The Leadership Habit Changes You Need for 2017
Evidence is strong that raising employee contentment with, and engagement in, their current work situation has bottomline value. A study run by the University of Warwick in the UK calculated the gain in productivity from engaged employees to be about 12%.
So if the cost of a particular employee is $60,000 annually, you can invest $7,200 in engagement activities with this one employee and break even on the deal.
The kicker is that you don’t have to invest nearly that much in each employee’s engagement to capture that 12% gain in contribution. (Clients working with Bovo-Tighe to achieve these gains, for instance might invest closer to 1/10 of that amount per employee, and report gains closer to 20% in higher employee contribution rates.)
Committing to the concept of employee engagement is obvious, and undebatable. Achieving it still baffles too many managers, however. Perhaps this is because these mid- and lower-level leaders don’t get the help they need to pull it off.
Let’s clearly identify the problem: While most employees are ready and willing to engage, they need consistent encouragement to do so, and a reliable feedback loop embedded in the organization’s culture that affirms and sustains their decision to engage. Their managers are not properly trained to deliver the engagement activities, or the feedback loop.
Why? Because lower and middle managers get very little consistent leadership training of any sort. In a study done by Wakefield Research for HR Startup Grovo, 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.
Pending an organization’s commitment to invest in raising productivity through raising engagement, here are five ideas we borrowed from Victor Lipman, a Forbes writer we follow, that address five fundamental issues all managers deal with, which each individual middle management leader can position squarely on their 2017 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 as 2017 gets started in January. If we can be of help in any way in helping you and your team get the New Year off to a highly energized and productive start, rope us in to your plans.