How does one best define management? Quite a few would say, if asked, that it's epitomized by striking a delicate balance between serving the organization's bottom-line interests and providing personnel with the resources and support they need to meet their responsibilities on a daily basis. (Think of it as walking gingerly over a tightrope of critical importance, if you will.) This is especially true of managers at the middle or mid-senior level, as opposed to those within the C suite.
But beyond that central matter of meeting two complex priorities with equal efficacy, there are a number of additional challenges that managers will often face in businesses throughout all major sectors. It will be critical for supervisors to recognize these potential difficulties as they arise, and meet them head-on so that such issues do not put a damper on either personal or organizational performance.
Combating the lack of clear expectations
To create its latest "Perspective Series" report, Gallup interviewed more than 50,000 managers all over the world between 2014 and 2019 in an effort to determine exactly what the supervisory experience was like in the contemporary workplace. The firm's researchers ultimately found that a significant share of these leaders – 42% of survey subjects, to be exact – were facing a multitude of different and sometimes radically conflicting expectations.
Along similar lines, 59% of managers said that their job description didn't precisely match what their day-in day-out working reality involved – and 64% of them claimed that the parameters of their job had never really been clear in the first place. It practically goes without saying that if supervisors aren't exactly sure what their responsibilities are, they won't be able to effectively lead. Executives and middle managers can mitigate this by maintaining a clear and constant dialogue regarding the organization's overall mission and how departments are expected to serve it.
A failure to communicate?
The issue of communication looms large over virtually all aspects of modern corporate life. Almost every job posting that potential applicants see on LinkedIn, Glassdoor and the other major job boards – including those for managerial positions – has "strong communication skills" somewhere on the list of requirements.
But when new hires arrive on the scene and they don't get off on the right foot as far as communication is concerned, it can be hard to rebound from that initial period of hesitance and thus create an effective conversational structure. It doesn't matter who's ultimately responsible for the failure; all that matters is whether managers can immediately recognize communication problems with their subordinates and work to rectify them. According to Officevibe, determining the unique communication dynamics on particular teams – in both face-to-face and remote contexts – is essential for all supervisors. If successful, this can help create a culture of trust that is all but unbreakable.
Tackling the challenges of performance management
Although leadership skills can be innate among managers, at least to a certain extent, the specific talent of performance management generally has to be developed over time. As pointed out by ERC, supervisors won't be adept at this aspect of the job by default, and that will be true especially often among individuals who were placed in managerial roles without receiving a great deal of management training.
Regardless of all that, performance management is something that just has to be done. ERC recommended creating a system of ongoing feedback for managers to document the successes, failures, strengths and weaknesses of their team members in dribs and drabs as work progresses, rather than rushing to put it all together at once just before a performance review.
Frequent interruptions amid busy workdays
It may be tempting, from a directorial or executive perspective, to dismiss middle-management personnel's claims that they have "too much to do:" They're paid more and (more often than not) provided with certain perks that their subordinates don't receive precisely because they're expected to handle greater responsibilities.
On the other hand, supervisors who might be able to handle an intense workload commensurate with their rank in a vacuum sometimes face constant interruptions that make things more complicated. According to Gallup's data, managers were 67% more likely than their individual-contributor peers to say they experienced multiple distractions per day. Such divergences arise for managers because of meetings, calls and various other situations that keep them from their desks, and this can make it difficult to create and maintain a reliable workflow. Proper scheduling and time management are critical for all supervisors who wish to truly be available for team members and also have enough time to do their individual work in a timely fashion.