The old way of being a manager is over. No longer can managers drop orders from their place of position and expect people to obey. Command and control methods of leading teams can no longer ensure highly motivated and productive teams and are not conducive to employee engagement as well.
Organizations also have experienced a structural shift in the way work is conducted owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world of work embraced remote work and is now moving towards a hybrid environment, we are looking down the barrel of a long-term shift on how managers keep their teams performing optimally.
This shift has also made the manager and employee relationship asynchronous. With managers getting lesser visibility into the everyday activities of their team members, the role of the managers must shift from being directive and outcome-driven to being more pastoral and collaborative.
The Motivation Crisis
Along with all sorts of crises, the pandemic also brought in the motivation crisis at work.
Recent research revealed that 44% of employees were struggling at working because of a lack of motivation. A lack of communication or connection with others impacted 21% and had a direct impact on their performance and productivity.
While the early days of the pandemic were spent in figuring out how to keep the lights on, the attention now needs to turn towards identifying ways to help employees remain invested and motivated at work and connected with the organization. The role of the manager is of critical importance here since they are the bridges connecting the organization with the employee.
The Technology Acceleration
Organizations invested in technology to monitor employees during the pandemic to accommodate the shifts that emerged because of the pandemic. Digital solutions made it easier to collaborate while scheduling software, AI-enabled auditing tools, and automation were leveraged to deliver enablement at work in a location-agnostic manner.
The acceptance of technology and the pace of technology development has accelerated rapidly. With this acceleration, organizations are becoming more open to automating traditional tasks such as assigning work or nudging productivity…tasks that were historically done by managers.
Shifting Employee Expectations
Employees expect their managers to help them with their workplace activities. But, they also want to know that their managers are available to provide the support needed to have an elevated life experience, not just employee experience, since work and life are now seamlessly integrated.
The Culture of Empathy
Building empathy in managers is also becoming an organizational prerogative as it is now considered ‘the’ skill needed to lead successfully in the new work environment. However, according to a 2021 Gartner survey of 4,787 global employees assessing the evolving role of management, only 47% of managers were ready to lead with empathy.
Leading with empathy in the hybrid workplace also becomes an essential managerial trait as it helps managers contextualize performance better. Empathy helps managers transcend understanding and helps them walk in the shoes of their team members. With empathy, managers can build high-performing, engaged, and inclusive teams – something that is the need of the hour.
The Evolution of Managers
The role of managers has evolved and involves more than just winning the numbers game and managing workflows. This new work environment demands evolved managers whose primary role is that of an enabler. Both new and experienced managers need to bring about a strategic shift in the way they manage people, lead with empathy, and build trust bridges across the organization.
Experienced managers need to now understand and identify new ways to connect and effectively communicate with their team members, identify their needs proactively and help them progress along their career paths. They need to become the enablers of productivity, rather than be the keepers of productivity. They have to help their team members remain on the path of growth by enabling contextual coaching and helping them build a network in the virtual environment. At the same time, they also must enable the same for themselves. Experienced managers need to proactively identify their critical skill gaps and work on closing them.
New managers need help to settle into their new roles. It can be infinitely hard to build networks and connections in a virtual environment. Along with this, many new managers need a little hand-holding to manage responsibilities such as developing people, creating accountability, driving execution, and applying their EQ to lead with empathy.
Additionally, both new and experienced managers need to develop individual and team resilience to contribute towards building organizational resilience.
The Road Ahead
Organizations realize that the training and development needs of their managers have evolved. Just like how organizations accommodated the shift from the physical to the virtual, they need to accommodate the shift their learning and development programs offer.
Along with formal training sessions, organizations need to equip managers with informal learning networks to help them seek guidance and help proactively. Peer coaching emerges as a valuable tool to bring about a step-change in manager development and helps managers mold winning behaviors and mindsets that drive better outcomes.
Peer coaching helps managers achieve their goals by establishing rapport, identifying goals and the gaps that impede achieving this goal. Peer coaching is highly contextual and is an informal and non-judgmental space, which makes it more effective in driving behavioral change by reinforcing learning.
Both new and experienced managers need peer coaching to succeed in today’s digitally transformed work paradigm. Only with peer coaching managers will be able to navigate the evolved demands of their job roles, learn new skills and imbibe a growth mindset. It helps them become more adaptive and iterative towards success, both of their teams and their own.
With peer coaching, managers stay on the path of continuous learning. They get to move away from the traditional command and control form of leadership towards identifying their unique styles by building their self-awareness.
In today’s competitive business environment organizations have to ensure that their new and experienced managers have the tools they need to succeed in the workplace and help others succeed as well. Peer coaching adopts a human-centric learning path that contributes to a culture of continuous learning by addressing their individual needs with clarity and context. Better manager performance, highly motivated teams, and engaged employees emerge as consequences of these actions.
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