Recently, I was talking to one of my clients in the senior talent position at her company. As we were discussing the role of managers in talent management, the subject came up of teaching managers to have “engaging communications” with their employees. The focus was around what you would expect: delivering feedback, delivering performance results, mentoring, assigning or reviewing work, etc. The two of us were very engaged, inasmuch as we both recognize that the success of talent management rises or falls with managers’ abilities. In fact, the entirely of an employee’s experience at work – whether he or she likes or hates the job — can often be tied to his or her manager. Suddenly, we had an insight. It’s not about engaging communications, it’s about engaging behaviors: the spoken and unspoken actions of a manager that can make the workplace experience positive or intolerable. Consider some important positive behaviors: accessibility, delegating effectively, making timely decisions, avoiding negative body language, acknowledging work and moving it forward in a timely manner, giving employees realistic deadlines, acknowledging the employee’s work to others rather than stealing credit and even saying hello and goodbye at appropriate times. Now consider some negative behaviors: interrupting, delegating work due Monday on Friday for no real business reason, making disapproving gestures or facial expressions, inaccessibility, not responding to employee work that was done on a tight deadline set by the manager, not sharing information and acting aloof, to name a few.
This is not small stuff. The success of business empires can rise or fall on manager behavior. And the upside is huge. We read that well less than half of employees are engaged and that each percentage point increase in engagement can be correlated to meaningful bottom-line results. It’s time to take behavioral manager training seriously: providing the instruction – hopefully with robust role playing, cascading the good behaviors from the top and tracking and measuring outcomes against realistic targets. The results will speak for themselves!