How to Get Your Managers to Manage

By Heather Foley

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If your business isn’t growing quickly or producing enough, you may be left scratching your head. You may have employed great people and your managers may be very conscientious and hard working. And yet, when you consider the resources you have against the progress you’re making, you mind find yourself wondering.

What’s the answer?  Well, it could be that you’re suffering from a common business ailment: managers who don’t manage.

Picture the scene: you look at your managers and they’re extremely busy, appearing to do lots of vital things. You glance over at their teams and they’re very calm, even relaxed. Is this a familiar scene?  If this is the case, it’s likely that your managers were once terrific individual performers who were promoted. Since then, they’ve possibly believed that the way to achieve success is to do the work themselves, brilliantly.

If things continue this way your managers will burn out, their teams will be bored as they’re never stretched and the company won’t grow, meaning your best people will leave through lack of opportunity.

You clearly need to remedy the situation as soon as possible, for everyone’s sake. A six point plan is what you need.

1. Job description

As a priority, write a detailed job description for your managers. It should outline that their responsibility is to maximise the value of the resources available to them, including their people, to further the company’s objectives. They need to be setting the individuals in their teams stretching and fair objectives. At the same time they need to invest in their team members’ personal development, motivation and engagement.

2. Train

You may see that there are some key skills missing in your managers, including:

  • Delegating: the ability to effectively allocate work to the right person
  • Objective setting: confidence in setting stretching and fair objectives that are aligned to the company’s goals
  • Prioritization: the discipline to review all activities and prioritise wisely urgent and important tasks
  • Communication: the skills to communicate effectively in many ways with different people across different situations.

3. Consequences

It’s vital to make clear to your managers the consequences of doing the work themselves, rather than managing others to do it. They need to see that there’s only so much that they can achieve themselves and that their job is to achieve more by managing their team properly.

If they make the transition to genuine management, they will have a rewarding career because they will be adding value to the business. If they don’t, they will need to return to being an individual contributor.  This is not intended as a threat. Management is not for everyone and people can enjoy brilliant careers as individual contributors.

4. Set objectives

Of course, you will be practising what you preach. You can set your managers clear objectives requiring the whole team to work effectively and efficiently. As ever, these objectives need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) and need to be agreed by your managers.

5. Review

In the early stages of this new way of working, it’s useful to set regular and frequent reviews. They will provide you with an opportunity to ensure the managers are on track. They will also be an invaluable opportunity for you to coach your managers, keeping them motivated and enthusiastic as they make the difficult switch between doing and managing.

6. Reward

Critically, you need to scrutinise how your managers are compensated. There’s no point in urging them to manage and then rewarding them for individual performance. Their rewards should now be clearly aligned to how well they manage their teams.

Once you have a team of managers actually managing, you’ll soon witness a transformation in the company. Growth and success will be inevitable, morale and engagement will rise and you’ll feel more confident that the business is actually being managed.  Now, isn’t that worth having?


Heather Foley is a consultant at, a UK-based HR consultancy, specialising in employee surveys and 360-degree feedback


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