Deep down, do you ever feel like you're working under a management philosophy that has you caught in a 1960s time warp?

You're not alone. Culture and society have conditioned us into a fixed mindset about the practice of management that goes back a hundred years.

In fact, the dictionary's definition of "manager" reinforces our thinking and belief by associating this person with manipulating and controlling behaviors of yesteryear: "Someone who controls all or part of a company, and manipulates resources and expenditures."

Even worse, synonyms in the dictionary associate "manager" with words like: 

  • Slave driver
  • Handler
  • Head honcho
  • Zookeeper (no joke!)

To challenge our obsolete beliefs and stereotypes, a shift is necessary. Luckily, we can look to research to inform us that the world is moving at a brisk pace toward a more human-centered approach to leadership

The end of management as we know it

Gallup just released a report in which it boldly declared "the end of the traditional manager."

Gallup starts out its report with a wake-up call to companies still operating by command-and-control standards of decades past by revealing that today's decentralized firms are defined by flexible workspaces and flexible work time. For example:

  • 74 percent of employees have the ability to move to different areas to do their work.
  • 52 percent of employees say they have some choice over when they work.
  • 43 percent of employees work away from their team at least some of the time.

What do managers of the future look like in practice? To help you prepare ahead and succeed in the age of robots, I ascertained from Gallup the following requirements:

1. The future manager allows employees to lead.

We're in a knowledge economy, and today's knowledge workers desire independence and the ability to solve their own problems.

Gallup states that "workplaces are increasingly project-based, and employees today are attracted to interesting problems and meaningful work -- not just a job title."

That means teams should be allowed to make decisions on their own without approval from their "zookeepers." That also means current managers must change their thinking around roles and empower employees to be their own bosses and, says Gallup, "act more like leaders and think more 'big picture' like executives."

In short, the manager who is a looming presence in the office and hovers over your shoulder to "check up on you" is becoming obsolete.

2. The future manager gives employees freedom and autonomy.

The evidence is clear that workers with more autonomy will increase their performance and be more engaged in their work. But there's a critical balance, which Gallup points out: "Employees still need manager support during difficult situations. Managers can't offer autonomy and disappear."

3. The future manager is relationship-driven.

It's not surprising that managers who have the trust of their employees also develop strong and healthy relationships. Gallup research affirms this as a critical driver for success because "the personal relationship they have with their supervisor is the most meaningful relationship they have with their organization."

The effects of a bad relationship with the boss are so serious, in fact, they can undermine your company's efforts to help employees improve their health. From Gallup's "State of the American Manager" report:

Having a bad manager is often a one-two punch: Employees feel miserable while at work, and that misery follows them home, compounding their stress and putting their well-being in peril.

Now imagine that same employee coming to work the next day, feeling completely demoralized and demotivated. What will that do to your productivity and team morale?

4. The future manager is a coach.

Gallup states, "Today's manager needs to be a coach, holding employees accountable while encouraging development and growth."

That means spending considerable time, as part of your performance management strategy, having meaningful, ongoing conversations to understand personal needs and motivate each person differently. 

This coaching approach has to be data-driven -- based on frequent, focused, and future-oriented conversations -- to better inform managers to help them develop and engage their workers.

Gallup states, "Over time, great coaches develop the trust and openness needed to have tough conversations under pressure."

5. Future managers will become specialized. 

This one really took me by surprise, but it's brilliant. Gallup says, "Instead of having one 'manager,' imagine your best employees interacting with a team of specialized managers -- one a technical expert, another an interpersonal relationship guru, another a career coach, etc."

The upside of this strategy: "Different managers address specific roadblocks to performance, while also consulting with one another to make sure that they are seeing each employee holistically and objectively," Gallup states.

Gallup ends its report by warning current managers who are still applying fear-based, carrot-and-stick rules of motivation that they need to reinvent themselves because the autonomous workforce of the future is here.