If you want more engaged employees, your management team is a good place to start. Gallup has found that managers account for up to 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores. That means motivating your management teams to accomplish more can result in an overall workforce that’s more productive, profitable, and engaged.
Inspiring management teams means tackling their biggest pain points: a healthy work-life balance, employee retention, changing hierarchical structures, workforce disruption, and professional development. Words of encouragement are nice—but tangible steps to address these challenges are better. Here are some quotes from progressive leaders to inspire your management team.
Maintain a work-life balance and avoid burnout.
“Instead of accepting your fate and allowing it to overwhelm you, step up and take your future in your own hands—and do what’s necessary to achieve a work-life balance that you can manage indefinitely.”
- Laura Stack, author of What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do, and most recently Faster Together
A study by WorkplaceTrends and CareerArc found that 45 percent of employees don’t have enough time in the week for personal activities, and 20 percent of workers spend more than 20 hours of their personal time doing work each week. This is a lose-lose situation. The American Institute of Stress reports that employee burnout costs businesses approximately $300 billion per year in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. This means that burnout doesn’t just cost managers their personal happiness—it costs their employers, too.
In What To Do When There’s Too Much To Do, Stack, an expert in human performance, writes that managers need to recognize their limits. She encourages managers to “trim away the fat” that bogs down productivity and to take an honest look at what they can accomplish within the time available. “If you do all this, you’ll eventually come to realize there really is time enough in the day to do everything that matters,” writes Stack.
Make employee retention an asset—not a pain—for managers.
“So, here’s the good news. You don’t have to hold lengthy summits with employees, solving all of the career problems of the world in one big meeting to help others get results. In fact, in many cases less can be more.”
- Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni, authors of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go
Employee retention isn’t just a problem for the HR department. For managers, employee turnover means hours of exit interviews, meetings with HR, and interviewing new candidates, as well as training and onboarding new hires.
In Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Kaye and Winkle Giulioni write that career development is the best path to employee retention. But do managers really have time to worry about the professional development and career goals of their entire staff? The answer is yes, but it’s all about how managers use that time. Rather than having one long conversation with each employee about professional development each year, Kaye and Winkle Giulioni encourage managers to have much shorter, ongoing conversations throughout the year. “Imagine if the job interview was the beginning of an ongoing conversation thread throughout someone’s career. Imagine uncovering layer upon layer of your employees’ skills, abilities, interests, and more—right up to the day they retire. Imagine what you could do with that information. Imagine what employees could do with it,” write Kaye and Winkle Giulioni.
Adapt to organizational structure changes.
“The world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. We all have seen the negative impact of self-serving leaders in every sector of our society. Why is that? Because these leaders have been conditioned to think of leadership only in terms of power and control. We think there is a better choice: to lead at a higher level.”
- Ken Blanchard, author of Servant Leadership in Action
The 2017 DeLoitte Human Capital Trends report found that just 14 percent of more than 7,000 companies surveyed said that the traditional organizational hierarchy remains “highly effective.” More businesses are moving toward organizational structures that rely on “a network of teams.” These new structures require “a new leadership mindset that rewards innovation, experimentation, learning, and customer-centric design thinking,” the report concludes.
Managers have to rethink their roles, and the core tenets of servant leadership—a methodology developed in the 1970s by AT&T executive Robert Greenleaf—can provide a framework. Leadership expert Ken Blanchard writes in his contribution to Servant Leadership in Action, a collection of essays edited by Blanchard and Renee Broadwell, that managers should use aspects of traditional hierarchical structures to define the values, goals, and strategic direction of an organization. Then, the manager’s role shifts when it comes to implementation. “When you turn the organizational pyramid upside down, rather than your people being responsive to you, they become responsible—able to respond—and your job as the leader/manager is to be responsive to your people. This creates a very different environment for implementation,” writes Blanchard.
Lead a workforce disrupted by technology and globalization.
“Leaders are—and must continue to be—a source of clarity. Clarity is the ability to be very explicit about where you are going, but very flexible about how you will get there.”
- Bob Johansen, author of The New Leadership Literacies
The Brookings Institute has found that virtually all jobs became 57 percent more digitalized from 2001 to 2016. Digitalization has changed how people work, where they work, and how they interact with one other. This change has created new challenges for managers, too. How do you manage an employee who works on the other side of the country—or the other side of the world?
Bob Johansen, an author and distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, writes in The New Leadership Literacies that disruption will become the “the norm” over the next 10 years. Technology will continue to fuel a rise in distributed workforces reaching beyond the traditional office environment. That means teams located around the world could literally be working around the clock. Johansen writes that leadership from a distance will become more important than in-person leadership, media platforms will sometimes be better than in-person meetings, and the best leaders will have to “skirt the eerie valley of over-connection.”
Manage without management tools.
“...As a new leader, you can’t rely on most of the things that got you that promotion into leadership in the first place. New leaders must do something much more substantial and, frankly, much more different from anything they’ve ever done before in their professional careers.”
- William Gentry, author of Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For
In Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For, management and leadership expert William Gentry notes that 60 percent of first-time managers don’t receive any formal management training when they’re promoted. This, Gentry concludes, is a “raw deal.” Managers quickly find that the skills that helped them succeed as individual contributors don’t necessarily help them become effective managers.
Many managers were “never told what skills they needed to be successful leaders in the first place,” writes Gentry. Receiving a promotion or being awarded new responsibilities isn’t necessarily a good thing for managers unless they also get the professional development and training to excel in their new roles from the onset.
Formal training and development programs for managers can help. Eric Basu, a cybersecurity analyst with expertise in human resources, writes on Forbes that breaking management skills down into three subsets—personal skills, team skills, and corporate skills—can help. This sets new managers up for success by covering day-to-day management tasks, the need for personal reflection and growth, and communicating corporate vision.
The final word on inspiring your management teams.
The workforce is changing—and managers are on the front lines. We hope these quotes from progressive leaders provide guidance on how management teams can avoid burnout and boost overall employee engagement to achieve organizational goals. How?By managers setting priorities and delegating tasks; fostering employee retention through professional development; navigating changing hierarchical structures with new leadership methodologies; being a source of clarity amid workforce disruption; and learning critical management tools.