The Power of the Effective Active Manager

Are there teams that consistently perform better than others in your organisation? Often, the key differentiator is the style and effectiveness of the team’s manager. An active manager follows up regularly with the team, proactively identifies and resolves issues and encourages the sharing of ideas. A passive manager believes no news is good news and does not give feedback to their team or set ambitious targets. Research has shown that poor leadership can negatively impact employees’ motivation levels and productivity – reducing a company’s competitiveness and creating an unpleasant work environment.

But is it fair to play the blame game? Frequently employees are promoted into a leadership position without receiving any training. Rightly, companies want to financially reward their best performers, but rigid pay bands lead to promoting ‘doers’ into leadership roles to achieve this. But is this the right move? When the two skillsets are so different we must question if the best doers are the best managers and give managers the support they need to help their teams succeed.

So why is it difficult to transform someone into being an effective active manager? Many people struggle with addressing issues, especially when it’s a friend or they are used to doing things the same way. After all, who wants to come to work to have a difficult conversation with someone they see for 40 hours a week? Having work assigned to you and being checked up on can be misconstrued as micro-management when passive management is the norm, and individuals find it uncomfortable to do things differently.

Do we need a manager at all? WL Gore is famous for its self-managed team, opting for a ‘lattice’ structure to promote communication across all levels, rather than a traditional hierarchy, and has achieved huge success for its innovations. In the technological environment the benefits of this structure make sense. Whilst formal titles are avoided, the leaders within the company are known and part of their role is to mentor the team to develop future leaders. Individuals are empowered to choose what they work on but once a commitment has been obtained, the individual is held accountable for seeing it through to completion. So are the key principles at WL Gore really that different to active management? Open communication, having leaders developing staff and driving work through to completion are at the heart of active management.

In the world of service delivery we want to deliver more, to a better quality, at less cost – but how can this be achieved without an active manager who is in touch with their workforce, motivating them and removing the issues and frustrations preventing the achievement of targets? The shift from passive to active management is not an easy one, but where SLA and productivity are king, an effective active manager is the answer – not a choice.