Leadership Habit Changes You Need for 2018
As we pointed out last year, raising employee engagement in their current work situation has bottom-line value. Last year, we shared a study run by the University of Warwick that calculated the gain in productivity from engaged employees to be about 12%.
The math on this hasn’t changed in 12 months. If an employee costs you $100,000 annually (all in), you can invest $12,000 in engagement activities with this one employee and break even on the deal.
The great news is that you don’t have to invest that much in each employee’s engagement to capture that 12% productivity gain. The programs we run that generate gains in excess of 12%, for instance typically demand an investment of about 1/8th of that amount per employee. The gains average closer to 20% in higher productivity, as well.
The ROI of building employee engagement is undebatable. Why achieving it seems to baffle too many managers, however, and we think we know why: They don’t get the help they need to pull it off.
Most employees are ready and willing to engage, but they need consistent encouragement to do so. They also need to see true commitment to engagement, and come to trust that your efforts as a leader are genuine. In our experience, managers are not properly trained to deliver the engagement activities, or the feedback loop that builds trust.
In a study done by Wakefield Research, 98% of managers feel they and their cohorts need more training. Effective management is challenging, and the best way to get managers better at it is to help them learn, and make habitual, the engaging leadership mindsets they need to succeed. Why, then, do lower and middle managers get so little consistent leadership training of this sort?
As we shared last year, here are five ideas we borrowed from Victor Lipman, a Forbes writer on leadership and HR issues, that focus on five fundamental issues all managers deal with, which you can use as the foundation for your 2018 leadership habit change resolution list:
Confront conflict head-on. Avoiding conflict is too often the default reaction. Lipman rightly calls it “the path of least resistance.” Conflict arises in management every day with employees, with your boss, with colleagues, with customers. “The vast majority of people find conflict stressful, but dealing with it diplomatically and effectively is a crucial management skill. Strong managers don’t hesitate to face conflict directly,” stated Lipman. We emphasize this mindset within all our leadership mantras.
Spend time where you need to, not where you want to. You have control of your own day-to-day priorities, even when working with a demanding boss. You can choose which tasks you handle directly, and which you delegate to staff, or to colleagues. “There’s a natural temptation for all of us to spend time on functions we really like,” points out Lipman. “All managers to some extent face such choices – and need to balance the projects one most enjoys with those most critical.” Choose to focus on what is most critical, rather than easiest and fastest to complete. Attach greater value to the completion of quality assignments, rather than just quantity.
Resist the (natural) temptation to play favorites. Lipman admits we all default to people we like occasionally. “As humans we all have tendencies toward favoritism,” he writes. “Some employees are just likable and easy to work with, others can be, well, downright difficult…as a manager we have a responsibility to be scrupulously fair… even if that sometimes runs counter to the course we’d personally like to take.” Find and tease out all the talent you have working for you, even within people who make day-to-day interactions difficult (and well-trained leaders can minimize such behavior!)
Keep on your own list only the projects you really need to handle directly. “Thoughtfully delegate the rest,” urges Lipman. “Effective delegation is all about balance…Finding the right balance is a delicate but important management challenge.” And that balance is a moving target, demanding constant attention. It is one of your key leadership mandates! Do your mix of decisions plays to both your employees’ strengths, and your own,” asks Lipman?
Dedicate enough time to help your employees grow. Employee development is not a threat to your own effectiveness (as you lose talented people to new opportunities. It works to your advantage. If your staff keeps winning all the promotions because of how much you helped them grow, who is the one manager for whom talented people will want to work? You. “Managers who excel at growing their employees are usually rewarded with appreciation and productivity,” concludes Lipman.
We look forward to exploring these mindsets in more depth with you in 2018. How can we help you and your team get the New Year off to a highly energized and productive start? Your first step toward employee engagement ROI may be to rope Dave or Brooke into your plans!