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United we Stand?

As a leader, one of your most important functions is the support and development of your direct reports. Specifically, if you have managers that report to you, it is critical that you coach, develop and support them. Part of your role is to make sure that they are obtaining the knowledge, skills and abilities to ultimately (potentially) succeed you in your position. At the very least, in the day to day running of your operations, it is of utmost importance that you are effectively enabling your employees (and your managers) to do their job(s). It is of critical importance that this be done in an environment of trust.

When it comes to managing staff, two of the most important elements that any manager has in their toolkit are credibility and respect. In my opinion, respect is earned and credibility needs to be established. Credibility can be established via technical and/or managerial competence. Managers need to be viewed as credible by their staff, that United we standway, their employees will want to go to them (and accept) for their coaching, direction and feedback. Managers need to be viewed (and supported) as the go to person for their staff. If there are issues within the department, with the employee’s performance, or the way the work is done, the manager is the resource to which an employee needs to consult with. Obviously as the leader of a manager(s), you are an additional resource that employees can come to if the employee has tried to work things out with their manager; however, you cannot position yourself as being the de facto manager by subverting the credibility of your manager.

Here is the crux of what I am getting at – as the leader of a manager(s), it is paramount, if you want a successful management team, that you do not undermine the very managers that report to you. You simply cannot be an enabler and encourage employees to do an end run on their manager simply because they don’t like what they have been tasked to do or because change is required and they are not comfortable with it, or they simply do not like the performance feedback they are getting. By enabling your managers’ direct reports and allowing them to constantly bypass your managers whenever they feel like it, you are completely undermining your management structure. The message you are sending to employees is that it is ok to not communicate with their manager. Your role is to coach this employee to on how to open up dialogue with their manager. Additionally, if you are sensing a theme or pattern, it is YOUR responsibility to have this dialogue and coach your manager and help them improve. It is NOT your role to scapegoat your manager or hang them out to dry to make yourself look good. As Machiavellian as that sounds, I have seen and experienced this type of behavior and ‘leaders’ that act this way, believe it or not, someone think they are promoting their own status in the organization by doing this!

As a leader of managers, you must support the development, growth and credibility of your managers – the way to do this is by presenting a united front so to speak. I know from first-hand experience how damaging it can be to report to someone who undermines your authority and credibility as a manager. Many years ago (many, many) I reported to someone at an offsite location who allowed staff at all levels to call him up at any time to vent, complain, etc. I think this was their way of trying to stay in the loop on things and keep their finger on the pulse, but it was done in all the wrong ways. The problem was that I would often hear, out of the blue, about staff concerns for the first time, or I would be caught off guard by information being presented in a distorted way. Essentially, my manager and created this subversive communication loop that diminished my effectiveness (for their own benefit). If this manager had, at first, re-directed staff back to me for further discussion, it would have created a more supportive and credible environment. Instead what happened was that he created and fostered an environment of distrust. It had me and my management team constantly on edge as we didn’t always know who was saying what to whom and what things employees would escalate directly to him (i.e. didn’t like their performance feedback, or a departmental decision that was made) simply because they knew they had that direct pipeline.

I was fortunate in that situation that my former manager moved on and their replacement firmly believed that managers needed to forge effective relationships with their staff and the only way to do so was through open communication and building trust. He believed that without relationships built on this type of foundation, managers simply could not be effective in their roles. To this day, I still carry that mantra forward and believe that if you want to be an effective leader, you simply cannot openly and directly (or indirectly) undermine your managers’ credibility in any way shape or form. If you are doing this to your managers, than I would submit that one of you (yourself or the manager) is no longer necessary in their role.  Better yet, read here to see if this describes you…… As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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