Goodbye Traditional Manager

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Goodbye Traditional ManagerWe all know that the traditional relationship between companies and its employees is changing. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to find three generations working at the same company. Indeed, each generation has its own perspective on life, work and what is important. In fact, we could posit that the diverse points of view are more a function of age than generational sequence. However, many business management experts have come out to state, “the days of the traditional manager is over.”

As the first line of research is surveying the field, there have been some consistent observations:

  • More flexible workspaces: 74% of employees have the ability to move to different areas and locations to do their work.
  • More flexible work time: 52% of employees say they have some choice over when they work
  • More remote working: 43% of employees work away from their team at least some of the time.
  • More matrix teams: 84% of employees are “matrixed” to some extent.

Most workplaces are becoming more project-based that requires employees who can become interested in solving new problems and innovative thinking as well as team interaction. This fact has blurred the lines of rank and leadership and can cause dis-harmony if not handled with a different approach from managers. Teams are much less top-down and much more collaborative. Many universities have adapted their curricula to include more group projects in an attempt to cultivate collaborative skills. However, many companies have been slow to adopt a  more collaborative and egalitarian culture. New graduates enter the workplace with a new set of expectations from management and can become easily disillusioned with the more traditional chain of command and top-down structures.

Management is evolving much more toward coaching and away from management. Managers are required to not only have the technical-business expertise but also the ability to analyze personalities, be more empathetic and more professorial in their approach to training and motivation. However, the ability to identify and train managers in the more collaborative style has not been fully developed. In fact, there is still an open question as to whether leadership can be learned or is it an individual personality trait? As a result, a company may find it difficult to develop an effective collaborative middle management level. Indeed, many of the more senior managers from other generations with different ideas on how to manage can create confusion for workers.

The current trend in management is to be lean, agile and collaborative. Yet, this goal can be inefficient at times. Businesses-more than ever-are still held accountable for producing measurable results and time constrained solutions.

Often, in this new transition to employee ownership of projects, companies can overestimate the workforce’s levels of ability and motivation. The idea of company loyalty and cheerleading about “the team” can become counterproductive if management cannot convince its employees that it is sincere in its promises and aspired vision for the company.

More Autonomy in the Workplace

Evidence shows that there is a correlation between increased performance and employee engagement when employees have more independence at work. However, there are many variables to consider such as: is the employee a good match for the project? Is the employee a self-motivated person or in need of close supervision? Can the company afford to turn workers loose without incurring additional costs such as costly re-work, or low worker morale due to failure to perform?

There is no doubt that as long as companies employ people, there will need to be some sort of management structure to develop talent to a point where they can collaborate as well as work autonomously. Indeed, managers need to become more like mentors than managers.

Setting expectations

Manager-mentors will need to evaluate their staff and be able to set reasonable expectations. However, expectations will need to come with clearly defined accountabilities. Being able to motivate with a velvet glove must be accompanied with some steel. This can be a difficult balance if the employee selection process is not in line with the job descriptions and input from the departments. It is not uncommon for an employee with excellent skills and motivation to become dissatisfied with the work environment and leadership if expectations are not clearly defined and aligned with actual practice.

The Future Manager

Just like today’s talented coaches, the manager of the future will need to be a mixture of psychologist, teacher, and dispenser of accountability. It has always been spoken that managers are best when they train themselves out of a job. However, Pollyanna  as that may sound, it is up to the top levels of management to develop a system that rewards managers who are top-notch developers of human resources.

Of course, managers have specific goals to achieve besides development of staff. As a result, HR departments will need to develop more synergy with the operational department heads to make sure they fully understand the actual corporate culture and how managers actually develop staff and what expectations they have. Indeed, that information is key to developing a meaningful job description for new hires.


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