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How to Support Your Managers

Supporting Your Managers - Critical Players In A Disrupted Work World

During this COVID-19 pandemic, senior leaders need to provide proactive strategic guidance, make smart decisions, be visible, model calm and optimism, and above all, show care and concern. Senior leaders must be captains of the ship. They guide the way forward.

Managers and supervisors have a different role: they take the strategic guidance from senior leaders and, using experience, personality, and grit, guide their teams to support forward momentum. They serve as managers/coaches during crises. Their actions will determine if the ship will move forward at a fast clip, move slowly, or stand still.

Supervisors and managers are the only ones who have a true local view of what is happening, and their perspective is highly valued during times of disruption. Their insights are truly invaluable to senior leadership during times like these. During disruptions, employees need managers and supervisors to not just supervise tasks, but to continue supporting their well-being and engagement. In this article, we will examine the needs of managers during disruptive times such as these, and what senior leadership needs to know to provide support for these crucial employees.

Manager Burdens During Disruptive Times

Both senior leaders and employees need manager support at the very time these managers are dealing with potentially stressful changes:

  • The work is being done in new ways
  • The manager and some or all of their team members may be working from home for the first time 
  • Customers may have new needs
  • Business revenue patterns may have been disrupted
  • Some members of the team may have lost their jobs
  • The manager may be taking on tasks that were previously done by others on the team
  • The manager may have new personal/family obligations of their own

The primary question leaders should consider during the current crisis is: “With all the expectations we are placing on managers and supervisors now, how can we support THEM as they are busy holding up the middle?”

For the answers to that question, the following survey themes can help leaders understand where managers most need support.

Survey Themes For Focusing Support For Managers

Questions related to the following themes will help leaders determine how best to support managers:

Work needs:

  1. Clarity about direction and what the organization needs/wants them to accomplish
  2. Understanding of how their role fits into the bigger picture
  3. Specific objectives for their team/department
  4. Timely decision-making by senior management
  5. Quick responses to manager requests
  6. Decision-making at the right organizational level, with emphasis on more decisions being made at lower levels
  7. Simplification of approval process and empowerment to make decisions for the well-being of their team/department
  8. Flexibility to try new things without fear of reprimand
  9. Use of managers’ ideas to address critical issues
  10. Defined processes to inform the organization about their team’s needs for resources and support, and authority to do what their team needs to function effectively

Personal needs:

  1. Inventory of managers’ personal needs and checks on personal well-being
  2. Time needs for dealing with family concerns
  3. Space to breathe—maintaining regular work hours
  4. More encouragement than ever, including recognition by the manager’s immediate supervisor and senior leaders regarding the difficulty of their job and its importance to the organization

With feedback from managers on these critical areas of concern, leaders can make new policies or adapt existing ones to support managers and reduce stress—giving managers the tools, autonomy, and flexibility they need to keep their teams moving forward.

The COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory for everyone—leaders, managers, and employees alike. What is most important during this unprecedented time is to keep the lines of communication open, acknowledge the stress that everyone is feeling, seek feedback to understand how to reduce that stress, and take action to provide managers with the policies and tools they need to be most productive and to help their teams feel safe.

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