NextGen Know-How: Why ‘working managers’ don’t work

Leaders tasked with performing two jobs won’t do either effectively.

One of the top reasons leaders fail is the inability to get things done through other people. Whether it’s a lack of delegation, a lack of developing employees or not spending time on important priorities, managers who stay “in the weeds” are not effective.

Being a manager is a big responsibility that takes a shift in thinking from being a sole contributor. Managers are evaluated on the performance of their team, rather than on their individual performance. The competencies required for a manager and a regular staff position are completely different, and many managers fail to make the essential changes necessary to be successful in a leadership role.

I believe many organizations are setting their managers up for failure. There is a trend in more and more companies that is detrimental to the leader, the employees and the organization. It’s the concept of the “working manager”.

I first heard the phrase “working manager” from participants in my leadership programs. We’d be discussing the importance of coaching and developing employees, and a few participants would complain that they didn’t have time to spend with employees because they were expected to be working side by side with their staff, doing the technical work. One branch manager had fifteen employees, yet never had time to meet with them. She was expected to open accounts, take loan applications and work the front desk every day. This is not effective leadership—and it’s disturbing their organizations expected these people to be working managers.


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