Everywhere in the world, every company or organization is making an effort to mobilize people in order to succeed. Whether you are a not-for-profit, a government agency, or a commercial company, you are constantly striving to maximize employee contribution in an effort to achieve your intended mission and drive extraordinary results.
Of course there are external challenges that every organization constantly battles, but the most frustrating and costly challenges are mainly internal. There’s a people dimension in every business problem. These include issues related to turnover, disengaged employees, poor leadership, burnout, employee conflict, ethics violations, and employee theft. The principle challenge, therefore, that any organization will hurdle is how to hire, develop, engage and retain the right people.
In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins wrote about getting the “right people on the bus.” And once you find the right people, you have to find the best way to keep them and eventually to put them in the right “leadership” seats. Have you considered how much having the “wrong” people cost your organization? Much more if they are your managers.
You have probably heard the saying, “People join companies, but leave managers.” When new hires join a company it is often because of the perceived opportunity and what they believe the company represents. Yet a significant number of exit interviews reveal that people leave an organization because of their managers. Based on a survey cited in “The Real Productivity-Killer: Jerks” by Maeghan Ouimet (2012) 65% of the respondents said they take a new boss over a pay raise. Yet when the managers were asked why their people left, the number one answer given was “for more money.” This discrepancy shows a significant disconnect between those in management and the people that they lead.
The impact that those in managerial roles have upon the performance of the organization should not be underestimated. That is why in this column, we intend to share best practices to managers to become effective leaders of people in the workplace, hence increasing their employee engagement, contribution, and productivity.
In a recent effort by Google to answer the same question, they undertook an initiative called “Project Oxygen.” What Google found was that the best managers had teams that performed better and had higher employee retention. They realized that if they could replicate the behaviors of the highest performing managers and make everyone as good as their top performers, it would have a significant impact on company performance and the bottom line.
Thus, they began to explore what made their best managers so good, and tried to determine whether these attributes could be replicated. In their attempt to build better bosses, statisticians gathered and analyzed more than 10,000 observations about managers, across more than 100 variables, from years of performance reviews, employee surveys, and HR interview notes. They then coded all the information in an effort to identify patterns. What they discovered were several key attributes of their most effective managers (“Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss”| Adam Byrant |2011). You may find these helpful as well. Here are the eight habits of highly effective Google managers:
- Be a good coach.
- Empower your team, and do not micromanage.
- Express interest in team members’ personal success and well-being.
- Be productive and results-oriented.
- Communicate and listen to your team.
- Help your employees with career development.
- Express a clear vision and strategy for the team.
- Demonstrate key technical skills so you can help advise the team.
What is most encouraging from this study, and the findings of hundreds of similar studies, is that the critical skills required of effective managers can all be developed. Skills such as being a good coach, expressing interest in your staff, being results-oriented, teaching, communicating, listening, and helping employees, all require and draw upon the foundational, personal, and organizational leadership every company should invest to develop in their people.
While developing leadership capabilities receives some level of attention in most multinational companies, often the ‘soft skills’ (i.e. leadership, managing people) take a back seat to what are considered by some local corporations to be the more important ‘hard skills’ like finance,strategy, and engineering.
I’m part of a team called Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy. We help develop authentic and personal, ethical, and organizational leadership without sacrificing profitability and revenue growth of our clients. Based on the reality that every business problem has a human dimension, we offer people management solutions that allow companies to reach their potential by reaching dispersed leaders across their organization and connecting them throughout a learning and development journey. We believe that companies that invest in their managers who are leading people by establishing, developing, and sustaining personal and organizational leadership will considerably influence the performance of their organization.
According to Google, their investment paid off quickly once they started teaching their “Eight Habits” in training programs, as well as in coaching and performance review sessions. As a result of their efforts, they were able to achieve a statistically significant improvement in manager quality for 75% of their lowest-performing managers.
Managers who are learning personal leadership, to self-govern, to grow in self-awareness and become more disciplined, can effectively tap into their passions and gifts. These are the managers who are incredibly effective in leading other employees. As they develop healthy habits both personal and organizational, they can work well with others, developing a genuine interest in leading and helping others grow as well. It doesn’t matter whether you are a CEO or an individual contributor, developing your personal and organizational leadership will positively impact your overall performance. And as you lead other people, your impact can now be multiplied throughout your sphere of your influence within the organization ultimately contributing to the overall success of the company.
These leader-managers can deliberately shape the organization’s culture by hiring, developing, engaging, and retaining the right people. Then you will see improved performance, productivity, and results.
In closing, allow me to borrow the words of Patrick Lencioni (The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business):
“Turning an unhealthy company into a healthy one will not only create a massive competitive advantage and improved bottom line, it will also make a real difference in the lives of the people who work there. And for the leaders, who spearhead those efforts, it will be one of the most meaningful and rewarding endeavors they will ever pursue.”
Boris Joaquin is the Editor-in-Chief of Workwise Asia. He is also a corporate trainer, executive coach and consultant, and is president and co-founder of Breakthrough Leadership Management Consultancy. He is one of the few registered Investors in People Specialist in the country. He is married to FamilyWise Asia Editor-in-Chief Michelle Joaquin and they have two daughters, Ysobel and Julia.