People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Bad managers not only play a huge role in turnover at an organization, they also hold back people and teams from being agile, innovative and ultimately productive. When looking at the key factors that drive business success, most CEOs look to sales, marketing and operational efficiency. We often overlook the most obvious driver of business performance: the person who leads the new sales initiative or the team who creates the next great marketing campaign. These innovations come from engaged employees looking to creatively solve a business problem.
According to Gallup, 70% of a team’s engagement depends on the manager. It’s no surprise then that Gallup also found that teams with great managers see 27% more revenue per employee.
If you want your team to perform at its full potential, you need to start with your managers.
In this new world of work, where many of us are challenged to work and lead remotely and we can no longer separate our work life from our home life, the way our leaders show up matters even more.
A good leader, at the very core, brings their people together to drive toward a common goal. Without leadership, everyone in the boat will be rowing haphazardly in a variety of directions, ultimately getting nowhere. Organizations can no longer afford to waste valuable time and resources going nowhere.
When budgets tighten and an organization must get lean, investing in the training of their managers is often one of the first places to cut. Managers are stretched thin trying to do more work with fewer people while also trying to learn how to engage, connect and lead their people remotely. Managing in this new world is harder than ever before, and most managers — roughly one in every 10 — don’t naturally have the tools and skills to successfully lead.
If 90% of managers aren’t properly equipped to lead, what can we do? Go upstream to the root of the problem and change that ratio by helping your managers build the skills required to be great leaders. I’ll peel back the curtain here and share the methodology we use when helping managers build strong leadership habits.
1. Learn the essential skills. Teach your leaders the essential skills for management. We focus on four simple, yet hard to implement, skills: listening with intention and attention, asking powerful questions, giving and receiving feedback and holding critical conversations. It’s critical to make sure your leaders know why these skills are important and how they will make them more effective leaders. This is the context, the reason your leaders will keep paying attention and buy into the work. Most trainings spend 90% of their time here. Don’t fall into that trap. Spend 10% of your time on knowledge building. It doesn’t drive action.
2. Apply your learning. The most important step in the process comes when leaders put their learning into action. It’s where leaders have a chance to practice, see what works, what doesn’t work and make adjustments to get better. Most management training programs don’t spend nearly enough time in this practice phase. Deliberate practice is an essential part of forming any new habit, so make sure to design time for people to put that learning into action in role plays with colleagues and in real-life situations with their team. This is where the growth really happens.
3. Reflect and give feedback. When we try a new skill with a team member and it backfires or is painful or embarrassing, we might say, “Well, that didn’t work.” But that crucial moment of discomfort is actually your opportunity to learn. What worked? What didn’t? Why didn’t it work?
Reflection holds leaders accountable for doing the work and affords leaders an opportunity to encode their learning and make adjustments for next time. The learn-apply-reflect model is designed to help your leaders put new skills into action and build long term habits.
Now is the time.
The future of work is changing, forcing companies to be more creative and agile. To move quickly, pivot in a new direction and meet market demands, companies must empower their managers to learn to lead in different ways. When you don’t physically see your employees every day, you need leaders who are skilled coaches not simply task managers.
To survive and thrive, you need a team that is motivated and committed; collaborating and innovating on all levels. A high performing team can be the difference between being a dinosaur that will soon become extinct and being agile and innovative. Are your managers equipped to lead your company into the future?
Originally published in Forbes on September 21, 2020.