Managers are regularly criticised for their lack of communication, especially by those who work on the 'front line' such as the shop floor or in offices. We're always seeing feedback like this in engagement surveys carried out by organisations.
Employees on the shop floor often laugh at me when I tell them not to under-estimate how scary it is for some managers to talk to people. Why would they be scared? They're managers after all.
Most of us will be able to appreciate how daunting it will be for a shop floor employee to be called into the CEO or a senior manager's office, but the thought of the reverse also being the case sounds ridiculous. But it's true, and it's also very common. The thought of going into the 'territory' of the workforce can strike dread into the heart of many CEOs or senior managers - not many will admit it though!
This is at the heart of many issues I see. There's a constant desire for better communications from employees, they often criticise management for not listening. Management often criticise employees for not being 'engaged'. They don't understand why that monthly newsletter that gets emailed and pinned to the notice board isn't fantastic communication. They can see the workforce as negative and disengaged, but they don't see it as their fault.
For me it isn't about fault, it's about confidence.
So many managers are just appointed with no real thought to the development and support they need to become leaders. Signing a management contract doesn't trigger a miraculous process transforming them into brilliant leaders. It takes time, effort and practice. Many need regular support and coaching - as we all do when we're developing into a new role.
In my previous life as a HR professional in the corporate world, I made a radical suggestion as we recruited a group of new managers - I proposed we gave them some training and support in how to lead people! There was some pushback on the suggestion - after all, we gave them copies of policies and procedures - what else would they need?
We trained the new managers, and it was great. We had interactivity, fantastic discussions and dealt with real-life issues. We included the Trade Union who helped make it real.
What did the new group of managers do? They went and told the already established management team how great the session was - there was a request (almost a demand) for the same for existing managers. We gladly obliged. The number of times we heard these managers saying "really, I can have that conversation?" or "I wish we'd known this years ago" was incredible.
Leadership is so important - it makes all the difference. Managers need confidence and support to become leaders.
I'd be cautious of the 'coaching' approach too. Coaching is superb - if you have great coaches. The number of times organisations ask senior managers to coach people because of their status (rather than their capabilities) is incredible. Just imagine the damage you're doing asking an experienced senior manager with poor leadership capabilities to coach somebody. Status does not equal leadership competence!
One of the ways we can develop managers to become leaders is by enabling them to nip issues in the bud. One way we can do this is by developing the skills they need to help their teams sort out their own issues and have proper conversations. You can see more details here.
When was the last time you went onto the shop floor or into offices just to chat with people? Do it as soon as you can!