A great deal of leadership training and development involves an organization’s middle-management team leaders. Senior leaders in these enterprises understand that day-to-day productivity gains come from finding methods to better engage employees, and that the engagement process must be driven by each employee’s immediate supervisor.Senior executives certainly must set the culture and walk the talk; they must ‘live’ the commitment to engagement as an embedded leadership mindset. But they cannot walk the floors every day, and sit in every meeting. Their direct reports must carry the mission down one level, and each level of supervision must repeat the process all the way down to the shop floor and store front.For the most part, that embedding of the engagement mindset at all leadership levels is not happening. Recent survey results from Dale Carnegie, a training company, find once again that most employees still declare themselves unengaged, or even actively disengaged:
“Fully engaged” employees were 29% of those surveyed
“Disengaged” employees comprised 26% of respondents
The balance between the two extremes were “semi-engaged” or “unengaged”
Let’s remind ourselves of the bottom-line value of employee engagement:
An employee who is disengaged provides 60% or less of his or her potential contribution
If the employee is compensated annually at $75,000. That leaves as much as $30,000 of investment untapped.
100% contribution is hard to attain, even with full engagement, but 80% isn’t. That equates to a gain of $15,000 annually in employee contribution (20% of a new FTE) if the disengaged can be engaged.
The person in charge of converting workplace disgruntlement into engagement? It is the employee’s supervisor, with an assist from the supervisor’s boss.Victor Lipman, a writer for Forbes, does a nice job of outlining a full-engagement mindset of a middle manager who successfully connects with subordinates. I have borrowed his list of factors and expanded on it with my own perspective:Good listeners – Lipman focused on how a manager must not simply impose his or her own will, but hear what others have to say. I do not think that is enough, however. You must act on that information, not just listen. You also have to take an active, rather than passive, approach in seeking the opinions of subordinates and peers: Do not wait for others to come to you!Perceptive – Allied to the need to actively seek input is the ability to read body language and emotion to pick up clues that your direct reports are struggling with something, and ask what may be inhibiting their success.Open communicators – Lipman uses the words “approachable, candid, easy to talk to, available when needed.” Again, I find this too passive. The best leaders must place themselves out among the troops, not to hover and micro-manage, but to assist and encourage. Your job as a leader is to remove corporate obstacles from your employees’ paths to success! You can’t remove them if you don’t ask what they are.Of calm demeanor – This does not mean “show no emotion.” It simply means remain forward-looking and action oriented. When events occur that are not anticipated, you lead by remaining “cool under stress,” as Lipman writes. Nothing erodes loyalty more quickly than any sort of public humiliation, for instance. That is just you working off your own frustration, which is never productive. Keep everyone focused on the outcomes you all desire, and plan the new path to achieving them.Genuinely concerned about their direct reports’ well-being – This is critical. You must truly care about the success of your people, and communicate this often. At Bovo-Tighe we call this building “unshakable trust,” which you earn by adhering steadfastly to the engaged leadership mindset I have been describing here.What is your company doing to embed an engagement focus into the ranks of middle managers? What resources are dedicated to achieving and spreading that mindset? What obstacles exist that prevent the spread of this philosophy?Here is a link to the column by Victor Lipman.