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A Crisis is Looming : The Manager’s ever Evolving Role

Managers can’t do it all or it will break them.


Give your managers a week full of rest and relaxation. They have been navigating through unprecedented territory over the last 3 years and we ALL need to acknowledge the resilience and radical confidence of managers leading teams through: a pandemic, unexpected product demand, unexpected cost constraints, supply-chain and labor shortages, office digitization, digital transformation, new employment laws, inflation, and a geopolitical changing environment.

But…there is one another looming demand that managers have either yet to be recognized for or properly prepared for.

The Problem

The aforementioned issues are the only issues that Corporate America believe to be the real empirical problems that is comprising the Great Resignation.

We all keep hearing about “burnout” and it the distress from it is very real. But, do we really understand what is leading up to burnout? In most cases, it is not because the managers are not “pursuing their passion.”

While managers have been hastily solving problems in a radically changing environment to keep the ship afloat through: meeting company goals, planning growth and wellness initiatives for staff, pushing productivity into hyperdrive, developing relationship and building influence with staff, and all while barely finding the time to shove a spoon full of cereal into their mouths from within their own home, they have been growing in one other direction as well.

Executives need to recognize that a new layer of managers have emerged as People Leaders.

The Looming Crisis

Let’s kick off the case with an excerpt from the article titled Managers Can’t Do It All by the Harvard Business Review to provide more introspection:

“The amount of change that has taken place in just the past few years is overwhelming. The management layer above her was eliminated, which doubled the size of her team [she is fortunate that she had a budget to add to her team] and almost half the people on it are now working on cross division projects led by other managers. She and her team used to meet in her office for progress reviews, but now she has no office, and if she wants to know how her people are doing, she has to join their stand-ups, which makes her feel like an onlooker rather than their boss. She no longer feels in touch with how everybody is doing, and yet she has the same set of personnel responsibilities a before: providing performance feedback, making salary adjustments, hiring and firing, engaging in career discussions.

Not only that, but she’s being asked to take on even more. Because her company is rapidly digitizing, for example, she’s responsible for upgrading her staff’s technical skills. This makes her feel uncomfortable because it feels threatening to many of her team members. When she talks with them about it, she’s expected to demonstrate endless amounts of empathy. She’s supposed to seek out diverse talent and create a climate of psychological safety while simultaneously downsizing the unit. She understands why all these things are important, but they’re not what she signed up for when she became a manager, and she’s not sure that she has the emotional energy to handle them…

The signs are everywhere. In 2021, when we asked executives from 60 companies around the world how their managers were doing, we got unanimous reports of frustration and exhaustion.”

Some of your managers have unrecognizably been your thought-leaders and intuitively changed their management style to the increased demands from their staff. They likely are leading the thriving teams in your organization, today. Some managers, have stayed the same and might feel puzzled by their unfavorable upward feedback, and some might have failed.

The Reality

Managers have been experiencing 3 fundamental shifts in their role from Manager to People Leader and those who have already adapted to these shifts need to be recognized, immediately.

New Models of Management

Begin with some basic steps:

  • Recognize their aptitude for building a human connection in their work
  • Ask how they need to be supported in building their coaching muscle and continue to lead their teams
  • Provide a promotion or create an accreditation process
  • Change their role’s title
  • Add a new layer of management in core competency plan
  • Change their core competency level
  • Before nominating raises, check with your employment lawyer to review pay equity guidelines

Next evaluate the rewiring of processes and systems:

  • Free managers up from administrative work
  • Split the role into Leaders of People (chapter leader) and Leaders of Work (a subchapter leader)

“The role of leaders of people is to know people beyond their work, to understand their career aspirations, to feed their minds and create though provocations.” — Alex Badenoch

Leaders of Work focus on creating and measuring work processes and outputs.

Managers can’t do it all or it will break them

It is the executives responsibility to do everything that you can to split the manager’s role and help them adapt as the continuation of being a “player-coach” threatens the well-being of your managers. They are simply doing too much.



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