In his Spiegel series, "Moving Away from Dictation," author Klaus Werle tells the amusing tale of a middle manager named Achtenmeyer. Besides managing his own tasks and employees, Achtenmeyer is especially concerned about his survival within the organization.
Werle illustrates a manager who could be found in just about any office. The workday is spent developing strategies that either perpetuate the hierarchy or preserve power symbols. Think of Michael Scott at Dunder Mifflin in the TV series, The Office.
A study conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Labor and Organization (IAO) mentions that middle management plays an important role for the future:
It is these leaders in particular who give employees direction in increasingly complex and turbulent work relationships, and knowledge, such as administrating team-integrated functions. Leadership is becoming a balancing act between intensive communication and individually tailored care, while at the same time fostering independence and confidence among employees. Key skills of forward-thinking executives are communication, media literacy, and an interest and willingness to change with regard to their job descriptions.
While a top-down leadership style worked in the past, management is now more likely to create a work environment based around their employees. Today, employees seek further development through coaching, and a framework in which they can be more accountable to themselves.
Prepare for the future with a social intranet
A social intranet is an effective tool that will prepare managers, along with the entire team, for the future. Management should aim to do the following:
1. Encourage employees to get involved in the social intranet
Oftentimes, employees are already engaged in the company's intranet. For example, they might write their own blog posts or answer questions. This helps the entire organization, as workers can position themselves as experts and help others. Their opinions are asked, which allows for greater networking and cooperation. Employees can strengthen their own reputations and gain recognition throughout the company. Try supporting them by sharing their knowledge (as well as documenting it) and encouraging others to participate.
2. Allow for the creation of departmental groups within the social intranet
Establishing a departmental group creates both a point of contact and a sense of team identity. It also keeps people on the same page and helps maintain clear goals. Transparency will increase, while the risk of task redundancy will decrease. Moderating tasks becomes easier, since everyone knows who is working on what and how everything is progressing. Employees in different locations can also be more easily integrated. Success can be celebrated when employees post comments about it. Give your department a "digital home."
3. Shift work processes over to the social intranet
Getting things done over the social intranet will be more efficient. Meetings aren't a hassle to coordinate since they're no longer necessary to track progress. Instead, project groups can work more effectively over the social intranet. When a meeting does take place, coordination happens naturally when everyone's on the same page. Also, many administrative processes, such as travel cost calculation and vacation requests are managed by the social intranet, making life easier for everyone.
4.Use the social intranet for internal positioning and marketing
"Do something great and talk about it." This can also work for your department on the intranet. As a manager, try to create a general understanding of what you stand for and what your department does. You can accomplish this through regular posts about your work and successes. Doing so creates visibility and reference points for organizational projects and initiatives. Market your department over the social intranet.
5. Praise and recognition
Praise and recognition are important instruments for leaders. In fact, they can really motivate employees. When you praise and recognize your employees on the social intranet through likes, comments, etc., the effect is much stronger than when you compliment them individually. You can use the social intranet for positive interactions, too.
Learning for your own future
You might think, well that sounds easy, but how do I do it? Social intranets are, of course, a newer form of organizational communication. It takes time to learn how to use them. But it's important, as the Fraunhofer study explains, to (further) develop key skills in communication and media. Even being interested in the subject is a step in the right direction. And, perhaps this step will also help you better understand the communication behavior of the younger generation.
It's crucial to find someone who understands the workings of (internal) social platforms. What is a blog entry? What does it mean when I 'like' an entry? How do I 'follow' someone? How do I comment and tag people who might be interested in an entry? Try to look for a younger employee (perhaps in your own department) who is well versed in the subject. Such a person will likely want to help you, because right now, "sharing is caring."
If you want to write your own blog entries, for example to talk about departmental work, think about how you'll create relevant content. Sometimes just going in and writing can be good enough, but you'll want to write with purpose. Thus, some research should go into creating meaningful blog posts. At the end of this article, you'll find some effective writing tips that will help you along your journey.
No leaders without followers
In one of his articles Klaus Werle brought up a good point:
The old top-down leadership model is increasingly on its way out. Leaders today need to convince through their personality, as the position alone is not enough. That's because a leader without people who follow is not a leader at all.
Being a member of your social intranet will help you gain 'followers,' as you create relevance for your employees, department, workplace, and even yourself.
This is a guest contribution by Robert Mangelmann. As a senior consultant in communications with die firma . experience design, he supports companies in the conception and software-neutral selection of intranets, as well as their introduction and accompanies the accompanying change processes. die firma is a Linchpin partner. Here you can find more information about die firma GmbH.
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