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Blog and News

Two Thirds of Our Managers Stink
04/26/2015 Doug Beckley

If your organization is not as profitable, productive or proactive as it could (or should) be, you probably don’t need to look farther than your management team to find the cause.  The world’s largest researcher of business performance, Gallup Inc., recently released its State of the American Manager report, a massive research study on the causes of and solutions to organizational underperformance.  Some key findings include:

  • 65% of managers are not engaged or actively disengaged at work
  • The greatest impactor of an employee’s performance is their manager
  • Manager disengagement costs companies billions in lost sales and lower productivity

I am kind of a Gallup groupie.  They produce world class research with fairly shocking results that tell us something very profound and yet simple – if you want to improve your business results, improve the effectiveness of your leadership.

Poor management produces what Gallup calls the cascade effect. In essence, the performance of an employee is driven by the performance of their manager.  And the performance of their manager is driven by the performance of that manager’s manager. And so on. Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. Disengagement is not just the latest consultant buzz word.  Disengagement manifests itself in all the things we are concerned about – negative growth, customer turnover, stressful work environments and lower profits.  At its worst, it translates to employee theft, workplace accidents and employee sabotage.

Turning the Tide

Solving the engagement problem is simple – just not easy. The following practices are the key drivers of manager engagement:

  • Promote/hire managers with different talents: when most companies select a manager they promote the best plumber (or engineer or teacher or salesman). In other words, we promote our best producing, most technically proficient employee.  This is can be a huge mistake – the talents that made them successful in their old job are not the talents they need to be an effective manager.  According to Gallup, highly effective managers possess five key competencies - they motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships, and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.
  • Develop the right behaviors: most companies train and develop people in technical, industry specific skills. Unfortunately, these technical skills are not what makes a good manager. Leadership development cultivates a good manager.  Warren Buffets defines a leader as someone who can get things done through other people.  Training and development programs must equip managers with the skills needed to inspire, engage and hold people accountable.
  • Manage your managers: companies must honestly and consistently communicate and connect managers with the higher purpose of the organization. We must involve our management team in developing and executing the vision of the company.  Then, we must equip and empower these managers with the direction, resources and support they need to perform at their best.

I believe all of these principals are fundamentally understood by most companies.  The problem is we are so busy with the daily onrush of “work” that the importance of developing our people becomes obscured.  The seemingly urgent trumps the important.  Not until we invest in and engage the best possible talent will our organization performance live up to its potential.