With the recent layoffs of thousands of employees at high tech companies including Meta, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, managers may want to sharpen their focus to ensure others see their value. Though managers may have been let go not because of anything they did or not done, it’s always helpful to continue growing to be more effective.
Some may believe that these and other companies are simply trimming the fat. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, who recently announced cutting 10,000 workers in addition to the 11,000 laid off last November, says this is going to be their “year of efficiency.” Does this imply he has been at fault for leading his company inefficiently?
These layoffs are largely at the expense of middle managers spread throughout organizations. Many might consider that those in between executives pointing the direction and individual contributors doing the work there is simply a layer of bureaucracy. But these supervisors, managers, and directors are actually who direct the work and are largely responsible for employee engagement, which ultimately determines productivity.
In Russ Laraway’s book, When They Win, You Win: Being a great manager is simpler than you think, he says workers need clear expectations, the autonomy to craft and pursue their agendas, support to achieve success, and help thinking about their careers. Laraway says managers must therefore provide three things: direction, coaching and career.
Regarding direction, a manager’s job is less about setting direction and more about ensuring that direction is set. Laraway says this direction framework ensures the team is aligned through a combination to both long-term and short-term elements.
Long-Term: Purpose & Vision
Essential to any manager’s success is ensuring they provide their people long-term direction with purpose and vision. Clear purpose means people know why they are doing the work—beyond the paycheck. This purpose can increase engagement because it appeals more to intrinsic rather than extrinsic interests.
Vision provides the future state you’re working towards. It is about articulating where you are going with the work. Without this, it’s far too easy for people to not work together towards a common goal. By aligning vision and purpose means your people have a clear reason for doing the work.
Short-Term: OKRs & Prioritization
Equally important, managers must ensure they provide the short-term elements of OKRs (objectives and key results) and prioritization. According to John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, objectives define what we seek to achieve, and the key results are how those top priority goals will be attained with specific, measurable actions and within a set time frame. OKRs can help focus effort and foster coordination in a team and throughout an organization.
Too many workplaces have a lack of prioritization necessary to make progress, and nothing impedes progress more than people having too many or conflicting priorities. Successful managers need to be ruthless with clarity around priorities so there is no misunderstanding. This means that as a manager these priorities are clear to you so you can align your people and enable their continual progress.
Managers have always been in a tough spot by being in the middle and susceptible to layoffs due to the ups and downs of companies. It is therefore important to ensure your value by directing your people with purpose, vision, OKRs and prioritization. Focus on directing to emphasize your value.