Crazy, huh? Who’d a thunk it. But, I think we're on to something here.
I’ve been mulling over this insight of Jim Clifton, Gallup’s Chairman and CEO:
The single biggest decision your company makes every day is who you name manager.
This is the conclusion Gallup draws from decades of data and interviews with 25 million employees, in our recently released State of the American Workplace report. But companies keep getting this decision wrong, over and over again.
In fact, the people picked to be managers account for the majority of variance in almost all performance-related outcomes. Yet leaders will spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on everything but hiring the right managers. They’ll buy miserable employees latte machines for their offices, give them free lunch and sodas, or even worse -- just let them all work at home, hailing an “enlightened” policy of telecommuting. Hell, some of these practices might even earn your company a business magazine’s Great Place to Work award.
25 million employees is a pretty strong survey population. That’s with one survey in one year. Gallup’s been surveying employee engagement and managers for longer than that. My point is: I trust his data that leads to his blunt assessment.
Speaking direct, being blunt, is a lost art anymore. Maybe it’s a sign of distraction; we just can’t get to the point. Maybe, it’s a sign of fear or weakness; we might offend someone. But no one should be afraid to speak the truth when they have the data, can speak clearly and without animus as Mr. Clifton has spoken.
Since I read this four months ago, I remained stuck in the problem. OMG! Millions of bad managers...what can we do! They are everywhere. Might as well get rid of them, all like Shakespeare often recommends with lawyers.
Then I read this post by my friend Stephen Lynch, COO of RESULTS.com: Middle Managers are the Key to Successful Business Execution.
A study published by Wharton University shows that leaders need to pay closer attention to getting the right middle managers, because the front line supervisor has a greater impact on your company performance than any other role.
Contrary to common belief, it is not the highly-skilled creative individuals who make the biggest difference in these knowledge industries, nor it is the CEO. Rather, it is the abilities of your middle managers which has the largest impact on company performance.
They have to execute the strategic direction of the company, and implement change – even if it may be unpopular with their people. They manage a finite set of resources. They have boundaries to the types of decisions they can make. They have to make sure information flows up and down the company. But, ultimately they are the ones who make sure the company achieves its goals.
Cool! Right? Not every company has highly-skilled creative individuals. But nearly every company has a middle-manager or two. So, the easiest, well the most direct way, to differentiate your company is to hire, grow, manifest, test-tube baby, top-of-the-line middle managers.
Forget about all that social media stuff. Stop worrying about global competition and talent drain. Those will take care of themselves if you have great middle managers.
Boom, done. Can we have lunch now?
Aye, there’s the rub, says Hamlet describing his own middle-management conflicts.
To be successful a great middle managers must be able to translate the executives mandates, with numbers and deadlines, for their direct reports, answering three questions for them:
- What's in it for me?
- Why should I care?
- Why should I believe?
This requires compassion, empathy, listening, communication, courage, fortitude, resilience, creativity. And a lot of patience.
Proficiency in these strengths is not developed by studying for standardized tests that use multiple-choice questions. They are taught one on one, with mentors and coaches. As Ben Ridler, RESULTS.com CEO said:
When it comes to managers, I have 2 jobs; I’m either coaching and developing the manager, or I’m looking for their replacement.
What are you doing to coach and develop your managers?
Or is it easier to issue harder deadlines, pounding your desk and issuing ultimatums?
If you want to know more ways to engage with your employees as opposed to anonymous surveys, my book RECOGNIZE THEM: 52 Ways to Recognize Your Employees in Ways They Value offers 52 ways to recognize your employees, easy exercises to reinforce those habits and skills and inspirational quotes to keep you going.