I know I'm happiest when my manager knows me and understands my goals, cares about me as a person, and when I have confidence that my manager not only values my contributions but understands the challenges and frustrations I encounter in my job. And I'm really happy when I trust that they not only understand, but can and will help me remove barriers and overcome challenges, be they resource challenges, bureaucratic challenges, etc.
So much of a manager's job is enabling their employees to be more effective and productive, but many managers set goals and dismiss challenges without a real understanding of how the world looks from their employees' point of view.
One could say that great leaders work for their team and not the other way around, but what does this mean in practice and how do managers know if they're really their team's advocate and partner?
- Treat employees like customers. Spend a day in their shoes, shadow them to see what their day is like and what challenges arise. Learn their job as part of your ongoing development.
- Ask employees to write you a job description. Ask them to try to frame it in the affirmative, as in what you should do rather than what you should not do. Taking this a step further, employees on functional teams could write job descriptions which would then be formalized and used for recruiting and performance evaluation benchmarks.
- Start goal-setting exercises at the base level of the organization. Ask the front-line employees to select their top 3-5 objectives for a given period, and then see how those roll up rather than setting high-level objectives and then drilling down into detail at the lower levels.
- Managers at all levels do the shadowing exercise skipping levels, so they can see the org at all levels. This could be done once a year and then managers can share their learnings at a team meeting to show the impact of their day on the job.
- Float the idea at a team meeting. Ask for volunteers to do the first session or two with you.
- Try it with peers and stakeholders other than direct reports. See how it goes and if it has a positive impact on those interactions.