12 Important Manager Challenges


The Supervisory Team

As a manager, what are your greatest challenges?

Champions in the Workplace™ conducted a poll to learn what challenges managers felt were most important to them. Here are the results, by relevance.

1. Poor Team Fit (22% picked this)

The powerful synergy of team performance is based on shared strengths between team members. This, in turn, depends on mutual respect and good communication. Be sure that you have a wide variety of strengths and behavior styles on your team and then encourage shared leadership principles.

2. Low team productivity (21% picked this)

This could result from a number of different issues. Consider the following. Have you assigned tasks according to skill level? Often, cross-training goals deter productivity because the right people are doing the wrong things. Are there conflicts among team members that distract members from the tasks at hand? Are your instructions to the team clear? Do they have adequate resources and training?

3. Low employee morale (21% picked this)

Employee morale depends on environment and management style. Look at such things as lighting, air conditioning, workspace, and the coaching style of the supervisor. For example, does the supervisors ‘care’ about the worker’s well being and growth? Is the supervisor suitably trained in coaching practices?

4. Performance not what it should be (15% picked this)

Employee performance is usually exactly what you expect it to be. Be aware of your own appreciation of the supervisor. Also, ensure they have the proper tools and training to perform the tasks. And finally, are your expectations reasonable?

5. Quality is not what you expect (19% picked this)

Quality is directly related to both the supervisor’s training and your instruction and guidance. Employees must be told what you expect from them. The cost of repairing poor quality and its impact on your pricing are much more expensive than ensuring quality in the first place. It is not an easy goal to get both high efficiency and high quality; but it is definitely worth your efforts.

6. Combative behavior (18% picked this)

This could be very serious. Is it combat amongst employees: arguments, fighting, angry words, or insults? Is it aimed towards you, the manager? Is it subtle or overt? There are many variations on this theme. However, it is usually a sign of stress—the kind of stress that results from an employee having to make a major career decision based on unmet needs. As manager, you must conduct caring meetings with the employees involved. Don’t get angry, get more information. Probe for the human needs that are being met by these behaviors. Show them how to meet these needs in alternative ways. Monitor closely.

7. Performance not what it should be (15% picked this)

Supervisor performance is usually exactly what you expect it to be. Be aware of your own appreciation of the worker. Also, ensure they have the proper tools and training to perform the tasks. And finally, are your expectations reasonable?

8. Alienation (14% picked this)

With the establishment of regular coaching sessions, carried out with the supervisor’s well-being as the goal, you will not have any of that productivity-destroying alienation. As manager, you must learn and practice the skill of careful listening; and then apply your skill through regular commitments to short meetings with your direct reports

9. Drain on executive time (13% picked this)

The executive time drain of dependent managers is higher than most people realize. Executives are flattered by their managers’ dependence on them to help answer problems. They encourage access, with good intentions. However, as a manager who reports to an executive with an open door policy, don’t you get drawn into the temptation to spend a lot of time with your boss. When you enter your boss’s office, be prepared with two or three optional solutions to your problem and keep your intrusion brief and effective.

10. Department spirit suffers (11% picked this)

This challenge is usually about lack of communication. A grape vine grows and spreads rumors and fears which undermine a healthy department spirit. Kill grape vines with effective one to one communications. Plan and carry out regular short meetings to answer those periodic concerns that arise among caring workers. Respect and answer the smallest concern immediately. Listen carefully and respond quickly.

11. Staff won’t assume responsibility (9% picked this)

How you treat bad results is critical in the building of employee responsibility. Be careful not to destroy motivation in the process. Focus on the unexpected result and treat it like something that was unexpected. Criticize the behavior, not the individual. And leave an opening for the possibility of your own misunderstanding of the event. There may well be circumstances that are unknown to you, so reserve judgment and action until you have listened to all the reports. Demonstrate what you want: behave responsibly.

12. Failure to meet sales targets (8% picked this)

The answer to this problem involves many factors: realistic goals, market potential, selling methods, stress, attitude and so on. There may be no quick answer to the question. It is best to develop a carefully considered plan and test it for results. Then, after an appropriate test period, refine the plan and retest. Selling is a profession and a sport. Sellers must love what they do and love what they sell. Help your salespeople set attainable ‘stretch’ goals to stay motivated.


Managers select their 12 most important challenges. ‘Poor Team Fit’ is #1.
Note, resolve most manager challenges with clear expectations and support.

John Smithman, head coach, Champions in the Workplace Training & Development Inc.

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