Many people think that it is very hard to engage manager in social business project even if they are a corner stone of a digital transformation. Because it is not only about the implementation of a social enterprise network, but about transforming the organization and its business processes and management methods. I already wrote about it a few time ago and here too. But it is still valid, and during a conference devoted to the evolution of management, someone asked me at the end of my presentation on leadership in networked organization, how to integrate front managers. Here is a quick anwser, even there is not a single way or only one solution.
To summarize the main idea, how to transform the front manager into leader/facilitator ? Some people think that you must ignore them and eventually they will catch you up when they’ll see that change makes move forward the company. In my opinion, social business is a new type of organization where power relationships evolve with everyone. So in practice, you can not ignore key people such as middle managers, and philosophically I don’t share this point of view, ignoring someone.
Usually middle management is introduced as the main obstacle, this idea is emphasized by articles like » Let’s fire all the managers » from Gary Hamel. If you have this point of view, you do not change the system, you change decision maker, that’s all. An expert or the crowd instead of a manager is always a potential « tyrant » for employees if the mindset is the same: get on case those who don’t want to go in the same direction. By doing this, do you really believe that trust remains a core value of social business ?
On the other hand, at least in France, surveys show that more than 70 % of managers wouldn’t take this position again. It’s funny, it’s the same percentage of disengaged employees in companies. Do you really think that managers are different from the « average » employees, I’m not quite sure of that. So if it’s difficult to change the mindset of employees, why would it be different for managers. And if you think that you have to work with employees on this issue, why not with the managers too. In addition, we all agree that changing a corporate culture takes time. Why should it be different for managers, and if it is not ok for them, they are good to be dump ? A sort of resurgence of class war… As Goethe said:
Treat people as if they were what they should be and you would help them to become what they can be
Maybe we should treat middle managers as allies rather than as obstacles. Many managers have taken their positions without any training , coaching … being an expert doesn’t mean you’ll be a good manager. But it’s usually the only way to advance in a company. Thus, support them during this transformation could be a good starting point, and a real shift with the old world of management. In addition, the order « be social » is somewhat paradoxical as a form of injunction.
If 70% would not make that choice again, you can bet they are not very happy in this position, even though many of them have struggled to get there. Now just say to them , you did wrong, difficult. We must show that they can change for a better organization, but also for them, like employees. Show how this new organization is not questioning themselves, but is an evolution of the « job description « . And this time, they will have some support from the enterprise. Therefore, they won’t suffer as it was the case for some before.
Of course, there is a long-term work, and as for employees, they must learn to manage these new processes such as facilitate teams collaboratively. Like most employees, they do not trust their top management. The loneliness of manager is not just a figure of speech. So as for employees, they have the right to stumble, make mistakes and feel they have the support of their management. So you have to trust them and support them in their evolution, as we do for the whole organization.
Do not think I’m a care bear, of course all managers won’t be able to match to this new model. Should you fire them for that, I don’t think so, or we are not talking about social business. It is the job of the company to find new ways of jobmobility, as expertise, for example. And if we talk about network instead of hierarchy, we must find new ways to manage talent, first steps of a new mobility, not only hierarchical .
Maybe your managers will be your allies first, but you must support them, give them time and especially trust them.