Leaders Have Two Choices to Make Every Day. Choose Both to Boost Your Employee Experience!

Lisa Rike

At the beginning of each day, Sable walks through her department on the way to her desk.

Sable is the manager of a Shared Services team of 12 people. Her desk is located on the back wall of her area which makes it easy for her to meander through and say good morning to her team. She enjoys this ritual and has told her leadership peers that it energizes her and starts her day off right.

This is a great way for a leader to be visible to their team. Visibility is an essential element of an effective leader. It helps boost a leader’s ability to be seen as approachable and, depending on what the leader says to each person, caring.

In the over 20 years of working as a consultant providing leadership coaching and training in hundreds of organizations, I have learned this type of a ritual is not common. It seems easy enough to do. So, the question becomes why. Why is this type of activity not frequently happening? Harvard Business Review explains it this way:

“Highly efficient leaders often lose their focus on people due to a limiting belief that more people-focused activities will slow them down and impede their ability to execute, and to ultimately be successful. Things like building relationships, inspiring a team, developing others, and showing empathy can fall by the wayside.”

Within that excerpt from the Harvard Business Review lies the two choices leaders have in front of them every day. They must choose between:

  1. Technical/metric/task driven activities
  2. People-centric activities

Are you asking yourself how a people focus can fall by the wayside? Afterall, leaders are promoted to that position to either lead project teams or department teams. Both of which are comprised of… people.

To determine this, let’s first examine the importance of even having managers. Google, the organization, can provide insights. At one point, Google questioned whether managers were needed at all. In 2002, they eliminated engineering managers to break down perceived barriers to rapid idea development. Within only two months, the experiment was deemed a disaster. Google learned managers are important to facilitate collaboration, help with prioritization, strategic alignment of goals and career development to name a few essentials to employee satisfaction and performance.

Google analysis further revealed:

There is a tight connection between managers’ quality and workers’ happiness: Employees with high-scoring bosses consistently reported greater satisfaction in multiple areas, including innovation, work-life balance, and career development. Additional, high-scoring managers saw less turnover on their teams.

Google is not the only one finding the importance of leaders as real. Gallup shared the importance of managers in their research and book called “It’s the Manager.”

McKinsey leader and talent expert Bill Schaninger shared,

“Middle management is part of the fabric of your leadership pipeline. These roles should be coveted and nurtured and curated, not eliminated. If you want to eliminate something, eliminate tasks—tasks that are administrative or bureaucratic and don’t add value. But keep the role and curate it to help develop your next generation of leaders.”

Knowing managers are important, Google set out to determine what behaviors make managers great. Through employee surveys, examination of exit interviews, and a myriad of other sources of analysis, a dedicated team conducted an extensive research project called Project Oxygen. Eight behaviors originally surfaced as primarily what employees want from their leaders. Today, that list has expanded to 10 behaviors. Here is the most interesting finding from that research. Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for “people operations,” was interviewed by the New York Times about Project Oxygen and the findings. He said:

“In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you,” Mr. Bock says. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”

The top manager behaviors in Google’s Project Oxygen findings are be a coach, empower your team, be a good communicator, create an inclusive environment, show concern for success and employee well-being. All of those ranked higher than the technical skills of the manager.

As you weigh your choices throughout the day between A. Technical/metric/task driven activities and B. People-centric activities, consider the findings that elevate the importance of being people-centric. Here are questions to ask yourself to help you evaluate and improve your people focus:

  1. What do I say and do to show up as a manager who shows concern for my employees?
  2. What is one thing I can do to increase my team’s view of me as being approachable?
  3. Do I know what my employees think and feel about their employee experience?
  4. Do I know my impact on how they think and feel about their employee experience?

It has been said that “Knowledge is Power.” Only APPLIED knowledge is power. Mobius Vendor Partners can help you discover what your employees think and feel about their employee experience. That can equip you to APPLY what the research here has revealed as important: Leaders who choose both the technical and people focused activities throughout each day make a positive difference.

Source information:

Gallup, “It’s the Manager” book

Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2019/02/why-highly-efficient-leaders-fail

McKinsey, https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-vanishing-middle-manager

New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/13/business/13hire.html