The Seven Types of Management Challenges and How to Solve Them

Despite how unique your management challenges may seem, the common denominator is likely unstructured, low-substance, hit-or-miss communication. When things are going wrong in a management relationship, that is usually at least part of the cause.

What do the best managers do differently? They build and maintain an ongoing schedule of high-quality one-on-one dialogues with every single person they manage. High-quality means highly structured and highly substantive: Ongoing, regular, scheduled, frequent, with a clear execution focus, and specific to the individual. The goal is to replace unstructured conversations when things go wrong with regular check-ins every step of the way, in order to:

  • Make expectations clear
  • Track performance and provide ongoing candid feedback
  • Provide support, direction, troubleshooting, and guidance
  • Recognize and reward in line with performance

As a result, those managers spend less and less time firefighting. They get ahead of the problems and prevent the fires. What is more, they almost always increase employee performance and morale, increase retention of high performers, and achieve significant measurable improvements in business outcomes.


The seven types of common management challenges

Most well-intentioned managers believe they are already doing enough. The value of ongoing one-on-ones has long been understood by HR departments and is now a widely spread practice throughout many organizations. If the problem with your management communication isn't the structure, it might be the substance.

If you're a manager demoralized by the ineffectiveness of your one-on-ones--despite thorough planning and a routine schedule--the good news is you don't have to dismantle your current strategy. The change you will have to make is to customize the substance of your meetings more specifically with each person.

The first step is to identify which type of management challenge you are facing with each direct report. It may be that you face the same challenge with everyone. Most likely it is a combination of a few. The most frequent and regularly recurring challenges fall into seven basic categories:

1. Leadership transitions

  • Possible solutions: Prioritize intelligence gathering; Introduce yourself and your leadership style; Find out who each person is at work and how that relates to your role as their leader.

2. Employee work habits

  • Possible solutions: Reiterate which work habits are important to your team and organization; Define and communicate concrete actions employees can take to improve their work habits; Track work habits like any other performance metric and help direct reports improve along the way.

3. Performance management

  • Possible solutions: Identify pain points encountered in recurring tasks and processes; Consider skills training or retraining; Implement more frequent checkpoints for projects and ongoing work.

4. Employee attitudes

  • Possible solutions: Describe the behavior you are seeing and why it is unacceptable; Provide clear alternate behaviors you are requiring instead; Keep clear and accurate records of employee behavior--this will make it easier to reach out to HR before problems spiral out of control.

5. Managing superstar employees

  • Possible solutions: Don't assume things are going as well with superstar employees as you think; Get clear about what motivates these employees and do your best to tap into that motivation; Prioritize rewards for superstars.

6. Managing despite factors beyond your control

  • Possible solutions: Remind your team of what things will never change; Refocus the conversation onto what things are within your control and your teams' control; Reassure your team that their performance will not be evaluated based on factors over which they have no control.

7. The need for a fresh start to an old relationship; renewal

  • Possible solutions: Identify where you have been falling short as a leader and where you have been succeeding; Reevaluate the structure of your routine one-on-ones; Be honest with your direct reports--tell them you are changing how things are done, but not because they are at fault.


Diving deep on the 27 challenges managers most commonly face

The steps above are a good place to start and may even resolve your management challenges entirely. But if you're a leader facing one of these problems, you may need even more specific advice:

  1. Advancing from peer to leader
  2. Taking over the leadership of an existing team as an outsider
  3. Building a new team
  4. Welcoming a new team member to an existing team
  5. When employees have a hard time managing their time
  6. When employees need help with interpersonal communication
  7. When an employee needs to get organized
  8. When an employee needs to get better at problem-solving
  9. When an employee needs to increase their productivity
  10. When an employee needs to improve their work quality
  11. When an employee needs to go the extra mile
  12. When employees are engaged in creative work
  13. When an employee knows more about the work than you do
  14. When employees need an attitude adjustment
  15. When there is conflict within a team
  16. When an employee is dealing with personal issues
  17. When an employee is a superstar who needs to stay engaged
  18. When there is a superstar employee you really want to retain
  19. Losing a superstar the right way
  20. Developing superstars as leaders
  21. Managing in an environment with constant change and uncertainty
  22. Managing within or around resource constraints
  23. Managing through interdependency
  24. Managing around logistical hurdles
  25. Managing across different languages and cultures
  26. Renewing your management relationship with disengaged employees
  27. Renewing your commitment as a strong, highly-engaged leader

Solve these problems with my latest course--The 27 Challenges Face: Step-By-Step Solutions--with a one year subscription on RainmakerLearning. Enroll here.

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Bruce Tulgan: Founder of RainmakerThinking, Inc. and Top Expert on Leadership Development and Generational Issues in the Workplace

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