What It Takes to Be A Facilitative Manager – Part 2: Care, But Not Too Much

By Oliver W. Cummings

Feedback from my previous blog post, What It Takes to Be A Facilitative Manager – Part 1: Believe, But Not Too Much

A comment and question: It seems to me that teaching is a possible “missing link” in many leadership skills sets. Is there a responsibility for middle managers to see themselves as teachers?

In a word, “Yes.” One of the manager’s tasks is to facilitate new hires’ incorporation into the unit and a key way to do that is for the manager to participate as a trainer in orienting new staff orientation. This may not sound like much, but the manager is positioned to talk very intelligently about things new staff need to be know about the culture of company and the unit. The symbolism showing that management places value on the training the unit does is an important message as well.

Through continued training involvement the manager is helping to meet one of their many obligations. That is: to help prepare successful employees and successors, not just for staff positions in their unit, but for their own replacement, too.

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This post focuses on the second of the things beyond good management skills that the facilitative manager will do.

  • Believe, but not too much
  • Care, but not too much
  • Feel, but not too much
  • Foster trust, but not too much
  • Demonstrate what you can’t have too much of: Integrity

Each of these balancing acts is important to establish and enhance your working relationships with your subordinates.

Care

From a study of commitment that I participated in several years ago, the major things that employees said made them want to stay with an organization, in order of importance, were:

  • Challenge and involvement in the work (a sense of personally adding value)
  • Caring and communicative supervisors and a nurturing organizational culture
  • Flexibility in assignments, hours, and a comfortable work environment                               
  • Coworker relations
  • Opportunity for professional growth and training
  • Compensation and benefits (excluding flexible work hours)
  • Recognition and feedback on work done
  • Company resources available to support the work

Note that caring, communicative supervisors is the second most important factor for employee retention. This is a significant finding and consistent with Gallup’s findings derived from over a million employee interviews.[i]

A manager who cares about his or her employees is more likely to create a work environment that influences the additional retention factors listed above. A caring manager genuinely wants input and involvement from employees and values and is influenced by their input. A caring manager learns what motivates an individual employee to feel they are adding value to the unit and makes asssignments accordingly.

Further, to develop a sense of personally adding value, the employee must exercise a certain level of authority over their work and make independent decisions about the work. As a facilitative manager, you want to build a collaborative relationship, including trust and confidence with your staff. With that kind of relationship, you can leverage more decision-making to your staff, give them more authority over their work and, thus, increase the value they add in your unit.

Caring about and amping up what the employee is expected to do is not only an important employee satisfaction factor, but also a key management leverage point. How you handle assignments and work environment issues, professional growth opportunities, training, and recognition and feedback are all impacted by your facilitative behaviors. So, care.

“Know me, know my business” was a powerful message from the research for In Search of Excellence[1]. Though the book was focused at the level of the company, the same call can be made for the individual staff member in your unit. What know me, know my business says implicitly at the individual level is care enough about my unique issues to learn about my (personal) needs and my needs on this job. 

Many demonstrations of caring can be done simply and easily.  For example, stopping by an employee’s work site to simply ask how things are going, and then listing attentively to their response, lets the employee know you are interested in their work. Or, sending a relevant article or message that contains information you know would be of interest to the employee, but from a source they are unlikely to access otherwise can be a small message that I was thinking of you and your work today.

But Not Too Much

Why do I say not too much? Caring is not guaranteeing that an employee’s every want will be met. Caring must be balanced across all employees and other key stakeholders. Further, as a manager you must attend to company needs and general unit needs, along with individual employee needs. It is a wise manager who demonstrates genuine caring and at the same time balances competing interests by intelligently prioritizing where to place attention at a point in time.

Next time: Feel, but not too much.

How have you shown an employee you cared about them and their work?

Have you seen a manager engage in more care than was healthy for the unit, employee, or themselves? What happened?

How do you know when to amp up the authority you can delegate to an employee?


[1] Peters, T. J. and Waterman, Jr., R. H. (1982). In search of excellence: lessons from America’s best-run companies. New York: Harper & Row.


[i] The Gallup Organization thinks it has identified the 12 core elements for attracting and keeping the best employees. The core elements, derived from interviews with more than 1 million workers over the past 25 years, are in Buckingham’s book, “First Break All the Rules”(Simon & Schuster Inc.)

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?

2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need?

3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

4. In the last week, have I been recognized for good work?

5. Does my supervisor seem to care about me?

6. Does anyone at work encourage my development?

7. Do my opinions seem to count?

8. Does my company’s mission make my work seem important?

9. Are my co-workers committed to quality work?

10. Do I have a best friend at work?

11.ln the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?

12. At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Bill says

    Oliver,
    Nice post, especially in light of the pandemic. This is going to bring some very unique challenges. How might a middle manager show that she cares when she has to lay-off X% of her team?

    • Oliver says

      Laying a person off is akin to, but not the same as firing someone. It should be done face-to-face, with explanation of the situation and whatever support is available to the individual in the period of the layoff.
      In the case where an entire group is going to be shut down, as in the response to the pandemic, a face-to-face (or with virtual work groups a conference call) with the group to announce what is about to happen is appropriate, but that brief announcement should be followed up with individual meetings.
      The point of the individual meeting is to listen to the individual, and provide whatever support is available from the company, even if that is only to point out the social services available from the state and local governments (so, the manager may have to do some research to know the appropriate information). In a layoff, as opposed to a firing, there is the possibility of a return to work. That, of course would be a part of the individual discussion (with care taken not to hold out any false hope in a given situation). The facilitative manager in this kind of situation, while being the bearer of bad news, becomes a source of compassionate support at the individual level.

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