Managerial systems are an integral part of organizational success. From the CEO to the front line, it is subordinate managers that drive an organization’s strategy. But managerial effectiveness is more than that. It’s often gauged by the ability to achieve results, and as most modern organizations would agree, results are really all that matter at the end of the day. So why isn’t managerial effectiveness getting the attention it deserves? What impact, if any, does the organization as a whole have on the effectiveness of its managers?

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Organizations Need to Do A Better Job At Establishing Managerial Accountability and Authority

Organizations typically do a very poor job of establishing accountability frameworks. To whom are employees accountable? The customer? Their functional manager? Their line manager? Their team members? In fact, the only person that can hold you to account in your organization is your manager. Employees generally view their manager as the most important relationship they have in the organization. Yet organizations consistently do a poor job of communicating managerial accountability and authority. In efforts to increase the effectiveness of managers, organizations need to be more clear, concise and direct about important levels of accountability and authority. Unfortunately, in the absence of a solid framework established, managers will find it more challenging to reach desired results.

Tying Strategic Objectives to Outcomes… Linking Authority and Accountability

Most organizations understand that it is the CEO who is at the top of the managerial accountability hierarchy. They know that it’s his or her responsibility to translate the organizations strategy into results. Typically, the next step is missing: tying strategic objectives to individual outcomes and delegating in such a way that each person has line of sight to the strategy is part of a manager’s job and one that is critical for effectiveness. Remember, authority and accountability link back through the managerial chain to the CEO and ultimately to the organization’s strategic plan. In other words, while each individual should know what they are accountable for and what authority they have for meeting those accountabilities, they should also know how specific objectives link back to the strategic plan.

Setting Context and Boundaries

With the exception of some positions at the front line, managers cannot and should not be telling each person in the organization what to do every day. It’s simply not an efficient way of getting work done. Instead, managers need to use their judgment to make decisions which are going to further the specific objectives of the organization over time. In this way, it’s essential that they set the context and boundaries for their team’s performance. The goal is for managers to be able to give people enough information so that they can make decisions that are consistent with the strategic direction of the organization.

The Missing Link in Performance Management Systems

Performance management systems are important for assessing the effectiveness of the individuals in the organization. Through objective setting, feedback and performance assessment, we can look at employee engagement and learn how to do things right. But the missing piece is learning how to clarify those accountabilities and authorities of management each step throughout the process. In other words, how do you ensure people are doing things right as part of a performance management system, but are also doing the right things in the right way?

The truth is, there’s far more complexity to managerial effectiveness than can be appreciated in the research literature. Unless organizations do a better job at establishing and communicating a workable framework of accountability and authority that links delegated objectives to strategic deliverables, the desired levels of manager effectiveness will continue to be a distant and unattainable goal.