Many managers feel that they have to be present and available to staff at all times. If they aren’t, they fear, problems will go unchecked, and staff won’t feel supported. The downside of this view is the waste of time that results from staff going to the manager to fix a problem when they could have fixed it themselves. If this happens too frequently, you may not be spending enough time setting your staff up for success.

How to support your staff when you are not there
  • Provide the information they need to understand the expectations of their role and priorities. According to Gallup, only about half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. You can begin by providing guidance in your employee’s job description and work plan. Engage them in your organization’s strategic planning process, and transparently link their priorities to those of the organization.
  • Communicate clear policies and protocols to keep operations on track, to monitor progress, and to identify when things are off track. Provide options for follow-up in keeping with the importance and urgency of the situation.
  • Coach staff to use their initiative to attempt to solve work issues and problems on their own before coming to you. If they aren’t getting along with someone, for example, they should be trained in strategies to deescalate and resolve conflict. If the I.T. system is down, they should change to plan B and notify appropriate technical support to fix the problem.
  • Let your staff make mistakes. In other words, support an action that staff took which might not be exactly what you would have done. If you frequently criticize their decisions, staff will conclude that there’s no point to making a decision on their own. This can be a difficult but necessary part of enabling staff to work independently. To prepare to support staff in this way, consider the types of mistakes you will allow staff to make, and provide encouragement to help them grow when they err. Also decide the kind of mistake you don’t want staff to make, and clearly state your expectations of when they should consult with you. For example, you may give your staff leeway on how to share information with clients about a change in programming, but require them to stay on message when sharing information about a staff member the client knew, whose employment was terminated. In the latter example, you would let your staff know to consult with you if the client gets very upset or wishes to complain.
  • Let your boss and others in the organization know about your staff and team’s work and contribution, and any need for support to enable them to perform at their best. Encourage cross-organizational problem-solving task groups to address shared issues. Support your staff’s participation in these task groups.
How to add value when you are there
  • Walk around to check that people have the tools and resources they need to do their work. Be proactive to identify and address potential issues, such as equipment failure.
  • When you do talk with staff, make it meaningful for both of you. Ensure that you are trained and practiced in the ability to communicate with your staff; use listening and inquiry skills to hear what they have to tell you, so that you can share what is most import to help them with their job.
  • Give positive encouragement and feedback, when due, to support good performance, and do the same for poor performance.

In sum, managers are the staff’s touchstone to the life of the organization. Take care that you don’t become a bottleneck or obstacle preventing them from understanding their role, using their initiative, or getting the support they need. Be the enabler they need to contribute their best.

If you liked this blog post, you might also enjoy, Good Morning Tips for the Manager.