Why we need to redefine management to create a better workplace

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Article by Sathya Smith, CEO and Founder of Piper.

Management requires a unique combination of skills which not everyone is naturally equipped with.

Regardless of your previous role – be it in marketing, coding, sales, or accounting – the qualities of a good manager remain consistent. Many of the ‘soft skills’ necessary in management, such as emotional intelligence and leadership, have been deprioritised. Upon advancing into a management position, these skills need to be recognised and developed.

Managers’ success is imperative to employees’ success

Companies must redefine from the ground up what it means to be a manager in order to cultivate an inclusive and ambitious workplace. Why? Because the job of manager is not an afterthought but rather a role in and of itself and is key to the development of a team culture and, ultimately, performance.

Time and resources are limited for managers, and they are being tasked with things that they were never trained to do. With the pandemic and the move to remote and/or hybrid working, managers are finding themselves stretched more thinly than ever. Emphasis should be placed on managers’ attributes as perceptive and insightful leaders, enabling them to develop themselves and their team, professionally and personally. In light of this, a more human-centric approach towards management is needed, and it is now time that businesses and HR leaders reassess the tools and support on offer to achieve this.

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Two key areas to consider when reinventing management in the modern world are the difficulties of hybrid work and the significance of employee mental health:

Hybrid working

Hybrid working can create a disconnect between managers and their teams. Casual conversations in the office become planned calls, and managers are having to learn to read subtle cues through a screen rather than in person. Now more than ever, management has to be intentional rather than passive. Time must be split equally between those in office, and those working remotely so that no one gets left behind. Scheduling regular 1:1 meetings with the team is an effective way to build relationships. It provides the opportunity for managers to learn more about their employees on an individual level to gain further understanding of what they require to develop and better perform.

Remote working brings with it the blurred line between work and home life. Switching off at the end of the day has become harder, your phone is always on, your emails just a few taps away. People emulate behaviours they see, so it is crucial that managers are leading by example in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Encouraging employees to switch off at the end of the day, or take holiday when needed, means they are coming back to work rested, reducing the risk of stress and burnout.

Mental wellness

People are becoming more conscious of their mental health, and the importance an organisation places on employee mental wellness is a critical factor for both prospective applicants and existing workers. With CIPD reporting that 43% of employees find their organisations provides little to no support for mental health, managers must learn to be more mindful of their team’s mental wellbeing. It is imperative that more training is provided so that any indicators or warning signs can be recognised swiftly. Further to this, organisations should be offering support to managers so that they have the relevant knowhow to combat issues with mental health and offer solutions.

It is important that mental wellness is woven into the everyday. Creating a safe space within the workplace to discuss and improve mental health promotes respect and trust, allowing each member of the team to feel recognised as an individual. Using the correct tools, managers can be educated on how to broach these difficult topics to provide a comfortable environment for all.

Managers as champions

Managers juggle a myriad of responsibilities with little to no support. In order to promote both individual and team success, this needs to change.

About the author

Sathya has 15 years of management and leadership experience, and previously worked as Head of Partner Technology at Google for 12 years. While there, Sathya ranked in the 98th percentile of Google’s managers and took part in its 10-year-long ‘Project Oxygen’, a study aimed at uncovering and productising the attributes that make a high performing team manager.

An engineer by training, Sathya started her career at Ericsson as a Software Engineer. She went on to work as Chief Technology Officer at one fine stay (acquired by Accor) and a Venture Partner at London-based venture capital firm Local globe.

In her free time, Sathya enjoys angel investing in women-led companies and mentoring women in STEM.

Sathya Smith

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