Quality Matters — It's All About The Manager

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A great manager is what it takes for companies to be productive.

Five years ago, the Gallup organization embarked on one of the most ambitious deep dives it has ever conducted—an analysis of the future of work based on a decade of input from nearly two million employees and more than 300,000 business units. The results confirmed something Gallup had seen before: It’s the manager. A company’s productivity depends, to a high degree, on the quality of its managers.

What was unusual was the sheer size of the correlation—something Gallup calls “the single most profound, distinct, and clarifying finding” in our 80-year history of research! Their study showed that managers didn’t just influence the results; they explained a full 70 percent of the variance. In other words, if you want to build a great team, 70 percent of the battle is hiring the right manager.

Here’s a thought for our industry: Rather than recruiting top producers, how about putting your energy into recruiting the top managers as well? Or are you developing them? Do you have a career development program for your managers?

The manager is the difference that makes the difference. No other single factor even comes close according to Jim Clifton, Gallup’s CEO. “That blew me out of my chair when I saw it,” he says. The study’s conclusions are laid out in Gallup’s forthcoming book, It’s the Manager. It is recommended reading for any owner or CEO of a company.

Measuring Engagement

One of Gallup’s favorite metrics for rating business teams is engagement or a belief among employees that they’re doing meaningful work in a climate that supports personal growth. Gallup and others have shown that highly engaged teams have significantly lower turnover and higher productivity, among other things. Only one-third of employees in the U.S. are highly involved, Gallup found, but in successful businesses that figure runs north of 68 percent. And what was the single most significant factor in engagement? It’s the manager.

Gallup advises companies to seek out managers who engage and infect their teams with a sense of purpose and function more like coaches than conventional top-down bosses. When we hold Ninja Selling workshops at a company, we notice the company owners who are there for the classes (engaged) and require their managers to be there (engaged) have much more productive companies. They are committed, connected, and engaged with their people and their people feel that level of commitment and purpose. Their productivity is not an accident. It starts with engagement at the top.

Improving Productivity

What specifically can a manager do to improve engagement, productivity, profitability, retention, and customer satisfaction? An earlier Gallup study found the great managers in these areas rated 5’s on 12 questions asked of their employees. Poor performing managers rated 3’s or less. Can it be that simple? According to Gallup—yes! Here are a dozen key questions (On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 (Strongly Agree) and 1 (Strongly Disagree):

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Companies that administer this 12-question survey every year to both their sales associates and staff have found, just as in the Gallup study, there is a direct correlation between the manager’s rating and the performance of their office. The 12 questions help their managers get clear on what is essential and how to get results. The survey can also be used in the manager’s performance evaluation.

Can great management be as simple as engagement in these 12 areas? Gallup believes the answer is yes. For more information, read their book on this study, First, Break All the Rules, What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. Then, read Gallup’s latest research in their new book, It’s the Manager. It will be worth your investment. After all, it’s the manager who is the difference that makes the difference.

Larry Kendall is the author of Ninja Selling & is the Chairman Emeritus of The Group, Inc..

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This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter. It is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends, Inc. Copyright © 2019. To read the rest of this issue & more, please visit our Real Trends page online.

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