Published on February 27, 2014
Leveraging Employee Engagement: The 12 key differentiators of Leader-Managers Nicholas J Higgins, DrHCMI MSc Fin (LBS) MBA (OBS) MCMI CEO, VaLUENTiS Ltd & Dean, International School of Human Capital Management (‘ISHCM’)
As organisations continue to grapple with the means to optimise employee engagement on a daily basis – one of their biggest assets (or liabilities) is the ‘Leader-Manager’. To shortcut the leadership/management debate I use Drucker’s dictum: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Thus my interpretation here is that Leadership and management are two sides of the same ‘Leader-Manager’ coin. Any individual who finds himself/herself ‘in charge’ of people and wants to be successful, needs to be good at both. Period. 2
Having spent the last thirty years successfully managing teams, being part of teams and latterly consulting on successful team/organisation performance projects with regard to employee engagement and talent management, I’ve shortlisted a number of defining ‘traits’ that differentiate good ‘Leader-Managers’ from the rest. If organisations are to demand, and get, the best from employees in their organisation on a daily basis – then ensuring that their cadre of Leader-Managers are ‘highperforming’ in engaging their staff is paramount. This of course extends to ensuring that these LeaderManagers, themselves, are highly engaged. And we’re not just talking about frontline Leader-Managers here – they are at all levels starting with the CEO, continuing ‘downwards’. So what are these ‘differentiators’ with regard to employee engagement? 3
1 Good Leader-Managers have good self-awareness and score well on any emotionally intelligent test. This basic requirement feeds into a number of the differentiators. Many may observe that this is common sense – but how many current Leader-Managers pass this basic requirement? 4
2 Good Leader-Managers treat those in their charge as organisation assets and not their ‘own’. That is – decisions made about individuals are done from an organisational perspective not the individual manager’s perspective (in terms of benefit). It is important to recognise that highly politicised environments quite often work against this ‘good’ trait. 5
3 Good Leader-Managers are more pro-active (as opposed to good ‘fire-fighters’), forward-looking and confident in dealing with dayto-day staff/operational matters. However, many organisations mistakenly associate good ‘firefighters’ as good ‘LeaderManagers’. Having good ‘firefighters’ doesn’t necessarily equate to high employee engagement. 6
4 Good Leader-Managers have a good working understanding of managing people and how to optimise employee engagement getting the best out of people with regard to performance. This comes with both access to requisite knowledge through learning and gaining the right experience. Note, experience alone is not enough. 7
5 Good Leader-Managers understand the importance of clear and consistent one-to-one and one-tomany communication, particularly around performance and decisions. They also understand the good and bad impact of the various aspects of social media when it comes to productivity. 8
6 Good Leader-Managers get results but not at the expense of overrelying on their best performers, nor generating higher than needed attrition whether it is absenteeism or turnover. Understanding the related positive and negative aspects of employee engagement in relation to attaining targets, measures, objectives and values is crucial. 9
7 Good Leader-Managers always make the tough calls for the benefit of the team. The collective employee engagement will always be higher. This is in marked contrast to Leader-Managers who defer decisions, using cover excuses or who make politically expedient decisions. 10
8 Good Leader-Managers don’t procrastinate or postpone issues important to an individual team member. Cancelled appraisals are an obvious and common example as are delays in granting holiday times and so on. The Good Leader-Manager always asks: Would I be happy being on the receiving end? (And even if they are from their own boss it is no excuse to repeat the practice.) 11
9 Good Leader-Managers understand that making and explaining decisions are all about team equity. It is one of the most underrecognised elements in employee engagement. Perceived fairness is paramount. This is way beyond just ‘equality’ or ‘diversity’ issues. 12
10 Good Leader-Managers pursue a natural interest in the development and success (and of course safety) of the people in their charge. They don’t just do the tick-box requirement. 13
11 Good Leader-Managers continue to challenge their team performance in different ways given any work constraints that may be operating. Applying timely fresh approaches or changes are all part of the ‘toolkit’. 14
