Managers usually have a lot on their plate. Maybe they’ve been promoted because of their excellent technical ability, then get thrown in at the deep end to manage a team with little or no training. Maybe they’re required to balance leading a team with hands-on tasks and targets, so in essence, two roles in one. Either way, there’s no doubt, management can be a stressful and lonely journey. So how can managers develop leadership qualities that enable them to not just manage, but also guide, inspire, innovate and empower to get the best out of their people?
A large part of the solution is, of course, appropriate training, so managers learn what leadership qualities are and how to develop them. But after a course or two, do managers automatically have all the leadership skills required to be inspirational role models and will they be able to maintain these attributes in every situation? With the ongoing pressure of targets and deadlines, mixed with the constant challenges that come with managing people, the chances are your managers need ongoing support to be great leaders.
Part of this support should always involve looking after the wellbeing of your managers AND helping them to put their own wellbeing high on their agenda so that they can be the professional, motivational and authentic role models that you would want, and expect, your leadership team to be in all circumstances.
To consider this point further, let’s compare two managers:
Manager A is passionate about work and will do whatever is needed to get the job done well. She coaches and mentors her team so each member feels supported, accountable and enthusiastic about their role within the organisation. Manager A does work late from time to time but she is very health conscious and always ensures that her personal wellbeing strategy gets implemented each week. This includes a walk at lunch times in order to clear her head, eating fresh, nutritious food at meal times, knowing it helps her energy levels and ability to stay focused. She gets to a class at the gym at least twice a week which helps her manage her stress and feel energised and Manager A also has a coach who helps her to reflect on how she manages her team and how she can improve her leadership qualities. She’s learnt how to practice mindfulness as she goes about her day so she can make good judgments. Whilst she does get stressed about the mountain of work that she always seems to have, it rarely overwhelms her because she feels confident that she has the right skills and ability within her own skill set and across her team. When something challenges her, she discusses her ideas with her coach and so she knows that she’s on the right track. By the end of a busy and productive week she feels she can relax with her family and recharge fully. Manager A is not just well, she’s thriving.
Manager B is also extremely committed to her work but whilst she once shared Manager A’s attitude to do whatever it takes to get the job done, she’s starting to become drained. Whilst she knows she has some good people in her team, she’s always in a rush and has a tendency to tell them what to do rather than take the time to listen to their ideas, which has meant they’ve gradually become disengaged. She’s doing more and more of the work herself to pick up the slack resulting in lots of late nights at the office and less time for family, fitness or any other elements of a personal wellbeing programme. Manager B is finding her stress levels are impacting her ability to get a good night’s sleep and she often comes to work feeling tired and irritable so her team feel less inclined than ever to talk or listen to her. The more overwhelmed that Manager B becomes, the more her ability to think creatively and find solutions declines and she’s starting to lose confidence in herself. She’s getting very run down and catches endless colds which no one in the office thanks her for. Manager B has lost the respect of her team, feels incapable of engaging and motivating them and her own health struggles are impacting them too. This situation will soon spiral out of control with performance, engagement and attrition all becoming big issues for manager and team.
There are clearly some big differences between Manager A and Manager B, yet they could’ve easily started off as the same person. Wellbeing can’t be the only topic covered in your leadership development training. However, supporting and developing wellbeing should most definitely be on your agenda if you expect your managers to perform as professional, motivational leaders that inspire and engage with their teams in a way that brings out the very best in them.