Aliza Knox, a contributor to Forbes.com which habitually seems to offer splendid business common-sense, writes about how to rise and thrive in today’s global corporate world – whilst the world currently seems infatuated, and so blinded, by the claimed benefits versus potential pitfalls of AI, she homes in on the most import driver of productivity improvement – good management.
A Gallup survey which studied the variables that influence the well-being and productivity of dispersed workers noted that one key item was far and above most important in influencing worker productivity. It’s not tech support, nor is it a quiet space to work. Not surprisingly, it’s workers’ managers. Recent McKinsey research cited bad or uninspiring managers as the reason fully 34% of those surveyed left their jobs.
It’s clear that managers are key to a company’s success in hiring and retaining people, as well as in building employee engagement – e.g. connection to the company – and keeping it strong.
A Corporate Leadership Council report found that “companies with above average employee commitment had greater one-year revenue growth relative to their industry than those with below-average employee commitment”. Gallup research really brings this home with the statistic that companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable than comparators with disengaged employees.
And here’s the worst part, Russ Laraway, Chief People Officer at Goodwater Capital and author of the book ‘When They Win, You Win’, says in the first line of his book, “Managers are failing and no one is helping.”
Wait, how can that be?
It seems like over the last 15 years that there’s been a massive amount of material published aimed at helping people become better leaders . Despite this, success seems limited. As evidence, only 32% of US employees are engaged, according to a January 2023 article from Gallup.
“The first issue is that all of the mountains of content out there have conspired to confuse the average manager. As thought leaders evangelise their latest grandiose theory about leadership, and wax prosaically at cocktail parties about how leadership is better than management, we’ve collectively lost the thread”, Laraway states.
“First, we have to simplify the job of every manager,” he says. “The simplest version of a job description that fits every single manager in the world, from a big tech CEO to the front-line sandwich shop manager at your local deli is this:
- Deliver an aligned result
- Enable the success of the people on your teams.
Simple. But not easy.
The content aimed at helping people lead better suffers from three main problems:
- First, it’s just too much stuff.
- Second, it does not hang together
- Third, and most important, none of it holds itself to measurable account – there’s no proof that the leadership-prescription-of-the-month works.
Laraway says that for a leadership prescription to be credible, it must measurably and predictably lead to more engaged employees and better business results: “You can’t sustainably get the latter without the former.”
Laraway defends this idea strongly – he uncovered a dozen or so leadership behaviours that, when practised regularly, actually do measurably lead to more engaged employees and better business outcomes.
Those behaviours are organised into what Laraway calls The Big 3 – Direction, Coaching, Career:
- Direction – Everyone on the team they lead must clearly understand what is expected of them.
- Coaching – Coach them toward success in their current role
- Career – Take an active interest in their longer term aspirations and play the role of gravity-assist slingshot, launching them into the far reaches of their wildest dreams.
Indeed, Laraway, notes the question that most strongly correlates with intent to leave – “How much do you agree with the following statement: My manager cares about me as a human being” – the more strongly employees agree with this, the more likely they are to stay.
Laraway says that, when practised together, these 3 broad groupings of leadership behaviours deliver more engaged employees and better business results.
He notes his leadership prescription is simple, coherent, and works.
“People just want to do great work and be totally psyched while doing it, and it turns out that it’s the manager, more than any other factor by a mile, who is most likely to create or destroy the circumstances under which that will happen. A company’s performance is nothing more and nothing less than the sum of the performance of all of its employees.”
For a vast majority of employees, their manager is the main, sometimes only, conduit between them and the company.
Hence, it’s logical that the manager is the person most likely to create or destroy the circumstances under which people will thrive and deliver results.