No business likes losing people. When people leave it creates headaches for everyone else. You lose the capacity of that person and the capacity other people have to use to cover that person. You have to put time and resources into finding a replacement and once that's done again train them up.
Sometimes there's little you can do to stop people from leaving and sometimes it's right for people to leave. But what I've come to realise over the past 3 years working with people across a wide range of businesses is that MOST businesses are unintentionally guiding their best people along a path right out of the company's front door.
By understanding this pathway you can do something about it.
To help you understand this pathway we created the image below. This journey I am about to describe is a typical journey for a typical person in your organisation that usually takes place over a number of years.
As a person starts they are limited in knowledge and experience in the job. This tends to lead to new joiners feeling a low level of satisfaction as they are unable to get good results yet.
Your good people will very naturally move into the 'Solid Team Player' phase. The accumulation of knowledge, skills, and experience along with a good attitude increases their ability to get results. As they are able to get better results that feel more satisfied at work.
Your best people will again advance from this position into the Natural Leader Phase. Here their good attitude combined with increasing knowledge/skills makes them stand out. They are likely to be recognised as potential leaders. They may be placed on aspiring leader programs or nominated as team leaders.
So far so good. Moving an experienced person with a good attitude into a management position can and should lead to good things in the company.
Because a good manager leverages their experience and attitude by passing it on to others - like a drop of squash in a glass of water this person's positive attributes can be spread from the manager to their teams. This is good for the people in the company and good for the company.
However, it's at this phase where things often go wrong. From delivering development programs to hundreds of managers in small groups I became aware of a common struggle.
90%+ of these managers desperately wanted to do a good job but were struggling in the management position. The approach they had been taking to work - that worked so well for them over recent years and got them to where they are - was no longer working. Before reaching management a positive and work-hard attitude had always served them well. But in management this approach was leading to increasing levels of overwhelm and decreasing levels of team engagement. Maybe for employees that aren't overly engaged this situation wouldn't cause them to lose any sleep. They would take the extra pay and shrug their shoulders. But remember, most of these people got here because they care deeply about doing a good job and helping the business. So not getting the results they are used to affects them takes a toll on them and affects their mental health.
The way many of these managers choose to deal with this is to work more. To work more hours at work and to take the work home with them. Unsurprisingly, over time this leads to the manager getting burned out and the team below them not having a great experience. In 2022 recorded manager burnout levels reached a record high of 43% and employee engagement levels reaches a record low of 9%. That's at least 43% of your managers on the edge of mental breakdown and 91% of your employees not enjoying work - ouch.
Why does this happen, can you do anything about it, and if so what?
The reason this happens lies in what we have already covered in why putting good people in management positions is good for business. By putting someone into a management position you are essentially saying "We like the way you do things, guide others to do the same."
This sounds trivial but it's completely different from what you have asked of them before. Before this moment you have asked them:
"Please do these tasks to a high standard and be a good team player."
One is about working hard, the other is about working smart and empowering others. When you apply just the working hard method to management you end up with sub-optimal results and a disengaged team.
Becoming a manager should be highly rewarding. The manager learns they can get better results with less focus on working hard whilst inspiring and developing others. A good manager feels appreciated by those above and below them in the business.
But becoming a good manager isn't going to happen naturally for most. You didn't guide them to this position because they were great managers, you guided them to this position because they were great workers and team players. You're now asking them to take a completely different approach to work which requires a different mindset.
It's estimated through different surveys that between 60% and 80% of managers receive no training. What would happen if we took cars from everyone with a driving license and gave them motorbikes... a lot of issues. A good manager is worth their weight in gold in your business. They're a pleasure to work for and with. They ensure the right things get done at the right time. They drive up productivity, innovation, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction levels.
But, if you don't provide the new and existing managers with development into the role there's a high likelihood they're going to struggle, burn out and leave. Promoting your best people to management but not developing them is like guiding them up a cliff of progression and then letting them jump off the edge.
Here's the good news. Developing your managers doesn't have to be a boring or arduous task. From working with hundreds of managers across industries we found that by focussing on the basics in three key areas you can easily prevent burnout and promote thriving. Those three areas are health, motivation, and performance without burnout. Provide your managers with an ounce of development in these areas and you'll be well on your way to helping managers carry on up the mountain, not throwing them off the cliff.
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Mike Jones Better Happy Founder
Mike founded Better Happy in 2018.
He now works with a variety of businesses ranging from small accountancies up to large organisations such as Travelodge on improving employee happiness. Mike's vision and the vision of Better Happy is 'Every employee happy, every business thriving'