“I don’t have the energy to motivate my team – does that make me a bad manager?”

Written by The Honest Boss

When budgets are tight and the workload is heavy, it can be hard to motivate a team under pressure. Here, The Honest Boss advises a manager on ways she can still lead effectively 

I’m a middle manager in a relatively small company. I run a team of seven brilliantly talented people who I really respect and enjoy working with, but the company has been through a particularly turbulent patch which means our hard work hasn’t paid off with any tangible rewards for the workforce – no promotions, pay freezes and quite a few resignations in other teams. I understand their frustration because I’m frustrated too. And yet, I’m expected by my seniors to keep momentum, increase output and put more pressure on an already exhausted team. But if I don’t have the energy to do it, how can I expect them to?

Alessia, 34, publishing 

The poor, beleaguered, wretched middle managers. You are some of the most under-appreciated members of the workforce. I know this, as I used to be one, so you have my complete sympathy. You are like the egg mayo in the Pret baguette, just getting squashed on either side before being heartily devoured.

Based on what you’ve told me though, you are a saintly boss – you’re modest about yourself while generous in your description of your “brilliantly talented people”. It’s a great gift to bestow such praise without any self-flattery or indication of insecurity. This suggests to me that you are indeed skilled and talented as a manager, and I think you must take some credit for your team’s brilliance.

You are also understanding in your articulation of the pressures on those above you. This might be your dilemma – being sympathetic to everyone’s point of view leaves you feeling torn between both sides. Ironically, your level-headedness has resulted in you feeling powerless. And even with your exceptional nature, the situation has finally pushed you to your limit. Now is the time to get off your seesaw and start taking control. 

My advice would be to stop flailing between everyone else’s point of view. Start by taking your concerns to your bosses along with a list of suggestions proposed by you and your team. At this stage, there is little point in going over old ground such as pay rises and promotions, so you need to think of newer ideas that will surprise your bosses.

Brainstorming away days are a good place to start. These can be motivational and fun for you and your team and don’t have to cost your company the earth. You can lead the menu of activities and mix things up as much as you like between strategy work and team bonding. Plan in several of these over a period of a year or engineer a bigger event that requires you all to go somewhere for a longer time. This would be empowering for you to take charge of and should return some of your mojo. It will encourage your team to see you in a more senior light while also showing them how much you care. 

Secondly, have a think about restructuring your department in ways that would upskill your team. This could involve job swapping, title changes or new training (which can be paid for over time by the company). Learning is always rewarding for those who are stuck in a rut and can help lead to fresh outcomes. Furthermore, it provides improved qualifications for future promotions either in-house or elsewhere. Once again, you should lead this process as it demonstrates your ability but will also stimulate your brain as you embrace the changes.

Next, instead of pay rises, try proposing a bonus reward scheme to your bosses. This could be specifically related to any project led by your team that generates extra revenue or any fresh ideas that are helping your company to climb out of its doldrums. A proposal such as this would be difficult for your management team to refuse as it rewards financial success.

You can also insist that your team is rewarded in other ways that are not salary-specific— eg, more generous holiday allocation, better maternity leave, flexible working, social outings, subsidised travel, etc. Any of these options are difficult for your company to decline as they can pay for all of them gradually rather than in one punishing go.

To be honest, once you put your mind to it, you’ll find there are 100s of new ways to motivate your colleagues. There are quicker, easier wins than those outlined above – anything from pizza and quiz evenings to Christmas gift vouchers are soft requests that can make your team feel valued while waiting for the company’s performance to improve. I am sure you and your team are capable of more innovative ideas that will appeal to all sides.

Finally, this is the time to take advantage of your sandwich status. Step away from the inevitable “don’t blame the messenger” refrain and set about creating a new forum for your team and management where they can exchange ideas and listen to each other’spoints of view. Middle management is a bit like marriage counselling, but the way to feel empowered is to bin the tissues and start taking charge. 

Image designed by Klawe Rzeczy

Source: Read Full Article