How to put the manage in manager

I have been involved in the business of helping companies find and keep great people for many years.  One of the earliest lessons I learned in my business is put well in this statement: “People join companies and leave managers.”  There is much more truth in this than many people realize or would care to do so.  Remember back when you joined the company  you now work for or one that you recently went with.  The level of excitement and anticipation was overwhelming.  The picture you had in your mind to accomplish things that were meaningful to you and the organization were vivid.  Having a vision of where your career with the company would go fueled your engine.  The same level of excitement lives in most employees who make a decision to take a job.  They become engaged and fired up to do great things with their time and talents for the organization they just committed to.  After the honeymoon period cools off, reality sets in.

Unfortunately for many people, the initial level of fire power begins to fade quickly, as today just one in five employees is truly engaged in what they do for a living.  Why is this?  Was it a bad hire from the start?  Is the company not all that it was cracked up to be?  Was the job that the candidate took much different than what they thought they were being asked to do?  These could all be partially to blame for the situation.  More than likely, assuming that person hired was really the right choice, it is the fault of the manager.  People really do join companies and leave managers.  I have had hundreds, if not thousands, of conversations with candidates in most every industry and state, who have repeatedly told me that the reason they either left a company or decided to become active in looking for a new job, was because of something that went wrong between them and the person they directly work for, their manager.  I realize that there are always two sides to every story, and I’m sure the managers in these cases would have their say, but there are many common patterns of discontent and root causes of the problems that I see in the thousands of people I’ve spoken with.  Based on what they have told me over the past 15 years, here are three of the most common denominators that people are looking for in their manager.

1. Manage the whole person, not just the worker:  People must know how much you care before they will care about what you know.  I’m sure you have heard this before, and it is true in the employment arena.  The real question for managers is this:  Do the people who report directly to you really believe that you have their best interest at heart and that you really care about them as an individual, not just as a contributor to the organization.  The key is their perception of you and your managing efforts.  As a manager, you may have a strong opinion of what you are saying and doing, and what your intentions are, but the question is, is that reality in the eyes of the person you manage.  It is amazing to see the transformation in an employee when they really believe that their manager has their back and really cares about them as a whole person, beyond just someone who works for them.

2. Manage the expectations from day one:  One of the most significant reasons why people decide to leave a manager and become active in looking for another opportunity is because they don’t know what is expected of them.  Defining and managing expectations is something that most companies and managers struggle with.  During my career, if I had a nickle for every time a hiring manager, HR person or sales director stumbled when asked the question, “what do you actually want this person to do in this job”, I would be a very wealthy person.  Defining a job at a ground level position, translating exactly what you want someone to do, how its measured and making it easy for someone to gauge their own progress is critical to keeping employees engaged.  People want to have a continuous sense of how they are doing, and don’t want to wait for a manager to tell them.

3.  Manage the rewards:  I was recently in a conversation with a CEO of a very well established company that he has owned for 30+ years and was dumbfounded when he told me this: “My employees still have a job.  If that is not a reward, I don’t know what is.  They should be more grateful just to have a paycheck.  If that is not good enough, they can find another place to work.”  It is not surprising that some key people have left his company and will probably continue to do so.  Rewarding people must go beyond a paycheck and an occasional bonus.  Non monetary rewards can often be more significant, as they really show people that you put some thought into what is important to them.  This requires that a manger really knows a lot about each individual and what specifically is important to them.  When you reward people in this way, the level of engagement goes up significantly.

Thank you for your attention in this blog and I welcome your comments and questions.  Please feel free to send this to other people you know

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About Antarctic Mike

I work with organizations who want their people to be fired up, fully engaged, and focused on growing the business, not merely maintaining it. I'm an avid adventure athlete, having completed marathons and ultra marathons in some of the world's most challenging conditions including the Canadian Arctic, Mount Washington, Siberia and Antarctica. What I've learned through Antarctic history, including preparing for my own Antarctic expeditions, has taught me significant business and sales principles that I now present in my speaking programs.

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