Blue Beyond Consulting

Manager Effectiveness Strategies For Organizational Excellence

“People leave managers, not companies.” Chances are you’ve heard this well-worn quote from speaker and business consultant Marcus Buckingham, and for good reason. For employees and leaders alike, Buckingham’s adage speaks to the mission-critical role that good managers play in creating thriving workplace cultures and promoting organizational effectiveness at large. It’s why over 82% of employees surveyed in a recent GoodHire survey said they would potentially quit their current job due to a bad manager.

As the throughline between leadership and the rest of the organization, good managers are instrumental in cultivating Deep Trust and High Expectations® workplace cultures where both the business and the people thrive. But are we doing enough to support them? As managers grapple with new realities of business, they are seldom provided with the resources, tools, and support required to pivot with the times. 

A manager effectiveness strategy can start you down the right path. In this article, we explore the important role managers play in future-ready organizations and how you can better support your management body to tap into your people’s full potential.

What Is Manager Effectiveness?

Manager effectiveness comprises the mindsets, behaviors, and capabilities necessary to lead and build high-performing teams. Effective managers look beyond their own technical capabilities and understand how to unlock the same desired attributes across the teams they oversee. To that effect, effective managers are also those who know how to:

The Evolving Expectations of Managers

A lot has changed for managers, and a lot is being asked of them — especially in the years following the pandemic. Mental health challenges, looming economic instability, and a ubiquitous shift to hybrid work models are just some of the uncertainties that today’s businesses face. To help make meaning of ambiguity, both employees and leaders are turning toward their managers.

As we survey the shifting business landscape, we see a few patterns emerging in how these new pressures are recasting manager expectations.

    • A change in dynamics from “me” to “we.” Managers are experiencing a fundamental perception change in how they understand their role. No longer is the focus on “me” (i.e., how the individual manager can improve their own performance) but instead “we” (i.e., how managers can unleash team effectiveness across their roster). Think of it as a reframing from “manager” to “people leader.”
    • New skills for new business objectives. As organizations emphasize people-driven management and team-level performance, they are expecting less directive, task-driven leadership from managers. Employee development, coaching, guidance, and training are the replacements.
  • More fluid and dispersed work contexts. Traditional, in-person leadership styles are in less demand as organizations operate in more distributed and virtual environments. Managers who adapt their leadership styles to incorporate technology, know how to build a presence and influence remotely, and lean into worker expectations for greater flexibility will be better prepared for the fast-paced world of modern work.

Why Mid-Level Managers Need Support Now More Than Ever

Leaders may assume that their managers are well-equipped to respond to the expectations outlined above. In our talent work with clients, however, we often uncover that leaders have overestimated the tools, strategies, and support network necessary to change course. 

The adverse effects speak for themselves: 

The 3 Most Important Management Effectiveness Mindsets for Today’s Challenges

To adjust to the new “business as usual,” managers need new ways of thinking, and they need them now. Across the board, we see the following three mindsets as the most important for manager effectiveness today.

1. The “Coach” Mindset

Traditional management has typically been tied to goal setting and assigning, managing, and monitoring tasks. Today, however, effective managers must see themselves as coaches who are committed to growing individual capabilities. In practice, a coaching mindset means supporting employee growth and development while also holding them accountable to achieving their goals and performing to their highest potential.

2. The “Communication” Mindset

We know that effective communication has profound short- and long-term effects on organizations as a whole. While good communication is a welcome addition to any employee’s skill set, managers, in particular, need a strong communication foundation to relay critical information between employees and leaders. 

This can and often does require a mindset shift, especially for those who are newer to their manager position and are used to executing tasks themselves (as opposed to communicating responsibilities to others). Good management communication provides context, shares the bigger picture, and recognizes team wins.

3. The “Relationships” Mindset

As employees grapple with mounting complexities outside of work, they look to their managers for assurance and guidance. Empathic leadership requires managers to see the human side of their teams, including the challenges they face each day. 

When employees feel like their direct managers are empathic, they are more likely to trust their managers, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and bring their best and truest selves to work.

How To Prepare Managers To Navigate New Business Demands 

Typically, when we ask ourselves how we can better serve our managerial population, the first answer that comes to mind is training. Better and more frequent training is undeniably an important piece of manager development, but your work should not stop there. 

