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Two ways managers are falling down on the job Add to ...

To unlock a team's abilities, a manager 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, three McKinsey & Co. consultants note in a recent report. But little of that is happening with frontline managers today, report Aaron De Smet, Monica McGurk and Marc Vinson in the McKinsey Quarterly.

They found that frontline managers spend 30 to 60 per cent of their time on administrative work and meetings, and 10 to 50 per cent on non-managerial tasks such as travelling or conducting special projects themselves. They spend just 10 to 40 per cent on actually managing frontline employees by, for example, coaching them directly.

Even then, managers often aren't truly coaching. The consultants' survey of retail district managers showed that much of the time they spent on frontline employees actually involved auditing for compliance with standards or solving immediate problems. At some companies, district managers devoted as little as 10 minutes a day to coaching.

At the best companies, frontline managers allocated 60 to 70 per cent of time to their staff, much in high-quality individual coaching. The companies also empower managers to make decisions and act on opportunities.

"The bottom-line benefit is significant, but to obtain it companies must fundamentally redefine what they expect from front-line managers and redesign the work that those managers and their subordinates do," they stress.

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