What Does A Good Manager/Leader Do?

Once again I find myself thinking about what constitutes a good manager/leader. Often I think back to those days when I was a manager, and now as a Department Chair, and wonder if I am a good manager. Am I someone who people trust? Am I someone who helps people engage in the necessary activities that will drive the organization to higher levels of performance? I hope I am, and I think I am ok at the job, but ultimately I am not the one who decides this. It is the other that makes that decision, not me.

I ran across a blog this morning that had some startling statistics associated with managerial performance. The blog uses Gallup poll data to demonstrate that most organizations are losing billions of dollars because of poor management. Gallop states that according to its research companies will choose the wrong person to manage 82% of the time.

If that number doesn’t knock your socks off try this one. “Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year.” Billions, wow that is a big number. According to the HBR blog I was reading, in 2012 Gallup reported that “30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged.” Oh my gosh, that is horrible, and these numbers have not changed over the last decade.

Why does this happen? Its not like companies don’t see this as a problem, and its not like money isn’t being spent on the problem. So why doesn’t this change? Why doesn’t management performance improve?

Some would say it is a measurement problem. The old saying “what gets measured gets done” has a ring of truth to it. It could be that organizations are not measuring the right thing to ensure employee engagement happens. But, does the organization really see this as important? That truly is the question.

Employee engagement is correlated with higher organizational performance. The results are clear. Employees who are engaged in the day-to-day activities within the organization provide better customer service, which in turn creates higher profitability. Employees who show up for work and are mentally present produce higher quality results, and will stay at a particular company for longer periods of time. This means lower training costs due to less turnover.

If the result of employee engagement is so dynamic, and employee engagement is connected with good management, then what skills do managers need to encourage employees to be engaged? Gallop has identified these necessary skills as the following:

  1. They motivate every single employee and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
  2. They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  3. They create a culture of clear accountability.
  4. They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  5. They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

Sounds like this is similar to what Collins calls a level five leader. Or what Clawsen calls a level three leader who is uses VABES to encourage employee engagement.

HBR says this about the current crop of managers. “In studying management talent in supervisory roles compared with the general population, we find that organizations have learned ways to slightly improve the odds of finding talented managers. Nearly one in five (18%) of those currently in management roles demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others, while another two in ten show a basic talent for it. Still, this means that companies miss the mark on high managerial talent in 82% of their hiring decisions.” So HBR’s research supports Gallop’s research.

On Tuesday of this week I shared with one of my classes various leadership theories that I think are important. Contingency Theory, House’s Path-Goal Theory, LMX Theory, among several others all demonstrate the importance of recognizing individual differences as one manages and leads an organization. This is a very important skill.

A Good manager/leader needs to be relational, know his or her people, and lead accordingly. If the manager/leader can demonstrate how each employee can meet his or her own personal goals in pursuit of organizational goals then you have an engaged workforce. This means the manager needs to be able to create a clear vision associated with the mission, or cause, of the organization. Then they need to support and remove roadblocks for their employees to be successful.

Is it that simple? Hmm, there is so much more to good management than just relationships. Each manager needs to be a systems thinker. They need to see all of the different variables associated with their people and the organization. They need to develop within themselves the skills mentioned above, and then use those skills consistently to prove to their employees that they mean business. This will break down the cynicism of the workforce, resulting in a more engaged employee. The result will be a balance high performing work ethic that provides better customer service and profitability. This is why they get the big bucks.

And that is my thought for the day!



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