It’s hard to overstate the impact of staffing your organization with the most effective leaders. Studies of managers and companies consistently show that effective leadership improves both internal metrics, like employee retention, and external ones, like financial performance.
Our research on “For All” leaders (as laid out in our book), who intentionally build trust regardless of who a person is or what they do for the business, demonstrates that the most effective leaders focus on:
- Working with teams, seeking ideas from team members and involving them in decisions that affect them.
- Recognizing employees, especially by calling out accomplishments and helping employees get ahead in their careers.
- Inspiring employees to follow by showing them that leaders are competent, honest and reliable.
1. Identify the most important behaviors for great managers at your organization
While certain characteristics of manager effectiveness apply across most companies, true insights come from identifying the unique behaviors that best align with your organization’s mission, culture, customer needs and strategic goals.
First, identify the managers inside your organization who build high-trust relationships. Employee survey data is a source of truth here.
Interview these managers and ask them “how” they did what they did. Use this information to identify three to five behaviors that create a great work environment and share them across your organization.
2. Build trust
Employees follow their leaders when they trust in them. They trust managers because they believe them to be competent, honest and reliable.
You can instill trust for your leadership in three ways:
- Create credibility: Do what you say you are going to do. If you promise your employee a project or learning opportunity, follow through on your word.
- Be respectful: Ensuring your people are set up for success. Arm them with the resources and support they need to do their best work.
- Make fair decisions: This is fundamental for building trust in your management effectiveness, especially when it comes to promotion decisions and for people who are different than you (whether gender, racial background or tenure).
3. Be a true collaborator
Work with your team to co-create plans and concoct new ideas.
This doesn’t mean reaching consensus or decision-making by committee. We’re talking about real involvement and collaboration.
Improve collaboration by:
- Involving your team in decisions that affect them. Get their feedback before decisions are made, for example, moving to new office space and address any concerns they have about the change.
- Seeking employees' opinions on the next problem you’re trying to solve.
- Having regular one-to-ones and informal conversations, such as staffroom lunches and coffees away from the office.
These effective management behaviors will make your employees feel included, valued and in turn, inspired to do their best work.
4. Make employee recognition your ritual
Employee recognition shows employees their contributions are recognized and appreciated. A study of employee engagement by O.C. Tanner showed that personal recognition is the number one driver of employee performance — more than pay, promotions, inspiring work, training or autonomy.
Leaders can make recognition part of their manager ritual by:
- Having recognition “triggers” - for example, tangible goals with upfront guidance to managers on how to communicate the goals and track them.
- Making it easy for managers to celebrate employees. For example, Hotel chain Hilton gives managers an annual “Recognition Calendar” with easy-to-implement ideas to thank employees every day of the year.
5. Rethink how you promote your people
If managing a larger team is the only way to a promotion at your company, you may want to rethink your promotion process. Some people may be more valuable to the organization as an individual contributor or a part of a team.
Smart companies (and effective managers) create multiple avenues to success for employees. They:
- Help people earn new responsibilities and develop their skills through new projects, lateral moves and stretch assignments.
- Take an active role in employees’ development plans.
- Keep an eye out for additional ways employees can add value to a project or lend their expertise to something outside of their general scope of responsibilities.
6. Flip the traditional performance process
It's common for managers to rate and review their employees, but great managers want feedback to flow both ways. They make sure their employee surveys not only look at organizational culture as a whole, but management effectiveness, too.
Employees reflect on management’s behavior, whether management shows a sincere interest in them as a person, not just an employee, and how much management’s actions match its words. This authentic feedback gives a nuanced picture of management effectiveness.
Want to support your people managers in realizing their full potential? Our culture management platform and employee surveys give managers access to their own people data. Start understanding and improving your management effectiveness today.