Edition: December, 2009
This newsletter appeared in approximately 2009
When we ask people who work in international teams what they expect from their manager, they always expect them to be accessible.
At the same time, many of the managers we meet feel guilty that they cannot get face to face with their people as often as they would like. When they do travel, they pay a high price in time and travel costs. Others feel at the mercy of their mobile phones and email from early in the morning to late at night.
But accessibility does not mean being available 24/7. The reality is that most people quite like you to leave them alone to do their jobs – provided they can reach you when they really need you. So accessibility is defined by the team members not the team leader.
Think about this in your own job. Do you want your boss to be looking over your shoulder or would you prefer them to leave you alone unless you need their involvement? Surveys have shown consistently over the last 30 years that as people become more skilled and educated they prefer higher levels of autonomy.
Despite this we regularly meet managers who de-motivate their teams by being too involved and interfering too often.
You may experience cultural differences in how much people expect you to be involved. In more hierarchical cultures, managers may expect to be involved more often and may feel offended if you do not keep them informed. In cultures with flatter hierarchies, it may be seen as weak to keep escalating decisions and asking for support.
Different individuals may need more or less of your time depending on their experience levels, motivation and personality.
You may take over a team and face expectations that your predecessor set and you are not aware of.
Whatever your situation, it is essential to make these expectations explicit. Otherwise, the same behaviour may be seen as intrusive by some team members, but distant and uncaring by others.
The only way to find out what people’s expectations are is to ask them. Make the time to discuss what your people expect from you in terms of accessibility – otherwise they will continue to evaluate you against a hidden expectation based on their past experiences and previous bosses.
Discuss how often you will meet, what information you expect to provide each other and what does ‘accessible’ mean. Don’t forget to clarify what accessible means to you too. Are you happy for people to call you in the evening or at home? How quickly should people expect a response to urgent emails?
This should be a win-win for leaders. When they try this exercise, many of them find that they are working hard to be present more often than their teams need or want them to be. We always advise leaders not to over-estimate the value of their presence.
Make sure expectations are clear in your team.