No wonder managers fail at managing
their staffs. You fail to reward those very skills.
Successful managers rarely pass the buck when it comes to
their core job responsibilities. They welcome accountability
and the resulting accolades for making the sale, developing a
product, streamlining a process and servicing the customer. In
these instances, they can honestly say “the buck stops
But when it comes to their staff management
responsibilities—those duties that might have less overt
impact on the bottom line—the buck seems to stop
somewhere else. Maybe in someone else’s lap, or in HR, or
even in their boss’s office. Sometimes the buck stops so
far away, it’s not really on anyone’s radar.
Why do otherwise competent and capable managers have a hard
time with active staff management? From providing constructive
feedback to dealing with an interpersonal conflict to
counseling an employee for substandard performance, all are
avoided like the plague or neatly delegated to someone else.
Many managers also steer clear of orienting, training and
coaching their staff. They often don their manager’s hat
only in a crisis—that is, a troubling circumstance that
probably could have been avoided if they had been practicing
Ironically, one of the greatest factors in determining
salary is whether a position has management responsibilities
and how many people or functions report to the position. We pay
much more for managers in salaries and bonuses but then pay
little notice to the level of expertise and time spent
managing. To better align manager’s pay with performance,
examine and remedy the conflicting conditions in which most
managers operate, as follows.
Measure It’s rare that
an organization measures staff management expertise. When it
does, the measurement is frequently based on outdated metrics
and/or it’s weighted less heavily than other job
dimensions. Management prowess was long-based on turnover
rates—low turnover was attributed to sound
management—until some genius realized that low turnover
just meant that nobody was leaving. Yes, this included star
employees, but it also included mediocre and poor performers.
What was being rewarded was counter to what was being
Granted, it’s hard to measure management skills, but
there are some key indicators that an individual is taking an
active, positive role with his or her staff. Regular staff
meetings; education and team building; relevant goals and
measurable results; high retention rates for star employees;
appropriate and timely termination decisions; active delegating
and coaching; and a productive and energized staff all point to
a good manager. Use these activities and add some of your own
to start developing a manager scorecard.
Recognize Most organizations
don’t make staff aware of successful management
activities. Not smart, because when good work goes unnoticed
and unappreciated, it may stop, much to the detriment of the
organization. For example, Joe is viewed as incredibly lucky in
hiring top-notch staff. Luck has little to do with it. Joe
spends many hours crafting and implementing effective
recruitment plans. Joe is also considered blessed with
motivated, energetic employees. No one is aware that Joe spends
much time listening to, communicating with, and developing his
staff. What a shame. Without visibility, other managers
don’t realize that these activities are important parts
of their jobs and don’t see the value to themselves and
to the firm. As a result, no one else benefits from Joe’s
successful techniques and expertise.
Recognize your strong managers and provide the others with
positive role models by setting high expectations, then
publicly acknowledging those managers that meet or exceed them.
Routine review of a manager’s staff-focused activities
will provide the data you need. Hold your managers accountable
for staff development, attitude and productivity, just as you
would hold them accountable for other core
Reward Why are there so few
standalone reward systems in place for great staff management?
Doesn’t it make sense to reward talented, committed
leaders at all levels—those who inspire others, reduce
unwanted turnover and develop the critical skills of their
staff? Many firms hesitate to give financial incentives for
great management—they want to limit financial awards to
traditional measures, such as a successful project completion.
But when you consider just one cost of a bad manager, financial
incentives make sense.
Take turnover. Using a simple turnover calculator, replacing
within 30 days a $70,000 employee whose manager makes $100,000
costs an organization about $31,000 in lost productivity and
management time spent on recruitment activities and training.
Not to mention the direct costs of advertisements and marketing
the position. Multiply that by the number of good employees you
lose a year, and you’ll see that rewarding good
management makes good financial sense.
Strong staff management is crucial to organizational
stability and productivity. Help your managers embrace their
staff responsibilities. Implement a system that sets
expectations, measures results, recognizes achievement and
rewards success, and stop the buck where it belongs—at
each manager’s desk.
Kramer is The Council’s senior vice president, office
of the president.