stressed male executive and his team

Series: Top Ten Management Mistakes Part 2 – Not Engaging Enough with Direct Reports

Welcome back to our enlightening series on the ‘Top Ten Management Mistakes and How to Avoid Them.’ Ready for another dive? Because Stride Group is here, armed with decades of management know-how, to unravel the second most common managerial slip-up. We’ve discussed part one in depth in our previous blog. 

Today, let’s discuss the second most common management mistake, which is…

Not Engaging Enough with Direct Reports

Ever felt out of the loop with your team? Guess what? They might feel the same about you. Dive in as we unpack this ubiquitous misstep and spill the beans on how to keep those management misfires at bay. Let’s keep the ball rolling, shall we?

After many years of executive coaching and business owner coaching and mentoring, our team arrived at this being the next biggest management mistake.

Many, probably most, managers do not engage enough with all their direct reports on a regular basis. In fact, some managers (especially those working in different offices and time zones) can go more than a week without any meaningful, non-electronic communication.

The Reason

So why aren’t many managers engaging enough with their direct reports regularly? The answers vary from manager to manager, but some of the common reasons include the following:

  • Some managers believe they are simply too busy to engage regularly.
  • They face the same social challenges of working from home, plus working in different offices and time zones.
  • They may avoid contact with direct reports they regard as ‘difficult’ or who they don’t like as much.
  • Managers who are introverted and/or task-focused underestimate the benefit that regular engagement will have on their more extroverted and/or people-focused direct reports.
  • Their own managers have modelled the same behaviour with them.
  • They may be avoiding difficult conversations, so they may avoid communication with direct reports altogether.
  • They think regular email and electronic communication are adequate.
  • They believe their team meetings prevent the need to speak to direct reports individually.

The Fix

Happy male manager engaging with his team

So, how can managers spend more time engaging one-on-one with their direct reports? 

1. We recommend scheduling weekly one-on-one time with all direct reports individually at the same time each week. 

2. Then, commit to these appointments like you would an appointment with your manager or your biggest client. 

3. The sessions often won’t need to go for more than fifteen minutes and can follow a regular, informal running agenda comprising open questions like:

  • How are you going? This leaves open the prospect for your direct report to give a more rounded answer, perhaps even including the personal realms before you get straight into the operational items. 
  • What’s happening?
  • What was your biggest success last week?
  • What was your biggest challenge last week?
  • What might be your biggest challenge this week?
  • What are your current ideas to deal with this challenge?
  • What do you need from me this week?
  • Is there any feedback you have for me?

If you work in the same office, these should always be face-to-face. There’s simply no substitute for building engagement and rapport.

If you are not in the same office, schedule your weekly meeting via Teams or Zoom or similar rather than telephone. Again, you can build more rapport and engage better if they can at least see you and you can see them.

Regular, scheduled, individual meetings with your individual direct reports will build engagement and rapport over time. You will nip challenges in the bud and get more feel for how they’re going and handling things. This allows you to guide and coach them to find solutions to their own problems, plus help them fix issues directly when they need your direct input.

It also ensures there are fewer nasty surprises down the road and allows you to give positive and constructive feedback ‘as you go’ rather than procrastinating on giving constructive feedback or having other difficult conversations.

Finally, the nature of these meetings will tend to be easier and more pleasant over time, because you are both across most of the various issues and challenges. Not to mention you will have built rapport due to the regular meetings.

This is a classic ‘Important, Not Urgent’ task that must be scheduled, or it won’t get done.

Wrapping It Up

And there you have it! The intricate dance of management, a role where every step has its significance. By being intentional about engaging with your direct reports, you don’t just optimise productivity but also foster a culture of trust and respect. Remember, the real magic often happens in those one-on-one interactions.

As we’ve unveiled the second most common managerial pitfall today, you might be wondering what’s next on our list. Well, patience, dear reader! Part 3 promises to be just as riveting, if not more. Stay tuned for the next instalment of our ‘Top Ten Management Mistakes and How to Avoid Them’ series. Until then, keep those management gears running smoothly and see you soon!