I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of this Gallup report, State of the American Manager! It’s almost like, “Managing Employees For Dummies.” Well, that’s not entirely true – BUT – there are a few simple things that Gallup found that engaged employees said consistently of their managers. Gallup also tells us that 50% of adults have left a job to get away from their manager at some point in their career. The study says this, and I couldn’t say it better, “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.” I hope you personally haven’t had this experience, but chances are, half of you reading this have, and chances are, 50% of the employees in your organization feel or have felt this way. I’d like to help you understand how to avoid being the reason someone leaves you – not their job.
Step 1: Address Your Employees’ Strengths (not weaknesses)
Some factoids from the report:
- Employees who receive strengths feedback have 15% lower turnover rates than employees who do not receive feedback.
- People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.
- Employees who learn to use their strengths are 7.8% more productive.
- Teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity.
Many organizations operate under the idea that a manager’s job is to identify what’s wrong with an employee and “fix them.” But Gallup has found that there is infinite potential in developing what is right with people versus fixing what is innately “wrong” with them.
High performing managers focus on strengths by leveraging and developing areas of strengths. A large amount of limited and functioning talent managers said that they emphasized a balance of strengths and weaknesses, while more limited talent managers focused on weaknesses alone. I understand that the Gallup terms may have jumbled this message, so let me be clear: managers with high talent and engaged, high performing employees focus on strengths, and strengths alone.
Step 2: Consistently Communicate
You’ve probably heard that communication must be regular and frequent from every management and leadership course you’ve ever taken. This report shows that the frequency of communication is not the key, nor the mode, but the consistency. Specifically, employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them. Those managers who maintain daily contact using a combination of communication modes (in person, phone, email, text) have the highest engaged employees, but engagement rests largely on consistency alone. Consider this: if you have a meeting scheduled every Tuesday at 2:00 with your boss, and it is cancelled 25% of the time, or even 50%, what does that say to you? Or you’re told by your boss that they’ll call you (perhaps at your request, to discuss a specific project), and that call doesn’t occur – how do those irregularities affect your assessment of how your boss values you? I’m sure that your boss – and you – can justify the times that another call or another meeting took precedence over a standing meeting. But the effect of having regular meetings far outweighs the cancellation of them. Unless you like losing your top talent.
Step 3: Don an Authentic and Approachable Attitude
I’m a huge fan of authenticity. I like being myself. I like surrounding myself with people who aren’t fake. I delight in getting to know people (I know, my extroversion is showing…) I believe that real relationships can only occur when you’re your true self. Even at work, even when you’re the boss. I’m not saying that you have to share everything with your employees, but be a human! Share bits of your life with them, and encourage them to do the same. What are their hobbies, outside of work? If they have a family, ask about them periodically! You might find that you – gasp – actually like your employees! There’s a different level of trust developed when you’re real with people, and the Gallup study shows a correlation between people who answered that they felt that they could safely talk with their boss about non-work matters and those who answered that they felt they could ask their boss anything. Wouldn’t you rather your employees come to you with the questions they have, regardless of what the topic is? Rumor control, change management, quality control, priority of work, so many questions either aren’t asked or are asked of other people, but they could be asked of you. Be real with your people. You all deserve it.
Step 4: Proactively Provide Performance Coaching
For the most part, we have managing employee performance all wrong. There are a few organizations across the country, a handful of cities in Texas, starting to get things right. But even in well-designed performance management systems, individual managers can still mess things up. Employees whose managers help them set work priorities and goals are more actively engaged (though only 12% report their managers do), and employees whose managers don’t set these are most likely actively disengaged. The basics of performance coaching include clarity of expectations, understanding the employee’s role and how that fits into and aligns with the team and the larger organization, and frequent updates about priorities and progress (not just when HR requires a tool to be completed). So, regardless of what your organization mandated performance management system is, give your employees more. Have consistent, authentic coaching conversations about your employee’s strengths. It’s really that simple.