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Managers, Put Your Best Foot Forward

by Dan Ranbom
on 2016-10-19

The pain started as only a dull ache on the bottom of the right heel. But then the left knee decided to join the party. And soon after, the iliotibial band on the outside of the thigh. Between doses of ibuprofen I thought, “Maybe my feet aren’t getting proper support.”

We don’t often notice them until something goes wrong, but our feet are remarkably complex structures that have evolved to take the near constant, everyday pounding we put them through. When our shoes wear out and stop providing the right support, our feet start to break down. And when we try to compensate for that lack of support, injuries to other areas soon start to show up, as I learned the hard way.

In the workplace, employees at all levels require varying types and degrees of support from their managers and their organization—without that support, issues like disengagement, confusion and misalignment with organizational priorities, start to creep in and sap productivity. Such support can take a variety of forms, whether it’s clear direction at the outset of a project, constructive performance feedback, or the resources needed to develop new skills and contribute to organizational success.

What does optimal support look like? Different feet require different support – factors such as gait, arch height, size, shape, and volume, what activity they’re being used for – all contribute to the optimal support. Some people do well in a minimalist shoe, others will need more cushion or arch support for their individual gait. Different employees may need different support – more or less direction, frequent or infrequent affirmation, a free hand or a tight grip on the reins from their manager.

Whether you’re a just-promoted supervisor working with a new team or you’ve been managing a stable, established group for years, a key component of effective management is regular communication to update people about what’s going on, identify issues, and ensure that job responsibilities are consistently aligned with organizational goals and strategy. There is a wealth of tools available today to help identify team strengths, opportunities, learning styles, and ways to improve team effectiveness. The question is whether we take advantage of such tools to avoid problems, or to correct them.

If you want to ensure your shoes are providing the right support, you can talk to a sports medicine doctor, podiatrist, even a competent running store employee,  for expert advice to get you back on your feet. If you want to ensure your company’s managers are providing the right support, you should talk to an organizational development expert for analysis and coaching—preferably before things run amok.