In case you hadn't heard, it's open season on managers. As if being a manager wasn't hard enough, they're now even being blamed for forcing people to take sick leave (http://tinyurl.com/7tv2v2q). If your organisation has recently conducted an employee survey, chances are your managers came in for another bashing - failing to support career development, being hopeless at performance management, and failing to communicate strategy in a clear and compelling way. Even Harvard Business Review is proclaiming the best approach to improving your business is "First, let's fire all the managers" (http://tinyurl.com/77swj3x - it's an interesting article by the way, and far less inflammatory than the headline suggests - although it understates the manager's role in developing people).
Those among us who have been managers know it's one of the hardest jobs going around. The manager is often the focal point of change in the organisation, wedged between strategy on the one hand, and reality on the other - having to nimbly juggle this while maintaining a smile and putting in the extra hours to get the rest of their job done. There's the elation of hiring someone great who turns out to be a diamond in the rough, the disappointment of a critical staff member resigning just when things were getting settled, the anguish of having to make people redundant when they're a good performer you'd love to keep, and the stress of firing someone who isn't meeting the mark. There are the occasional high points too - the thrill of the team smashing budget, genuine thanks from a direct report who thinks you're half decent, or giving someone the encouragement they needed to do something they thought was impossible.
But I think we've reached a crisis point. More and more people are seeing the role of 'manager' as something they want to avoid, while organisations are in greater need of people who can manage others well. It's tempting to just pile more training and responsibilities on managers, but this just isn't working. We're sending managers to too many training courses run by people who have never been managers (the same goes for leadership development - surely you need to 'walk a mile in their shoes' before you can tell a leader how to do their job?). It just leads to more frustrated managers with even less time and motivation to do the job well.
I do think part of the answer is to help employees to become better followers - to set up an environment where everyone sees their 'management' responsibility in driving better outcomes. And that's why I'm a big fan of developing resilience in employees and managers as a way to take organisations forward from this current bind (for a great book on resilience, check out http://tinyurl.com/7xruy4r). Resilience helps people to deal with the challenges of modern life, to embrace change, and to bounce back from disappointments. The underlying elements of resilience help us to manage ourselves better, interact with others more effectively, and to become better leaders (and better followers!). Developing self-awareness and relationship management will help to create organisations where people treat each other like adults, take responsibility for their actions, and never blame their boss when they choose to take a dodgy sick day!
On a side note, thanks to everyone who passed on the "Angry Birds" blog which managed to go ever so slightly 'viral'! Pass this blog onto others by sending them the weblink, or using the tools below.