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What tools actually help managers manage their people? That’s the most important question every organization needs to ask itself as the workplace enters the “post-everything” era. Post-pandemic, post-work-from-home, post-boomers, post-engagement-software’s-failure-to make-a-difference, post-wondering-if-AI-will-affect-work. You get my drift.
I believe this new era will be defined by how well organizations adapt their approach to managing people, as well as the responsibilities they put on managers’ shoulders.
Inside the “Post-Everything” Manager’s Toolkit
“Post-everything” has created a new starting line for managers. Expectations have changed. Most importantly, the number one reason why individuals leave a job today is a lack of growth opportunities. In fact, more than any generations in history, Gen Z and Millennials are ready to quit their current job for another role that promises better opportunities.
This is why managers need to focus on setting clear expectations. But here’s the catch — it requires human-to-human communication.
I’ve managed about 5,000 people in my career. My on-the-ground experience taught me that no two people are exactly alike. Career planning is a process of ongoing communication. It’s a give-and-take conversation about strengths and weaknesses, about roles and responsibilities, about goals and metrics, about performance and results.
As every manager knows, it’s remarkably easy to make mistakes when setting expectations. Being consistent is hard. But it’s even harder if your organization is also inconsistent.
Think for a moment about your career. Ask yourself this question: Have you ever seen an employer dedicated to providing a single, consistent, unified process that helps managers set expectations about career opportunities for team members? Is this happening where you work now?
The “Post-Everything” Process
Of course, a toolbox is only as good as the process it uses.
I’ve spent a decade talking to hundreds of organizations around the world about the role of the manager. Along the way, I’ve repeatedly heard that if we want to help managers set clear expectations, inconsistency is the biggest problem to solve.
Inconsistency comes in many forms. It may come from a lack of formal goals or goals that are continuously changing. You may see it in a failure to establish metrics or metrics that mean different things. It could be about reorgs or reductions in force, weak communication, managerial changes, or language differences. The list goes on and on.
At its heart, inconsistency breeds distrust in management’s ability to be accountable and follow through on an employee’s career growth. These triggers cause people to move on in search of better opportunities. And that’s why I think organizational inconsistency is failing managers today and is the real reason employees are so disengaged at work.
3 Steps For Success
I’ve come to believe that every unified process to help managers consistently set clear expectations must include three essential steps. Individually, each step is helpful. But linking all three end-to-end is the key to empowering managers, especially at scale. So this is my call to action for leaders:
1. Embrace a Common Vocabulary
Communicate with common terms. Think of company-specific languages like V2MOM from Salesforce or standardized vocabularies like OKRs. A common organizational vocabulary eliminates communication gray zones or ambiguities. What words do people use in running your business? You need to define the meaning of those words. For example, what does strategy mean to your organization? How do you distinguish a priority from a program? What is an initiative, and how does that differ from a project?
2. Emphasize Shared Goals
To be clear about which activities matter to operational execution, develop and publish shared goals. These goals are the way people can connect their job role to what will be rewarded. Shared goals serve the important role of distinguishing what’s important from what’s urgent when communicating. Do we care about growth? Or do we care about efficiency? Shared goals help managers align job roles to what the organization actually values.
3. Focus on the Standard Metrics
Are you measuring everyone’s success the same way? A single taxonomy of metrics sets up what employees really want — a consistent accountability system. If people can’t communicate with facts about their performance and results, it leads to an insidious way of getting ahead: relying on who you know. And we all know what that leads to.
Alignment Matters in the “Post-Everything” Era
A common vocabulary, shared goals, and a single system of metrics. Together, they form an end-to-end process that minimizes inconsistency when setting expectations.
Yes, this process is more difficult than buying a software tool. It requires leaders and managers to do the hard work of agreeing on specific elements of the process. But that said, it’s no different with Six Sigma or Lean/Agile methods. And the results are worth the effort.
The “post-everything era” is defined by what the best employees want — growth and advancement. This era demands end-to-end alignment. That means every employee in an organization should be able to align their job role to current and future opportunities. It is hard work for any manager, but it’s the new “post-everything” reality.
Want to Manage Well? Alignment is the Answer
End-to-end alignment requires human-to-human communication up and down the organization. It’s why I believe employers have been getting engagement wrong. It’s upside down. Instead of being engaged, employees want their leaders and managers to be engaged in conversations about their individual career success.
The core premise of The Collaboration Imperative, which I co-authored about Cisco’s best practices, centers on the idea that any great productivity leap forward or new strategic direction requires the alignment of process, culture, and technology. In other words, it may be tempting to depend on a tool for this, but technology alone cannot substitute for a complete process.
Organizations already put significant weight on managers’ shoulders. In the “post-everything” era, it’s time to lighten the load. It’s time for leaders to carry some of the weight by giving managers what they need — a process that consistently and systematically eliminates inconsistencies in expectation-setting. Let’s give managers the toolbox they really deserve. Your people are depending on it.
I want to give you a head start with this process. Send an email request to me at TheCulturePlatform@gmail.com and I’ll send you a PDF of Chapter 4 from The Collaboration Imperative: Creating Commitment to Shared Goals.