January 22, 2018

PROMOTED! Top Insights for Newer Managers in Mission-Based Organizations: Lessons from the Field

Ginny Trierweiler, PhD is a consultant and coach to mission based organizations manangers.

Ginny Trierweiler, PhD is a consultant and coach to mission based organizations managers.

PROMOTED!  Top Insights for Newer Managers  in Mission-Based Organizations:  Lessons from the Field
by Ginny Trierweiler, PhD

Supervisors and managers are extremely important leaders for ensuring that mission-based organizations, such as nonprofit and government entities, can fulfill their missions.  Managers have great impact on organizational outcomes, including productivity, profit/ efficiency, customer satisfaction, and employee retention.[i]  At the same time, studies find that half of all new managers fail to adapt quickly and develop the expanded focus and new skill sets required for success in management.[ii]

The first key insight for new and mid-level managers is to gain a quick understanding of how your role has changed — and EMBRACE LEADERSHIP.  You need to develop a host of new insights and skills to fulfill a leadership role, especially those related to developing others.  Be authentic and genuine, as these are among the most valued qualities of a leader, and keep developing your self-awareness, and you can start with examining your own attitudes about authority and leadership.

You may confront various attitudes of others about authority that may surprise and even stymie you.  Some may display envy or resentment toward the new manager for “moving up,” while they have remained in place.  Some may become distant and suspicious toward you, while others may suddenly approach you with unrealistic expectations, treating you as some kind of wish-granting genie.  These reactions may be very disconcerting to you, but everyone brings their own baggage to authority!  Maintain a level of humility and always develop yourself, but you must not expect to gain everyone’s approval of you as a manager. To be a successful manager, you must effectively support the successful work of your staff, make your boss look good, and contribute to great results, you must embrace leadership.

The second key insight is that MANAGEMENT IS NOT ABOUT CONTROL; rather, it is about relationships.  You cannot be a good, effective leader if you try to control everyone and everything. Organizations are complex, adaptive systems and there are too many moving parts to control—it just doesn’t work.[iii]  Nor can you be an effective leader if you are very laissez faire and refuse to give direction or if you seek approval and support from those you supervise.  The most admirable and impactful leaders develop great skills at developing others and helping others succeed—and they still have passionate detractors.  How many people like you is not the measure of a leader– how many people are able to succeed IS.

Great managers and leaders care about people and relationships, while remaining unperturbed by others’ criticisms.  Leadership –organizing people and activities toward a common goal –is greatly needed in our world and definitely is needed in mission-based organizations.  Decide to make a difference and create value.  Take responsibility and stand up as a leader who helps others to do their best.  Care about the success of those you supervise as well as those who supervise you, and remain unswayed by the attitudes of others toward authority.

 “Caring is the only statistically significant factor distinguishing great leaders from mediocre ones.”  Center for Creative Leadership


Great managers recognize that people bring their souls to work, and that everyone wants to do great work and to be part of something meaningful.  Work to engage those souls in meaningful work and achievement of important goals and never take those souls for granted.

Studies find that only 30% of the workforce is engaged, resulting in $300 billion in waste in the United States alone.[iv]  In mission-based organizations, that waste translates to services being less available to people who need them, and to poor wages and benefits for staff, and more.  As a manager, if you are to achieve 60% or more engagement from staff—more than double the average US engagement–  you must understand that motivation is not a matter of some people being motivated and others being unmotivated.

Everyone wants to do their best–in work and in life.  But, whether we will work very hard at something depends on certain conditions.  You must understand these conditions if you are to succeed as a manager!  In order to exert great effort, a person must believe that their effort will result in good job performance.  They must also believe that their good job performance will result in a valued outcome.[v]  You can only effectively support motivated work when you know and understand the people you supervise.  What motivates them?  What do they believe will be the effect of exerting great effort toward the goal or standard you are giving them?  How can you increase their belief that great effort will produce great, meaningful results?

Ginny Trierweiler, PhD teaches High Impact Management for Mission Based Organizations.