Occasionally, there will be this wonderful “aha!” moment when companies realize that investing time, training, and resources on developing higher performing managers has a compounding effect on results. After all, if by improving their skills as a team leader it affects all of those who report to them, the scalability of the approach is hard to beat. So, why does this not occur as often as it should? Ask a manager for some of the reasons, and this is what you might hear:

“I don’t have time for that.”

“I am a manager BECAUSE I am good at my job.”

“Spare me your team building speech. I have this forecast to put into a PowerPoint for my meeting with the CEO.”

“I coach my team every week on our team meeting call.”

A study by McKinsey showed that front line managers spend about 80-90% of their time on administrative tasks, meetings, and non-managerial duties. The article mentioned below also states that most front line managers spend 10 minutes or less per day coaching their performers. We would like to think that managers spend their time developing their people, thinking strategically, and making it easier for the team to hit their numbers. The stats show that you would need about 10 managers to actually make that happen.

If this is the case, you do not have a leader. You have a middleman. If their role is simply to listen and pass along information up and down the corporate chain, what is the point of having them? If anyone is afraid of having their job automated, it should be them.

However, an exceptional team leader CAN have massive impact if they spend their time on the right things. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Demand managers spend 60-70% of their time coaching and developing team members. If they can’t, they are wasting their time on other things for a couple reasons: they are avoiding it through voluntarily doing busy work (admin and meetings) or the company is wasting their time with demanding silly reports and meetings.
  2. Train leaders how to coach. You may say, “They all know how to do that.” I do not dent that “coaching” is going on. But, is it good coaching? Effective? Is it making people better? If not, it is not coaching.
  3. Admit that the number of “firefighting” incidents a team leader has to deal with is the diagnosis for a need for more coaching time (manager and employee), not an excuse of why there is no time for it.
  4. Hold team leaders accountable. If they will not spend time developing talent because they have a big Powerpoint they need to finish to show their boss, offer them a choice. They can start coaching and learning how to unleash the potential of their teams, or they can have an administrative job where they can make all the charts they want. Pick one.

Team leaders need to lead and coach. It is about people. If you are a team leader that finds comforts in charts, data, and meetings, you are in the wrong role.

To unlock a team’s abilities, a manager at any level must spend a significant amount of time on two activities: helping the team understand the company’s direction and its implications for team members and coaching for performance. Little of either occurs on the front line today.