Managerial practices in the eyes of employees

Wioleta Patkowska, HR Manager: Let me start by asking you about an exceptional manager who played a role in your professional career. Who were they?

Agata Bandych (HR Specialist): An expert I could trust because they knew what they were doing and did not stumble in their work. Even if I didn’t agree with something, I could back off because I trusted their competence and knew there was a greater purpose behind their decisions that I may not have yet understood.

They also never gave me the impression that they were too busy to talk to me. Every time I needed help, they did their best to be available.

Malwina Nagórska (SAP Architect and Coach): A leader with a human face. They were able to admit that they didn’t get something right, made a mistake. This made me realize that it is okay to be wrong sometimes. I had worked with many managers before, and they were the first that ever said to me: “Sorry, I made a mistake. You were right.”

Aleksandra Byrska (HR Specialist): A manager who paid great attention to each person in the team and picked out natural talents. I felt they had a plan for me and knew their expectations regarding my work. Thanks to this, we were always assigned tasks according to our competencies. They asked: “What do you want to do?” Afterwards, they arranged meetings in which they explained the task to me and clarified the defined goals.

Their initiative was equally important. They didn’t wait for me to approach them with a problem, instead initiating a conversation right after noticing any struggles. It’s great to have a person who can stay calm and not go into a spiral of difficult emotions and pressure.

Marta Kierat (SAP Consultant): They were not an expert in their area and were able to admit it. A leader does not have to know everything ?. They delegated complex tasks to experienced people or those who liked a challenge. They knew who would handle a given task well, and who to turn to for support if needed.

Wiola: If you choose one leadership practice regarding the TEAM you value the most. Which one would it be?

Agata: Team meetings in which each person shares the status of their tasks, instead of just assessing the general mood of a team. By knowing our limits, we can help each other better. We are a small team that does a lot because if someone gets swamped with work, someone else will take over the task and complete it. This brings a good flow to our work. The role of the leader lies in consistency, and I believe the manager is the one that should keep an eye on regular meetings, deadlines or statuses.

Ola: I like that we developed a plan for the whole year and wrote it on the wall. We can see what our goals are, what has been accomplished, and what is yet to come.

Malwina: I like contract-like cooperation, which I understand as setting clear rules that answer the questions: “What are our mutual expectations? What do we promise to each other?”

I had a leader who understood that there is strength in diversifying competencies, allowing us to perform a bigger amount of more diverse tasks. They treated everyone equally and saw value in each one of us.

Wiola: …and the leadership practices regarding YOU that you appreciate the most?

Agata: 1:1 meetings, with their form being the key to their success. I, for one, was shocked when I first heard positive feedback. I thought that these meetings were just to reprimand someone. For negative feedback, there should always be examples and facts that leave no room for discussion. What was super cool was that the leader expected feedback regarding themself and always proactively asked for it. It feels silly to give feedback to the manager, it’s a tricky thing to do, and that’s why the manager should actively encourage it.

Ola: … and meetings must be added permanently to the calendar. Not with an approach of: “If there’s a topic, we’ll talk about it.” This is my time, and I look forward to it. I find it challenging to give feedback to a manager, so I appreciate it when they ask about specific situations and my opinion on their approach. If someone is an introvert like me ?, they won’t say anything right away. It takes time and encouragement.

Marta: Addressing both more and less formal topics at 1:1 meetings. During the meeting with the leader, I don’t want to feel as if I were giving a report. I care about an open conversation that works both ways.

Malwina: I, for one, appreciate when a leader has an idea regarding me and my development. I know they have to balance the company’s strategy with my needs, so their support in determining my development path is crucial.

Wiola: …and what about a managerial practice regarding TASK MANAGEMENT? Which one do you value the most?

Agata: When the tasks are well-fitted to my skills, varied, and promote my development. We have worked out a backlog of tasks, and I can choose which one I will start with. They should also distribute tasks according to competencies and preferences. I can see that when one person can’t or won’t do something, it often blocks the whole team.

Ola: A sense of whether it’s worth pushing or not ?. A leader should motivate people to get the given tasks done, not take them away when problems arise. Without it, I won’t develop, and sometimes I need that extra motivation.

It’s also relieving to know my priorities and see that I don’t need to take care of some tasks right away; I can shelve them and wait for a better, more appropriate time. A manager should provide a room to let go of some things. I sometimes take on too much, and it overwhelms me.

Marta: Assigning tasks that push you a bit out of your comfort zone ?. A message of: “I know you are capable of doing it” is essential. A leader should proactively ask if someone needs support with a task and, if such a situation takes place, recommend them someone who can help.

I remember when our leader, to facilitate our cooperation, outlined their expectations regarding, for example, how to draft documentation. It was important that we discussed expectations at a meeting, as I could voice whether I agreed with the rules and share my comments. In addition, the established rules were emailed so that anyone who needed them could return to them at any time.

Malwina: I will again mention the human factor, especially in a situation in which a manager can help me let go. When I have a moment of crisis, I know I can tell them about it because I trust them.

Wiola: If you were to point out one particularly important moment from the time you’ve worked with your leader. Which one comes to mind?

Agata: The first 1:1 meeting at which I received positive feedback. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was stunned ?. In addition, they insisted that I also provide feedback on their work and approach. This was the foundation for building a partnership-based relationship.

Marta: I can name two such moments. The first was when there was an unpleasant situation in the team, and the leader called a meeting to talk about it. There was a lot of talk behind the scenes, and the leader directly discussed what had happened. The second time was when they suggested that they would like to share their knowledge with me. Until then, I thought that the leader expected me to have skills at a specific level and that developing them was only my own responsibility. They made time for me without ignoring the topic or referring me to someone else.

Malwina: When I first heard the leader admit they were wrong. They said: „I didn’t manage to make it work.” They were not afraid that it would undermine their authority. The second situation was when I presented my ideas to them and heard in response: „Okay, do it. How can we support you?” Without fretting about budget, time, or that it can’t be done.

Ola: When he understood my character and tried to adapt to it. He took my individual characteristics into account, such as the fact that I need a lot of positive reinforcement to feel confident. I didn’t even have to communicate it. The leader sensed it and provided it to me. Sometimes all it takes is one word, a 😉 chat emoticon, a smile.

Wiola: To conclude, if you were to choose the single most valuable leadership practice in your opinion. Which one would it be?

Agata: 1:1 meetings: open conversation, giving both positive and negative feedback. This builds a relationship, promotes communication and promotes self-reflection. When I speak my thoughts aloud, I often realize that I’m doing something too slowly or procrastinating.

And one more – independence. I can even work sorting screws ?, but in a time and place of my choice. The lack of micromanagement allows me to develop. I admit that there are times when things get out of hand, and this is where a manager should act. But when I know they trust me, I feel like I’m working in my own business. By not being forced to do anything, I feel like I want to actually do my job.

Ola: Understanding my needs without judgment. After all, everyone is different and needs a different approach.

Marta: Talking not only about the negative but also about the positive things regarding my work when giving feedback. That way, I know what the leader appreciates and what they perceive my strengths to be.

Malwina: Treating the employee as a partner, the ”I need you, and you need me too” approach. I want to feel that I am needed.

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Wioleta Patkowska
HR Manager