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Splitting “Task Managers” and “People Managers/Leaders”

Splitting “Task Managers” and “People Managers/Leaders”

Posted: 22nd September 2020

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      We are exploring how we can help our diverse population of leaders and managers to play to their strengths – and instead of constantly juggling the people and task priorities, whether (in some areas) appointing People Leaders whose sole priority is to coach/develop/mentor a pool of people in their areas – might liberate performance and potential.

      Has anyone else explored this idea and either discounted it; or implemented it? Any stories or help would be great!


        Hi Darren,

        We have seen this approach, but we would careful that it’s not a way of letting them off the hook when it comes to leading their people! If the leaders role is to create the environment for people to do their best work, they do need to make time to be available for coaching, recognition, feedback, career,  etc..and in our experience people want those conversations from their direct manager.

        Of course they won’t all be perfect at it, and they do need to do it in their own style, so it might be good to have some trained experts (future leaders?) who  could coach/support the leader rather than do it for them.

        I would also get to the core of the issue before you decide what to do next by asking these three questions:

        1. Lack of time?
        • What processes/blockers could you remove to free them up e.g  removing any paperwork that’s not adding value etc..?
        • Do your employees own and drive their own performance, objectives, agenda for check-ins so that it’s not so time consuming and the leader can focus on a coaching role.
        1. They need some development?
        • Invest more in helping leaders understand themselves. What’s unique and special about them and how are they deploying these unique qualities? What are their strengths and how could they focus on these to become even better at them? How do their behaviours impact on the team?
        • Focus on outputs and conditions- For examples, instead of defining that ‘good’ leaders meet with their teams every week, describe the desired experience of your employees, ie: they will feel included, aware of what’s going on the wider organisation, etc. Then leaders can find the method of delivering that experience in ways that suit their personality and style. Instead of insisting that leaders be ‘innovative’, focus on how you want the leader to create the conditions for greater innovation – then allow them to find ways that work for their team and their part of the business.
        • Break the tasks down into smaller chunks- Instead of asking leaders to have continuous conversations with their staff each day, which sounds really daunting and frankly, exhausting, we could suggest they have one weekly five-minute conversation with a couple of their people, and to comment on one good thing that week. Just one five-minute conversation, and one comment. Western Union used this approach when it wanted its leaders to improve their way of managing talent. Instead of the annual standard nine box grid completion accompanied by endless calibration discussions, it asked clusters of managers to come together for an hour a month to talk about the talent in their teams
        • It is all about the conversations- If your leaders are struggling with having the people conversations then consider providing them with simple pointers on how to have those conversations. You’ll find some help here in our Human Conversations toolkit.
        1. Is it that they are not interested? Dare I say it, but should they be a leader?
        • Consider looking at how Upwork identified the professional needs of their employees to let them decide the type of role that suits them best. Upwork runs on the basis that the greatest developers, for example, don’t always necessarily make for the best leaders. They see that it’s all too common for those at the top of their game in their contributing roles in organizations to be pushed into becoming managers. They acknowledge that it’s not for everybody and shouldn’t be seen as a natural progression.

        They combat this happening by running a system with two tracks: there’s a track for individual contributors, where you can go as high as you want within the system in your field, and a management track, with a personal choice as of which to go for. For those people who are wanting to progress in their career, but aren’t interested in managing people, they are able to still develop and advance for the company. They encourage people within the company to move around and try things where wanted, giving potential leaders the opportunity to try their hand at things with no pressure to their career. Upwork’s HR team leads a training program to help young managers, strongly depending on peer coaching and mentoring from more senior level leaders. If, after these programs, people realize the track is not for them, as they find often happens without input from leaders, the company are happy to let them take the other track. Upwork began formalizing this two track process around 3 years ago, and have found it’s been an impactful division, allowing people to test the waters, and have all the mentoring support they need to do so without pressure.

        Not easy for you we know, but keep us posted on what you finally decide to do.

        Good luck!

        Disruptive HR Club Team


          Great and really helpful response! Thank-you 🙂

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