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Article3 min read

Responsive managers: Enabling managers’ new roles

Business meeting in conference room with reflections on glass office

Stacia Sherman Garr

RedThread Research, Co-founder & Principal Analyst

We all know managers have had additional responsibilities put on them over the last 6 months: They are no longer “just” managers who also coach. In many organizations, they have taken on the roles of dramatic reprioritizer of work, checker on mental health and well-being, and facilitator of social justice conversations. To say it’s been a hard period of time is an understatement. 

Given the shifts in managers’ responsibilities, we held a roundtable to brainstorm and understand the answers to some critical questions:

  • How, exactly, do managers need to evolve their approach to better support their employees?
  • Given that, what is the role of organizations in enabling managers?
  • How should organizations do this when budgets may be constricting?

During the roundtable, which was attended by more than 30 leaders, we divided the attendees into 4 groups in which each group discussed different questions around what responsive managers and organizations can do in the current times to enable employees. In the mindmap at the end of this article, we provide a detailed overview of the points discussed.

But, as you all know, we like to focus on what’s most interesting. Below are our key takeaways from the session and

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Key Takeaways from the Discussion

  • Keep personalizing: For years, we’ve seen a shift toward personalized employee experiences. The pandemic has put that into hyperdrive, as everyone is faced with their own set of unique and different challenges. Attendees called out the importance of managers understanding individual communication preferences, work schedules, work environments etc.. Additionally, some leaders suggested that managers need to bring about a mindset shift from managing a team to leading a team. People leaders should get to know their team on an individual level in order to understand their needs.
  • Build a scaffolding to enable lower-risk decisions: This refers to having explicit margins of error in place when it comes to decisions (e.g., if sales drop by 15%, we will stop this experiment). This can help clarify decision-making rights, normalize failure, and de-risk decision making. A real-life example shared by a company included implementing a DACI (driver, approver, contributor, informed) framework which helps clarify the decision-making process, improve accountability, and allow them to track how decision making has transformed or shifted during times of change.
  • Democratize information: While not a novel idea, it was promising to hear several participants share how their managers and leaders are increasingly being open to sharing more information and context around actions being taken. Frequent 1:1s, check-ins, feedbacks, and pulse surveys were mentioned as some of the common methods being leveraged to increase transparency and enable trust.
  • Build trust not toadiesManagers that are trusted by their team and are thus successful in being responsive to their team’s needs share common characteristics such as humility, admitting mistakes, forgiving others, and just being more human overall. One of the best ideas shared was that managers should play the role similar to a can of WD-40 oil, helping their teams smooth over their mistakes and fix them, instead of holding grudges. These ideas clearly point to a shift towards a new management style, one that is empathetic and more human.

We are extremely grateful to the attendees who enriched the conversation by sharing their thoughtful ideas and experiences. This is an ongoing research effort. As always, we welcome any feedback or suggestions from you at hello@redthreadresearch.com.

Learn more about how Culture Amp is redefining managers

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