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Why do we mix up the responsibilities of our managers?

It’s not easy to reflect when the day is filled with “100 things”, all of which are in a hurry, in a hurry.

Promised to come back to the inquiry on Choosing Health and Care. It contains some interesting recommendations that I think we can learn from, and also perhaps look at it from a different angle. And this is true whether you work in health and social care, or in a completely different activity.

One of the advice given is that “Employers in the care sector should set a ceiling for the number of staff for whom the line manager with human resources responsibilities should be responsible. 20-30 people is appropriate.”

I would argue that the lower figure in that range is quite sufficient. I have always carried with me the figure of a maximum of 20 people under my direct supervision.

You can’t do a good job, either in operations or in taking care of the staff, if you have more than one responsibility.

Actually, whatever the number, we have another big challenge; to be responsible for both performance and function while having staff responsibilities. I would argue that these are two completely different focuses, requiring two completely different types of people.

Being in charge and driving the business requires one thing. Taking care of staff another. They are connected, but not.

– Why Matts, you might say?

Well, being responsible for the business creating the value it exists for requires being focused and interested in creating, achieving, driving forward, delivering value, and the like.

All with a focus on customers, whatever you call them. It’s a special kind of person. I’m sure you’ve heard “well, she’s very driven”, which means she’s focused on results and getting things done.

This type of leader is typically skilled in the business and has experience of what works and what doesn’t. This type is also goal-oriented and likes to measure and follow up on the progress of the business and delivering what it exists for.

Being responsible for people, instead, requires focusing on the people in the organisation and ensuring their needs are met. They should be able to come and get help in case of difficulties that are not related to the business itself, but are of a more human nature. The epithets of a good leader are understanding, empathetic, compassionate and so on.

Does being goal-focused mean you don’t have to be human and empathetic? No, that’s not really the case.

As a good goal-focused leader, you also need to be able to take care of your staff. To achieve good results, you need to look after your staff, so that they are happy and have the right conditions to deliver good value. Without it, you fail. At least as long as the business consists of people.

And that part of the responsibility is something that many goal-oriented leaders find themselves doing in their daily lives. You may not always be very good at it, but you see that you can’t be without it.

But there is one thing that many people don’t want to do; and that is to have development reviews, salary reviews, discussions about leave of various kinds, and so on. It takes away the focus on results and goals, which means that many times it is not so attractive for the type of manager who is results-focused.

Several times I have heard people who have held a management role say when they changed roles that; “now I have a perfect job … and best of all, I have no staff responsibilities”. It tells me that many people see human resources responsibilities as a necessary evil in acting in the role of manager.

Many organisations tend to prioritise the first type of managers, those who focus on the business, over the type of people who focus on the employee. This means that our staff do not receive the care they need, which is probably one of the reasons for the increase in mental illness.

Is there any way to split these two areas of focus that are so difficult to combine?

Yes, it does. A successful way is to work with a competence organisation instead of a strict line organisation. In such an approach, the two roles are separated: focusing on the business and its results, and taking care of staff development, salaries, planning leave, etc.

A competence organisation introduces a whole new type of manager into the organisation, who in turn has the knowledge to deal with people’s needs and is happy to focus on this.

Then the process or project manager can drive their processes and projects to create value, and ensure on a day-to-day basis that staff are “on board” with the task.

But they don’t have to focus on all those other important things; like taking care of skills development, leave, pay reviews, and more.

And they don’t have to feel guilty about not doing it, because they know it will be professionally handled by the other role.

In addition, employees also feel that they are taken seriously, are seen, and have their needs met. This creates a breeding ground for even better performance. Because satisfied employees do a better job of satisfying customers, which provides positive feedback, and so the spiral is upward.

As this weekly newsletter could easily become a whole book on the subject, I choose to end there. Would you like to know more about the organisation of competences and what it could look like in your organisation? Email me.

I wish you a great week.