I read somewhere that one manages constraints and leads toward possibilities. Indeed, as a manager, getting things done and delivering services and products with the constraints of finite resources, including staff, within the time frame and the level of quality expected is a core of our duties. This responsibility gets even more difficult during stressful times brought on by budget cuts and increased mandates, but with no additional staffing to support the increased demands. However, It is too easy as a manager to get caught up in trying to get the most out of our staff in ways that may need to be more productive and produce unintended consequences. For example, to become more efficient during busy times, managers begin to micro-manage details, ensuring that staff are focused and are following procedures to minimize waste.
In some cases, new procedures are implemented to promote efficiency without realizing the additional time, energy, and effort to implement new procedures. Activities that are not considered part of completing projects and tasks are discouraged. For example, one-on-one meetings with the staff are eliminated as they waste time and take time away from projects. However, there may be more productive strategies than treating staff as machines and robots as units of resources. After all, our staff is human beings, driven by intrinsic motivations, with emotions, and more productive when engaged. This is where leadership is needed. Leadership has many definitions, but ultimately, leadership is about people. As I read once, you manage resources; you lead people.
As leaders, one of our roles in the workplace is cultivating an environment that promotes engagement, which should lead to increased productivity and improved quality of work. As I learned in one of my leadership workshops, engagement is the maximum level of personal satisfaction and productivity in the workplace. One without the other is not engagement. For example, one can be personally satisfied doing work that does not contribute to the organization’s goals. On the other hand, one can contribute to the organization’s goals yet they don’t feel personally satisfied.
As leaders, we must maintain touch with the idea that we must be available and build relationships with our staff. Managers must take the time to recognize their staff, acknowledge their contributions, and resolve staff issues. Having one-on-one meetings when staff can be heard and listened to is a very important activity on a manager’s schedule. Having lunch, taking a walk, or doing an activity with staff without talking about tasks are good examples of being available and building relationships.
How we also delegate matters. Giving orders in a command and control style does not work. Not when working in an environment that requires independent thinking and creativity. This style of managing only leads to resentment and staff not wanting to do more than what is expected from them. I’ve found that teams will go beyond what is asked of them if they know their managers care about them. Even small actions to show managers do care about their staff matter. Stopping by to say, “How are you?” means a lot to some. Taking the time to explain what is being asked of them in person instead of in an email that can be misinterpreted also helps.
As managers, don’t lose sight of the idea that our staff are human beings and not just units of resources. To be productive, managers must make themselves available and build relationships with staff to build an engaged workforce. Being short-sighted and giving orders to complete tasks can lead to unintended and counterproductive consequences.