Now more than ever, managers adept at creating environments that inspire others to achieve at a higher level are the lynchpins for success. Especially in wily, tough times like these, effective managers are the ones able to consistently motivate and engage teams. They are the connectors in this brave, new distributed world of work, capable of uniting groups around a shared sense of purpose and cultural ways of working. It sounds obvious, right? Yet we recently benchmarked hundreds of leaders across the country and found that even when the end result seems clear, getting there isn’t well understood.
So what are the keys to fostering an inspiring workplace, especially when compounded by the challenges of managing teams remotely? It comes down to building these five management capacities and calls to action:
- Deliver feedback authentically – The most effective managers are not only experienced at providing positive recognition, but also as important, constructive feedback. For this particular dimension, our research both pre- and during COVID reveals that conducting these conversations regularly may be even easier to do now – given that all interactions these days require intention and structure behind them. In fact, it turns out that effective feedback conversations are the number one quality managers can work on to positively boost their team’s experience. Revealing factoid: Only 1 in 4 employees report ever having received useful and constructive feedback from their manager – with notable gender and racial differences. Women are less likely than men to receive either constructive feedback or deserved recognition for a job well done and nonwhite employees more frequently report receiving constructive feedback than do their white counterparts.
- Simplify complexity by thinking strategically – Let’s face it, thinking strategically is tough to find the time to do under normal circumstances, let alone when faced with massive uncertainty or with new fires that require our constant – and tactical – attention. Yet while so important, only 17% of employees say their managers are good at this. Why? Our experience supporting companies over the last two decades through multiple recessions and disruptive periods suggests it’s because doing so requires cultivating both self and system awareness. After all, only from a grounded and centered place can managers develop coherent perspectives around available strategic options and hypothesize the best path to pursue. All of this requires a level of developmental maturity in addition to intuition and know-how. In the meantime, there’s nothing that team members crave more than clarity and a sense of stability in times of chaos. Being able to connect dots and support individuals in seeing a possible way forward inspires loyalty and hope during troubling times.
- Be fair and inclusive while setting a high bar for performance – To pull this off means that as a manager you are skillful at creating psychological safety, which is a necessary precursor for seeking out, listening to, and learning from diverse perspectives. At the same time, managers must work diligently to clarify performance expectations and address poor performance appropriately (see #1). We have consistently found that the most effective managers work intentionally to maintain a strong balance between relationship– and task-orientation – paying attention to the needs of individuals while keeping the system in view. However, given that a full 31% of employees sense that senior leadership is NOT genuinely interested in the opinions of all employees, managers can make a significant difference in the experience and engagement of team members by offering this gift of inclusion.
- Cultivate accountable leadership – Building a culture of accountability begins with team members taking ownership of their circumstances and making choices consistent with their purpose. Managers are in a prime position to role model and influence this type of leadership, by examining their own beliefs, actions, and words. Unfortunately, these days only 1 in 4 employees (26%) say that their managers consistently hold people accountable while 19% say that poor performance is always addressed appropriately.
- Drive innovation and change – Pre-pandemic, one of the greatest needs from our clients was related to getting better at innovating and managing through change. Needless to say, the need for this management capability has risen exponentially as many organizations drew back to focus on simply surviving these past months. To move out of survival mode requires re-framing how we’re perceiving the world and seeing new possibilities for the future. The great news here is that this capacity is not limited to ‘geniuses’ alone. By getting a handle on the most common perception biases clouding our judgment and tuning into customer needs, managers can develop clear and actionable perspectives on how best to evolve. Today, only 25% of employees say their senior leaders are attuned to their customers and 24% of employees feel their organization is well-equipped to manage change. While this is an improvement over the anemic 12% who believed their companies could manage change prior to the pandemic, managers still have a significant opportunity to hone how they bring people together to integrate perspectives, create new meaning and build forward paths based on newly anticipated, unmet customer needs.
In summary, the strongest managers are the ones who have intentionally developed muscles around delivering authentic feedback, simplifying complexity, building inclusive and fair environments, cultivating accountable leadership, and driving innovation and change. They are also the ones themselves seeking feedback around their leadership impact so that they can continue to evolve and grow.
Find out more about the state of your managerial and leadership capacity by taking our Management Essentials survey. You’ll receive a scorecard revealing how your team/organization stacks up, with suggestions on where to hone in and focus your development efforts.Back to TriumIQ