Improve employee engagement by developing leader manager

Why train your mid-level managers? They are the ones holding the team together

Bhavna Dalal
Updated: Jul 26, 2017 09:02:36 AM UTC

Bhavna Dalal [[](] is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is an Executive Master Coach [ICF MCC Certified] with an MBA from IIM Calcutta and has a B.E. in Electronics. She has authored the books Checkmate Office Politics and Team Decision Making endorsed by the likes of Marshal Goldsmith and Dr. Jadgish Seth among many other business leaders. Bhavna has been serving on several compliance commitees and is the Vice President on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh).


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"People leave managers, not companies."

This allows us to infer that by developing managers to lead people well would improve employee engagement metrics in organisations.

A Gallup study of 7,272 American working adults unearthed that one in two people had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.

Gallup's report, 'State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders', provides an in-depth look at what makes great managers and examines the crucial links between talent, engagement and critical business outcomes like profitability and productivity. This research is based on four decades of extensive talent research of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, measuring engagement of 27 million employees. The research shows that managers account for at least 70% dependence in employee engagement scores.

There’s a motto that stretches from political to organisational life: “The middle makes it happen.” Your organisation’s middle managers are no exception. They execute strategic priorities, support change initiatives, are the nexus for cross-functional collaboration, and account for at least 70 percent of variance in employee engagement, according to 2015 Gallup data.

Despite this, a 2015 Root study suggests that when it comes to development, the manager is often the “most neglected employee” in the organisation. As a result, there are a lot of ineffective managers in today’s management pool. Gallup research found only one in 10 people “naturally” possess the talent to manage. That means 90 percent need support to increase their effectiveness. The numerous development programs delivered for managers have to become more effective. What is needed is focus from the senior leadership and a synched in human resource and learning and development team. It is worth investing in this layer since this is the foundation for building great leadership higher up.

One can argue that with attrition rates being so high, is it worth putting resources and effort in them? There are two ways to look at it; sure you will lose some people who don't value what you are offering. However, the ones that stay behind because they understand what you are offering, are truly invaluable. They understand that this offering cannot be equated to the extrinsic motivators like a higher pay and position. These are the people you really want. It does make sense to put your money on the right people that show promise and potential.

In the present scenario, the buck for leadership development often comes and stops at the first-level managers. This is because the senior leadership believes that that is where the problem lies. Most senior leaders believe they know how to be good leaders; it's the new ones that need help. Quite honestly, if the senior leadership does their job well in developing their people, it is quite sufficient as model behaviour for the juniors to learn. The culture of the organisation then gets set right and the role models are put in place. Most organisations realise this, making executive coaching mandatory for their senior leadership team. After sitting on the success of their knowledge and skills, it also becomes the right time for the senior leadership to take on the challenge of developing their own emotional intelligence while doing the same for their subordinates.

If every senior dedicates just one hour a month on reports with their career path aligned to their greater purpose in life, the attrition rates will drop and performance will improve. If the manager receives abundant and continuous good leadership, where do you think that will spill over to?

Companies are being forced to step up and take on more and more responsibility for every aspect of the employees' lives: right from on-site day care centres, sleep pods, laundry, massage, and hair cut facilities; the latest in the list being meditation rooms and grievance leaves. In the West, coaching is becoming mandatory for senior leadership teams of several companies.

The Leader Manager can only grow and sustain with leadership values constantly demonstrated and stared at in the face from the top and in actions not just in words.

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