plan ahead thoughtfully, understand how to interpret data and move the needle.
Recognizing strengths has come in and out of vogue in business culture. But it seems pretty intuitive: if you are focused on work you do very well, won’t you—and your employer—be more successful? Sitting in your comfort zone isn’t lazy, it’s actually very smart. How might the stress and burnout described above be mitigated by this factor alone?
Managers Ask Staff What They Need and Discuss Their Tasks
Good managers tend to ask their teams what they need, sometimes during every interaction. Not only does this encourage communication, which is helpful for independent types whose default is figuring things out, it reinforces a team dynamic. It’s hard to feel isolated when someone is asking how they can help you.
It also keeps projects moving forward.
It’s particularly disarming when a manager runs through their task list before asking staff for updates. This practice helps employees see how their work fits into broader goals, and it also subtly reinforces that you’re a team.
These tips may only provide a starting point, but one thing technology has taught us is that even a small improvement or advancement can greatly enhance our experience. We can only benefit from equally investing in management alongside tecnology.