12 Good Leader-Managers recognise that to be put ‘in charge’ of people is a privilege that not everybody receives. Thus they recognise the opportunity for what it is rather than view it as a right due to length of service or ‘loyalty’ or reward for political correctness. 15
1-page Summary Good Leader-Managers vs. Average Leader-Managers..... ...Good managers ...Average/poor managers High probability of: 1. Being self-aware (score well on EI) 2. Treating staff as the organisation’s ,not their own ‘little army’ 3. Being pro-active, forward looking and confident no matter the situation 4. Being knowledgeable of (successful) peoplemanagement approaches 5. Understanding the importance of clear one-to-one communication and being consistent 6. Getting results but not at the expense (or overreliance on good performers) 7. Making tough calls when required for the benefit of the team 8. Don’t postpone/move important events such as individual reviews/appraisals etc 9. Understanding that most managerial decision-making is about equity in people situations/issues 10. Taking a natural interest in people development above the mandatory level 11. Challenging team performance in different ways 12. View management role as a ‘privilege’, not a right High probability/tendency of: 1. Limited self-awareness 2. Treating staff as their own resource rather than organisation’s 3. Being reactive, backward-looking and/or display uncertainty on too many occasions 4. Being limited in their understanding of people management 5. Their communication too often being seen as vague or inconsistent when interacting with staff 6. Get results but tend to have higher absenteeism or turnover of staff 7. Deferring tough calls, preferring to political expediency even at the expense of others 8. History of postponing or procrastinating on individual events such as individual reviews/appraisals 9. Limited awareness of or disregard the equity principle when making managerial decisions 10. Show little interest in individual development save for mandatory skill requirements 11. See team management as a ‘chore’ 12. View management role as a ‘right’, not a privilege
The common default mental model for senior managers and OD/HR practitioners… ‘Challenged’ People Manager ‘Good’ Operating Manager ‘Challenged’ Operating Manager ‘Good’ People Manager
Should be… ‘Good’ Manager
Analogy of The ‘Broken Windows’ hypothesis with employee engagement and LeaderManagers The ‘Broken Windows theory’ states that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism as well as an escalation into more serious crime. Applied to engagement… The ‘theory’ states that monitoring and maintaining work environments in a well-ordered management condition may stop further engagement erosion as well as an escalation into more serious disengagement issues. 19
A reminder that not all Leader-Managers are highly engaged themselves. This is often overlooked in organisations. The impact of this should be obvious. Our research showed the distribution of differing scores across a random sample of LeaderManagers from our database (overleaf): 20
910 ‘Leader-Management’ engagement score by percentile 860 813 790 760 “Often overlooked: Impaired manager engagement… And its impact…” Source: VaLUENTiS Engagement database Management client cadre sample 2010-11 Sample size: 1400 managers representing 20,000 employees Score range 200-1000
‘Line Management’ engagement scores ‘bell curve’ “Same data as previous slide – different graphic format… Looking outside ‘norms’ that’s one in seven line managers posing serious concern…” Management client cadre sample 2010-11 Sample size: 1400 managers (employee population: 20,000) Score range 200-1000 14.5% below one standard deviation 200 Source: VaLUENTiS Engagement database 13.9% above one standard deviation 738 1000
And lastly, embedding good employee engagement practice: ‘Mapping the management reality’ example: Against embedding (Status quo OK) Let it happen (Ambivalent/ non-committal) Help it happen (qualified supportive) Individual Board members Senior managers Middle managers Line managers Supervisors/Team leaders What’s your organisation reality map? Make it happen (Actively championing)
Employee Engagement Solutions Evidenced based definition, understanding and application Global reach Measurement wisdom and expertise Senior management feedback sessions Performance link Line of sight Reward (equity) ‘License to manage’ programmes Work environment On-line tools and analytics Development Operating culture Frontline blended group coaching Survey design expertise Actioning strategies and tactics THE EE PLAYBOOK Project management expertise ‘Ten years of innovation’
M anagement P athfinder® Think Human Capital.
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Nicholas J Higgins firstname.lastname@example.org VaLUENTiS Ltd, 2nd Floor, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BD HO: +44 (0)207 887 6108 M: +44 (0)7811 404713 www.valuentis.com www.ISHCM.com www.NicholasJHiggins.com www.HCglobal.blogspot.com
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