Our framework below walks through how you can deploy a more holistic approach that goes beyond isolated training sessions, beyond compliance, and beyond “checking the box.”

A pyramid illustrating how leaders can prepare managers to navigate new expectations. From bottom to top, the pyramid is segmented into “Equip,” “Empower,” and “Support.

1. Equip

Equipping managers is all about meeting their baseline needs to be successful. It is the foundation that managers need to feel empowered as leaders and supported by the business. Typically,  this looks like training, tools, and resources. Getting this right first is critical.

We recommend a few best practices:

    • Set clear expectations. When everyone has a different view or perception of what being a manager means, it’s nearly impossible to deliver a consistent manager experience. Leave no room for assumptions, and give your managers a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
  • Provide ample context. In order to situate managers within your current state, you’ll need to provide context for what came before, why a transformation needs to occur, and what will happen after it does.
    • Invest in the right training and development. For the best results, we recommend adapting your training materials and courses to align with your business’s specific needs. One way to do this is by tailoring your sessions to the tenure of managers (new managers, for example, may benefit from additional materials, while seasoned managers need only a refresher).
  • Give them custom tools they need and will use. The term “tool” here is flexible in that it can mean platforms (e.g., project management systems), dashboards (e.g., employee experience survey results), or information hubs (e.g., intranets or communications centers).

2. Empower

Ultimately, you need your managers to leverage what you’ve equipped them with, and the way to do that is by empowering them. Empowerment starts by granting managers the authority and support they need to make decisions, lead their teams with conviction, and create meaningful outcomes for the business. 

Part of the reason empowerment is so critical in preparing managers for the new state of business is that it taps into their desire to have a seat at the table and put new information into action. 

Here are a few tips to empower your manager base:

  • Prepare managers to lead through change. At the heart of any successful change initiative is your people. Helping them accept and move through the transformation is the only way you will experience lasting effects, and managers play a key role in guiding their teams through that change process. 
  • Share information transparently. Transparency is perhaps the most important trust builder between managers and leaders. Managers who feel like they have the knowledge they need to lead through transformations are also those who are the strongest  champion of change.
  • Give managers autonomy. When leaders allow their managers to run their teams autonomously, they send a powerful message that they trust them to make the best decisions for their teams, stay agile, and operate within their preferred leadership style.
  • Delegate decision-making. Let’s face it: no one person can make every decision on their own. Lean into your managers for decision-making support when possible. Not only do they understand the inner workings of their teams, but spreading out decision-making contributes to improved diversity of thought and trust among manager cohorts. Further, empowering leaders to make decisions and not have to wait on leadership decisions keeps things moving for teams and reduces bottleneck decision making.

3. Support

As discussed above, the new realities that today’s managers face have contributed to new responsibilities, increasing burnout, and lower retention rates. All three of these problems share the same underlying root: insufficient support at the managerial level. 

Manager support is more than providing the right resources and training. It’s about making their employee experience a top priority, too. 

When executed, manager support can take many forms:

    • Ask what support looks like to your managers. This seems self-explanatory, but there is no better way to evaluate what your managers need than to ask. Keep feedback pathways open, and be receptive to suggestions when they come. Your managers — and their teams — will be better for it.
  • Recognize their contributions and acknowledge their struggles. Managers, just like the rest of your employees, want to be appreciated for the work they do. Consider how you and the rest of your leaders can bake in opportunities to validate the good times and the hard times your managers are experiencing.
    • Give them clear and defined processes. Building out and standardizing your processes is hard work — don’t leave it all to your managers. Having hands-on leaders helps alleviate and evenly distribute the work, give managers clear direction, and ensures that any operationalization efforts are on par with leadership expectations.
  • Encourage work/life balance. Work will always have its busy seasons, but managers — who so often bear the brunt of the responsibilities — can benefit from a nudge to take breaks, use their PTO, and flex when and where they work to accommodate their personal lives.


The Bottom Line: Managerial Effectiveness Is the Key To Unlocking Peak Performance 

Good managers have the power to radically transform team performance, earn hard-won trust with their people, improve retention and engagement, and help people weather change. But so often, our managers are left to make these improvements on their own or with insufficient resources. When organizations equip, empower, and support their managers, everyone benefits. 

Ready to maximize the potential of your managers? Our Best Boss™ people leader program can get you there.