• Gustavo Serbia

Dear Manager, You Are Stuck in The Old Ways


It is laughable, yet disappointing at the same time, to still find managers who believe that the development of their direct reports is not their responsibility, or that they way to develop people today requires too much handholding. I am sure you know one. Maybe you are one?

Perhaps you have been sharing with others how things have changed and how you wish for the days when people said yes sir/mam and waited their turn, did not complain about the working conditions and just dealt with it, and followed you based on what you said and not what you do. Is that is you? Perhaps you are that top down, single tool box, one-size fits all manager who does not deal well with change and the new demands around managing people. If you are, let me say that you better get over that mentality quickly, or you will become, perhaps already are, that old fashion person stuck back in time.

So, you have two options; you either continue your path of “hoping they will go away,” or you tackle it head on by embracing the change happening around you. If you have opted to keep wishing, do not read beyond this point. Good luck to you!

If you want to improve yourself as a manager, as a leader and want to help those around you get better at managing themselves and managing today's demands, here are a few things you need to know about the changes you are seeing.

Today’s workers demand more

Today's environment is not the same as when you started. Those reporting to you are looking for something different from what you experienced in the past. This workforce is looking for personalized guidance. Millennials demand more of this than previous generations. Read what Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, wrote earlier this year about millennials.However, this is not limited to millennials anymore; other generations are starting to look for the same, and needing it, for you (yes you!) and your business to succeed in today’s VUCA environment.

The problem is you are still relying on how things were done in the past and thinking that was better. You also expect them to wait their turn just like you did. They will not, and your business cannot afford to. If you continue saying “this should not be the way to do it” you will realize very soon that you have fallen behind.

It is not about you; it is about them

Managing people is about them. Identifying their needs, obstacles, strengths, and limitations. Therefore, your role is to see what is happening, removing barriers, and figuring out ways to bring out the best out of them. This may require a different approach for each of your direct reports. However, a different approach does not necessarily mean entirely different tactics or plans with each. The key is to recognize that you have to adjust your style to meet their needs.

Meaningful work, rewarding work

Today’s workforce wants their work to mean something beyond just a job. They want a sense of reward from what they do. However, they also want their work to contribute to the organization, so don’t confuse their sense of wanting to belong and find meaning with a superficial desire only to feel good about themselves. Today’s workforce also wants for you to care about their life outside of work, so showing care and concern beyond what you care about is important.

There is a skills gap

Some studies show that there is a skills gap, particularly around soft skills - the skills around how to interact and work with people, as well as those related to conflict management, problem-solving, critical thinking, and change management. Those entering the workforce (and many already in) believe they have these skills at a much more advanced level than what employers are seeing from them. Therefore, your role is to help bridge this gap, but you cannot do so by relying on the traditional way of “you will develop these over time” or "just wait your turn." Today’s business environment demands a proactive approach to reducing the time it takes to develop these much-needed skills. I believe you will need to cut in half the time it will take them to get to where you are to meet the talent shortages and the skills gap.

Let me make something clear

Do not misconstrue what I am stating as creating a dependency model where you must praise regardless of performance, put up with poor work habits or ethics, or let your direct reports do whatever they want. What I am saying is that you must go beyond the traditional approaches that may have worked for you. Your management style must evolve and adapt. Just like you expect them to deliver sustainable results, today’s demands expect you to demonstrate sustainable behaviors that align with today’s work environment.

I also believe career development must include the employee’s desire to grow and that they must assume responsibility for their career. However, you and I know you play a vital role in getting them the opportunities they seek and helping them get to the next level. Your feedback to others can make or break possibilities for them.

Begin by recognizing that a change has taken place. Then, start asking these two questions to your direct reports regularly:

  • What do you need from me to help you meet and exceed the expectations of your role?

  • What do you need from me to help you get closer to your career goals?

You, your company, and direct reports will be better served.

Your journey, your career. Own it.

I work in human resources at Crescent Hotels & Resorts. For more on my content follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. I will respond to your comments and feedback.

If you liked this article, please leave a comment and hit like. Would you mind sharing it with others so I can hear from them too? Gracias.


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