举例说，在美国西南航空公司 (Southwest Airlines)，管理者需训练行李处和登机口的员工，帮助他们掌握飞机晚点或其他应急事件发生时的处理方法。因此，后台管理者的职责是为员工提供指导，帮助他们自主解决问题，而不是亲手示范。得益于此，西南航空的工作运转十分有效，公司业绩也节节攀升。
For offstage leaders to do their jobs well, companies must hire differently. Rather than naming the best producer as a manager, more companies ought to hire managers that understand how to handle conflict. "You can't send a manager to empathy school," Davenport says.
Southwest Airlines' (LUV) managers, for example, train baggage and gate staff to know exactly what to do if planes are late or other problems arise. Hence, the offstage manager provides the tools for employees to solve problems on their own; the manager doesn't have to be there to lead the way. Provided with these resources, the Southwest employees know how to keep the planes moving, which in turns helps Southwest boost its business.
Cisco (CSCO) made major changes in how their middle managers operate, says Davenport, who consulted for the company in 2010 as part of Towers Watson. Previously, most Cisco managers spent about 25% of their time managing staff members and 75% of their time writing code or doing software-related work. When Cisco managers went through training in 2010, they realized they didn't have enough time to manage their staff. So Cisco changed the nature of the job and created its own certification program to train managers based on this new approach.
"You can't be a player coach and win. Most player coaches lose," Davenport says.
Cisco changed how their middle managers did their jobs, and they now spend 75% on managing others and only 25% of their time keeping their pulse on software. By having managers focus on managing, Cisco boosted its productivity and retained managers and staff longer, Davenport says. However, that didn't prevent the company from announcing plans to lay off 6,500 employees this summer as part of a larger reorganization.
Several years ago, Autodesk, a San Rafael, Calif.-based producer of design software, performed customer research on what skills its highest producing sales managers possessed, says Brian Cloughley, Autodesk's director of sales training. The research showed that managers who spend four hours per month coaching each sales employee generated the highest revenue for the company. Autodesk redefined the job so managers could focus on presales planning and how to close deals with their customers. In the past, managers spent most of their time selling and only paid a limited amount of attention helping other employees.
Autodesk now hires managers who are able to "collaborate, listen, and understand client concerns," Cloughley says. Many of the manager position's more burdensome administrative tasks were automated, freeing middle managers to coach others.
"The managers that clear obstacles and encourage staff create a Pygmalion effect. That's the influence expectations have on performance," Davenport says.