In my last column, I reviewed what employees most want from their immediate manager. My research identified eight universally preferred managerial attributes: showing support and understanding, treating employees with dignity and respect, communicating clear performance expectations, providing recognition, rewarding performance contributions, being skilled at problem solving and decision-making, being just and fair, and being honest and trustworthy.
Using a statistical technique known as regression analysis, my research showed that 67 percent of a manager’s overall effectiveness can be explained by how they are rated on these eight attributes. In other words, a manager rated highly on these attributes also rates highly on overall effectiveness. This analysis also identified the three attributes most impacting a manager’s overall performance:
1. Listen. As in, “My manager is an effective listener.” This connects to the understanding part of the support and understanding attribute. Employees want managers who are available and accessible. When managers are routinely unavailable, it tells employees that they, or the work they are doing, are not all that important.
To excel at this attribute, managers need to listen to employee concerns with energy and interest—in other words, to be empathetic. And once concerns are understood, managers need to follow through with a supportive response. Wise managers seek the input of employees on important matters that affect their work. This more proactive form of listening is also likely to produce better results.
2. Make good decisions. As in, “My manager displays competence in making day-to-day work decisions.” Employees want to work for managers who make good decisions and solve workday problems. Employees see a failure to make decisions in a timely way as a roadblock to their success. They also want their managers to make decisions based on a rational, data-based approach. Of course, there is a place for gut instinct, but generally, decisions based on valid and reliable information produce better outcomes.
Employees want managers to think through the implications of their decisions and to be flexible and learn from experience. Employees don’t expect their managers to always make perfect decisions. But they do expect that when a past decision is shown to be a loser, their manager will adapt and select a winner instead.
3. Recognize. As in, “My manager provides me with praise or recognition for doing good work.” Psychological recognition costs the manager so little but means so much to the employee. In general, managers wildly underestimate the importance of employee recognition. What employees want is an honest and sincere “thank you” for a job well done. They want that recognition delivered in real time—delayed recognition simply does not feel as genuine and lacks the same motivational impact.
Employees want their manager to tailor the recognition to them. For example, while some crave public recognition, others are embarrassed when thrust into the spotlight. And managers who do recognition well understand that it has the most impact when it is tied to a specific behavior or outcome. After all, we get more of what we positively reinforce.
CREATING A GREAT WORK EXPERIENCE
For some managers, skillfully displaying these three attributes comes naturally. But more often, managers need to be made aware of the importance of these attributes and to learn how to deliver what employees seek. Either way, the manager who masters these three attributes is well on their way to creating a great work experience, one that maximizes employee engagement and optimizes talent retention.