29 March 2023

Thinking differently: Three ways of Mastering Management

The importance of managers in all aspects of organisational health and performance isn’t news… so why are we still struggling to unlock the power of people managers?

Why haven’t we climbed a hill that we’ve known needs climbing for years, even decades? We know that the relationship between individuals and their manager is a critical driver of engagement and performance, and that focussing on management capability improves retention, drives greater understanding and commitment and boosts motivation.

There’s research, success stories, data to prove it all, yet still so many of the organisations we collaborate with cite the same great challenge: we need our managers to play a pivotal role, but they don’t have time / aren’t engaged / lack the capability / don’t want to / think it isn’t their responsibility.

 Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement” [Source: Gallup]

It’s a widespread challenge for several reasons (systemic process and hierarchy, changing needs of employees and misdirected intent being a few), and it’s time to start thinking differently about our managers – from job design to development, diversity to accountability. Calling all managers, leaders and people professionals – think differently with us.

Interrogate the role of manager

The activity, responsibility and ownership of managing one or more people and ultimately being accountable for the results you and your team of two or more deliver, can look and feel different in every organisation. Interrogating the role of manager for your business is a great place to start.

Think differently: How do you define the role of manager? What’s the expectation of ‘on the tools’ delivery versus team support, coaching and leadership? Do objectives highlight the importance of effective, brilliant, management?

Outcomes over output

 The expected effects of brilliant management needn’t have anything to do with rigorous process or tightly defined ways of working, the focus from the organisation should be on managers as coaches, on leadership behaviours and empowering high performance teams.

Think differently: Do you communicate process (complete the 9 box grid, submit succession plan, report on performance) or results with your managers? Are you promoting a one size fits all approach or empowering managers to own the how? Are your managers of managers rewarding and recognising the right attributes?

 Stop propping poor management up with HR

 HR teams don’t exist to support management skills gaps, in this world that demands agility and innovation at pace, lean operating models and broader skillsets we don’t have the luxury of dedicating endless resource to human capital management.

Think differently: Do your managers have the skills to handle people challenges? Are you propping up skills gaps or enabling skill development in your management population?

Our management training and leadership development programmes simply aren’t getting good enough results. Imagine a world of organisational health where we don’t hear so much about how our critical management audience aren’t performing, and instead how our entire organisations are performing, with effective management being the root of our success.

It’s time to think differently, and ask ourselves:

  • What’s the elephant in the room that we’ve avoided addressing?
  • Is there a brave bold step we should challenge ourselves to take?
  • Are we really setting the role of manager up for success?
  • How can we plan for a higher performance future? What role will technology transformation play in effective management?

Last, but by no means least… if autonomy and empowerment is the culture we want to cultivate, how should employees manage themselves?

And if you’re a manager reading this… What do you know you should be doing differently?

  1. Shape the future of management at your organisation, defining what brilliant needs to look like within your unique environment
  2. Focus on your managers and managers-of-managers to change the perceptions of the role and empower high performance
  3. Collaborate with your People Team to adjust approaches to organisational health

At McCann Synergy, we have the expertise and experience to help you unlock the power of your people managers. Find out more about our Consulting Suite where our specialist consultants, strategists and talented creatives offer advice, creative solutions and strategies to help drive sustainable growth. If you’re ready to start unleashing organisational health and performance get in touch.


Bethany Mullett, Senior Strategist

Bethany Mullett, Senior Strategist

Bethany is passionate about enabling high performance cultures where people can thrive, with a background in leading employee engagement and cultural transformation for global businesses, and a current obsession with hybrid working.

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