The five biggest challenges of management (and the solutions too!)

There are five challenges of management that are already huge and still growing in significance. It’s no exaggeration to say that how you respond to these challenges will determine your success as a manager.

The challenges of management

The five biggest challenges of management are all interlinked, they are:

  1. Managing across multiple generations
  2. Influencing without authority
  3. Embracing accelerating change
  4. Providing purpose and motivation
  5. Coping with increasing uncertainty

They are all the result of macro changes in the workplace: demographic shifts, increasingly matrixed and fluid organizations, shorter business cycles, greater complexity and uncertainty (the VUCA world), and the changing needs and expectations of the workforce.

None of these trends are going to disappear, they will continue to grow in significance.

We’ve summarized these 5 challenges of management and provided the solutions too!

1. Managing across multiple generations

For the first time ever, the workplace is experiencing up to 5 generations all working together. The older generations, who’s formative years were post-WW2 and the Vietnam era, are working alongside Millennials and the post 1997 generation.

Generational stereotypes abound: the Baby Boomer who is mystified by social media, the Millennial who needs ‘validation’ and recognition on an ongoing basis.

There may be some serious truths behind the stereotypes, but for an amusing illustration, take a look at this ‘Millenial Job Interview”:

On a more serious note:

“It’s important to be aware of generational tension — loosely defined as a lack of respect for someone who’s of a different generation from you — among colleagues,”

Jeanne C. Meister, Founding Partner, Future Workplace

The solutions:

  1. Be willing to explore generational differences but don’t make assumptions (there are differences within generations as well as between generations!)
  2. Be open to the value that everyone can bring, diversity is a strength.
  3. Focus on developing your core communication skills: how to become a better listener, questioning techniques and emotional intelligence.

2. Influencing without authority

Managing your own team used to be sufficient for success, but now just managing your own team is not enough. In the past – when change was not so rapid, when organization structures were more stable, and where roles and responsibilities were more clearly defined – just managing the performance of your own team was enough.

Your success depends on collaborating with other teams, on delivering projects that span beyond your control, on creating coalitions and leading change.

To be successful you need to influence without authority. That’s a fundamentally different challenge to just managing your own team.

The solutions:

  1. Invest time in networking within your organization.
  2. Seek out a Mentor and learn the skills of ‘how things get done’ in your company.
  3. Understand the six sources of power and how to leverage them.

3. Embracing accelerating change

Change is changing, it’s getting faster. This is a challenge for your both yourself and your team.

For example, The Visual Capitalist provides a graphic illustrating how long it takes for a product to hit 50 million users.

The move to digital services, networking effects, artificial intelligence, social media: these are all influences that are accelerating change in our world. Add in climate change, growing social inequality and shifting political forces and the instability is creating ‘tipping points’ that make change unpredictable and non-linear.

It’s a heady mix! What can you do in response?

The solutions:

  1. Learn to embrace change by adopting a growth mindset.
  2. Find opportunities to lead change (with your sphere of influence). The experience of leading change helps you to embrace the changes that you have less control over.
  3. Communicate with your team (even when you’re not sure what is going on, you can still communicate what you know and what is less certain). This willingness to communicate and to be open about what is know and what is not known, and how to move forward, is a critical skill for managers.

4. Providing purpose and motivation

How do you motivate people?

Or, to be more accurate, how do you motivate people across different generations, in teams beyond your direct control, during time of rapid change? This is a huge question, the answer can be distilled down into three words: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

You may have seen this Daniel Pink video before (it has over 17 million views on YouTube). In it he proposes and provides evidence for his model of motivation, which is based on providing autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The solutions:

  1. Embrace autonomy, mastery and purpose.
  2. Talk with each of your team members about what motivates them.
  3. Find opportunities to meet there needs, through the work you assign them.

5. Coping with uncertainty

All the above challenges of management combine to create skyrocketing uncertainty, which in itself becomes a challenge (we all like a level of certainty and routine in our lives!).

The solutions:

  1. Understand your purpose, the leadership legacy that you wish to create. This will help you create stability (‘stability of purpose’) in a world of uncertainty.
  2. Focus on your core transferable skills (this is good advice for your team too). In a world where lifetime employment is long gone, the goal is ‘lifetime employability’. The best way to achieve this is focus on developing a core set of transferable skills, preferably in a function or industry that is growing.
  3. Recognize that the traditional ‘ladder’ approach to careers is less relevant than it used to be. Gaining experience across functions, even changing careers completely, can be great routes to success (especially if when you’re clear about your purpose and core skills!).

The challenges of management in summary

Managing across multiple generations: explore differences but don’t make assumptions, embrace the value of diversity, focus on developing core communication skills.

Influencing without authority: invest time in networking, seek out a Mentor, understand your 6 sources of power.

Embracing accelerating change: adopt a growth mindset, find opportunities to lead, communicate (what you know and what you’re less sure about).

Providing purpose and motivation: embrace autonomy, mastery and purpose, talk with your team members about what motivates them and find opportunities to meet their need.

Coping with increasing uncertainty: understand your purpose, focus on core transferable skills, recognize that there are other options to the traditional ‘ladder’ approach to careers.

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