Earlier this year, Blanchard polled 800 managers about their experiences and challenges. Participants included frontline and middle managers, senior managers, directors, and executive managers. The survey included both structured and unstructured questions.
In an August webinar debuting the results, I shared three themes from the survey.
Theme #1: Managers are suffering from fragmentation. Many manager respondents said they have too many priorities to focus on, are spread across too many projects, have too many goals, and are unclear on priorities.
Theme #2: Managers are overworked. Respondents reported working an average of 48.5 hours per week—but that doesn’t mean managers are getting all their work done. When asked “How long would it take to complete your work?” they estimated it would require 62.5 hours weekly. Not surprisingly, two out of three managers have experienced burnout in the last 12 months.
Theme #3: Managers give themselves a mixed report card on effectiveness. On a scale of 1 to 10, managers rated their overall effectiveness at 7.55, and their self-ratings on many leadership and interpersonal skills were far below that.
In the structured data, we found that today’s managers face a host of challenges that limit their productivity. Most are struggling with staffing issues, facing constant change and conflict, and dealing with inefficient processes and outdated systems.
The data also showed that these leaders are dissatisfied when evaluating their effectiveness on many of the critical soft and hard skills required of managers every day.
For example, respondents reported that they are better at helping staff complete their tasks and being a leader in their organizations but not as good at helping staff develop or getting their own work done. The two areas with the biggest gap between importance and effectiveness? Confronting performance problems and dealing with interpersonal conflict.
Lightening the Load
In looking for ways to improve their performance, managers cited three ways that organizations could help them succeed.
- Honor requests for time and resources. While the managers in our study seemed to feel like they have sufficient autonomy and enough responsibility to achieve their work goals, they suffer from having too many projects and tasks to juggle and not enough time and resources to complete them.
- Provide vision and clarity. The data also suggested that managers are not getting the information they need to prioritize their to-do lists and make the necessary trade-offs between projects. This must come from above. With phrases like “unclear direction” showing up in many forms in the verbatim responses, it appears that this is an area of growth for those who oversee managers.
- Provide differentiated training for leaders at every level. The more senior managers reported that they want training in leadership, strategic planning, and communication. Frontline and middle managers said they need programs focused on leadership, decision making and problem solving, and leading teams.
Today’s managers are dedicated—but many are suffering from too many hours, too little clarity, and too few resources. I’m leaving this research project with great admiration for people managers. They work in an environment that is often hostile to their success. They have too many priorities and not enough time. They struggle with systems and processes that are out of date and they are faced with an endless stream of change.
Considering the important role managers play, it’s essential that senior leaders check in with this group and see what they can do to ease their burden. Be sure to check out the other insights from this year’s survey. You can download a free copy on the Blanchard website.
About the AuthorMore Content by Jay Campbell