The overwhelming majority of German employees (84%) strongly agree that their managers are largely “doing their job properly.” This is just one of the findings of Forsa’s recent representative survey titled “What does ‘properly’ mean?” that was conducted among approximately 1,000 employees in November 2015. What does this result tell us? In my view, it can be interpreted in two rather different ways.
The Positive View: German Managers Know How to Manage
The first—and most obvious—explanation for the high levels of agreement with the question asked is that managers in Germany know how to do their job. They therefore generally act in ways that are comprehensible and logical for their employees and, where possible, include their team in relevant decisions, carrying their workforce with them. This enables them to achieve good results, outcomes that are only possible where a spirit of teamwork exists rather than an atmosphere of dissent in which each coworker has his or her own hidden agenda. And today, in particular, when change is the single constant factor and businesses need to ensure their workers aren’t left behind in the process of change, it’s essential that managers enjoy the confidence of their teams.
The Negative View: German Managers are Staying in their Comfort Zone
The second explanation for the strong agreement of employees with the proposition is rather less flattering. Could it indicate that managers and their teams have settled into a comfort zone, organizing themselves in tried and tested structures and working together to avoid necessary but potentially uncomfortable innovations? If this interpretation is correct, it would cast a different light on the apparently high score achieved by German managers and mean that in fact they come out somewhat less favorably. This is because a manager’s job is not simply about providing employees with the optimum working conditions but also about driving the development of the business and contributing positively to the company’s success. This also necessitates working through conflicts with one’s team, creating friction—and where necessary taking on board lower approval ratings for one’s work.
The Conclusion: Managers Need to Develop their Skills
Like their global counterparts, in this era of digital transformation German businesses are increasingly seeking out new ideas and concepts to enhance their levels of innovation and agility. Yet, following this path can be fraught with uncertainty. One thing is for sure, though: if managers truly want to move their businesses forward, they will need to combine an ability to involve their teams as “participants” in the process of change with a certain “toughness” to see through differences of opinion and take a clear line on difficult issues. As the task of management becomes more complex, managers would therefore do well to reflect on whether they are currently able to handle the full range of activities involved in leading successful teams. If they feel they cannot, then it’s important that managers first develop the skills that are needed in order to help their businesses grow.
What has your experience been in your own organization? Do you think managers too often take the easy route? And what skills might you lack that are necessary for successfully leading your team?
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