Successful Managers… at a Cost

Working with businesses has led us to meet a large number of managers who are very successful at what they do. Their staff love them, the numbers look good, customers are happy… essentially all the right messages that a business owner wants to see from his managers. However… when speaking to the manager, we get undertones of tiredness, a feeling of being too stretched, not being up to things sometimes and an overall feeling of inadequacy that is there in the background but that the manager will never raise or speak about since that feeling does not seem to be in line with the outward success that the manager has. It starts to sound like the highly successful manager that everyone looks up to is internally struggling to survive and nobody, besides the manager, has a clue about this.
Our work leads us to speak to the manager and try to understand the reasons for this great dissonance between what is perceived and the manager’s reality. The drivers for this situation can be various however they can broadly be summarised into 3 groups:
  1. Skills – Discussion and analysis with the manager frequently leads us to identify that a specific skill is weak or missing in the manager and as a result s/he is pushing harder and overcompensating in other areas which tends to wear them out. Missing or weak skills are one of the most common issues yet also one of the easier to fix. Once the manager recognises this and acknowledges the need for improvement, some training or coaching typically helps the manager work wonders;
  2. External expectations – Situational analysis of such situations sometimes leads us to identify scenarios where the manager’s superiors have unrealistic expectations of the manager, company or performance. This tends to load more on the manager who then organises the resources to achieve. The reality here, however, is that the manager ends up sandwiched between his/her superiors and the staff. While shielding the staff from the top and organising the staff to drive the business, the manager ends up taking on more than is realistically feasible with the consequence that results are seen but the personal cost is high;
  3. Personal situations – While this would seem to be the most obvious reason for such situations, our experience shows that the Skills Gap or External Expectations tend to be the major drivers. If the first two go unchecked then a Personal Situation can arise as a consequence. Besides these induced personal situations, we have met managers who were going through situations in their personal life or even who were seeking changes in their professional lives. These situations were giving rise to the internal tensions the manager was feeling despite the external success. Discussing these issues and helping the manager work through them tends to enable more understanding and support of the manager which leads to the potential achievement of results.
Working with these managers has always led to solutions being found for the benefit of the manager and the company. The fascination of these situations, and the challenge, is that the end solutions were frequently simpler than imagined and they were also not always what was expected since our thoughts are usually conditioned by our immediate experiences and views. Whatever the solutions and whatever the direction taken, each plan for the way forward always needs to be something that will benefit the manager personally yet also benefit the company in the long run. The plan itself and its execution also needs to take continuity, stability and longevity into consideration. If you would like to discuss more about these aspects of success please contact CMG Consulta.