While relying on automation like HR software can help remove administrative work, it's no replacement for good leadership. Here’s an experiment: look up the word “manager” in Google images. Now try searching “good manager”. Do you notice the difference?
The conventional “manager” sits behind a desk, unapproachable. The “good manager” is never alone. He interacts with his colleagues; he participates in the conversation. A good manager is a part of a team.
So what is an engaged employee? Let’s break it down. They are defined as being fully absorbed and enthusiastic about their work. They want to take action to further themselves and, in hand, the company. Engaged employees require strong leadership, but what managerial qualities does that entail?
Being a good manager can be tricky. You don’t want to be overbearing and hated by your colleagues, but you can’t be everyone’s best friend either. Unfortunately, there are people who regard management as being destructive rather than beneficial, as an unnecessary distraction from the task at hand.
A good manager is one that can find the middle ground between friend and critic. You want your team to respect you, but you don’t want them to be afraid to speak their voices and share ideas which could help your business grow.
In 2010, Google designed Project Oxygen, a data-driven survey system that gauges employee satisfaction and perception of the work environment. The name was derived from Google’s belief that good managers are as essential as breathing. Project Oxygen identified the most essential qualities employees look for in a manager. Within the first 12 months of the implementation of the project, median manager favourability rose by 5%.
As a manager, you rely on your team listening to you, and on their actions following suit. Not only will it help you conduct more effective interviews, if you listen to your team, you’ll find that they’ll be more receptive to you. When someone comes to you with an idea or a problem, take the time to hear them out. It could save you from potential disaster or create an opportunity for growth. Ensure your colleagues feel that they can talk to you, otherwise you run the risk of alienating yourself from your team.
In an article written by Avi Dan for Forbes, he states that:
“Most managers are not born natural listeners. It’s an acquired skill that is enabled by another critical managerial behaviour - asking questions.”
By structuring your meetings around questions, you’ll get more information out of your team, which will help you make more informed decisions; just make sure you’re listening.
Your employees are invaluable to the successful operation of your business, so make them feel that way. Take the time to check-in with them to see how they’re doing, not only at work, but in their personal lives. Learn their career goals and motivate them to work towards achieving them. This will promote both their desires and their productivity.
In a 2016 study from SHRM, it found that the top job satisfaction contributor for employees is “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels”. The second is trust between workers and management, the third benefits, and the fourth compensation. Keep your team satisfied by building a platform of respect and trust that they can rely on.
As a manager, you need to be fair and treat your employees equally. Favouritism often leads to resentment, rebellion, and even depression. Employees that know they have equal opportunities to their colleagues feel more empowered, valued, and engaged in the workplace.
In a study titled “11 Essential Traits of Great Managers”, Culture Amp found that employees today seek fair treatment by a manager. A good manager makes unbiased career decisions, assess performance fairly, and give promotions when deserved. Employees should view their manager as helpful counselors and feel appropriately involved in decision-making. Culture Amp discovered that fair treatment of employees led to higher satisfaction and in turn a stronger desire to get things done.
Communication is one of the most important qualities of a good manager. Your job is to communicate information and expectations clearly to help avoid mistakes. In fact, a study by Gallup discovered that clarity of expectations is perhaps the most basic of employee needs and is vital to performance. Ensure that your team understands their responsibilities by addressing them on a regular basis.
The digital age has brought on several new forms of communication platforms which can make it easy to prioritize one over the others. Gallup found that managers who use a combination of these methods, face-to-face, phone, and electronic, are most successful in engaging their employees.
It is important to understand the diversity of your group. Get to know the differences in your team members and learn what motivates each of them. Every member has a specialty which makes them a valuable asset to your business. It is unrealistic to expect the same thing from all your employees, and while it may feel like the simplest solution, it will only diminish your company’s success. Instead, find out their strengths and weaknesses and give them tasks which will allow them to strive and promote their growth.
Your role as manager is to direct. Instead of viewing your group as subordinates, see them as a part of your team. Coach them towards a common goal. Focus on progress as well as results. If they encounter a problem, encourage them instead of doing it for them. In the words of David Garvin, Harvard’s Business Administration Professor:
"Keep employees happy and motivated through enthusiastic cheerleading while helping them grow through stretch assignments and carefully modulated feedback."
Treat the members of your team like you would an athlete; keep them motivated. Gallup found that encouraging your colleagues to focus on their strengths have 12.5% greater productivity, and that those who use their strengths daily are 6 times more likely to be engaged on the job.
Your job is to manage what gets done, so be sure to have a firm grasp on this. Know your vision and strategy. Being specific allows your employees to prioritize their workload and work more efficiently. If you want your team to be result-oriented and productive, set the example.
This being said, avoid micromanaging in your direction. Autonomy in the workplace leaves room for ingenuity and shows that you trust your team. Micromanaging stifles creativity, destroys morale and slows down productivity - this is not the quality of a good manager. Instead, place an emphasis on collaboration and ask your team to update you with progress reports.
It is clear that your role is different from those of your employees. You oversee projects, they complete the tasks, but do not let this dictate that your hard technical skills are useless. A good manager is respected by employees and willing and able to get hands-on when help is needed. Be more than just the man behind the desk. Your ability to jump in will be a crucial factor in earning your team’s approval. It demonstrates that you do not think too highly of yourself and that you are a valuable mentor.