How are you managing employee engagement for managers?
On a recent flight from Winnipeg to Toronto I refreshed my previous reading and notes of Henry Mintzberg’s 2009 book, Managing. He is truly a Canadian and global treasure in management thinking. Over the past 4 or 5 years there has been a big uptake on helping managers improve employee engagement. Managers and bosses do make a difference in performance and engagement (See the national Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper on The Value of Bosses. Here is a snippet from their August 2012 abstract:
First, the choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team. Using a normalization, this implies that the average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker.
I am concerned that we may be disengaging mangers with our efforts. Managers have little extra capacity for more and it can feel like we are adding one more disengaging task to their overloaded agenda. I believe successful employee engagement work for managers needs to be tactical and practical and fused in the nature of how they work.
I encourage you to learn the a-b-c’s of a manager’s experience from Mintzberg before launching another program or initiative. Discussing the dynamics of managing he refuted the folklore of the manager as a reflective, systematic planner:
Facts: Study after study has shown that (a) mangers work at an unrelenting pace; (b) their activities are typically characterized by brevity, variety, fragmentation, and discontinuity; and (c) they are strongly oriented to action. A CEO summarized the work of managing to Mintzberg by saying it is “one damn thing after another.” (Managing, page 19)
I have been working very hard at customizing the pyramid of employee engagement to fit within this type of management framework and practice. I want the practice of Engaged Managers to be practical, tactical, powerful, and embedded within action moments.
I encourage you to think through the following questions based on the information presented above:
- How do you ensure engagement efforts asked of managers fits into their unrelenting pace?
- How do you ensure that the engagement work is brief yet full of impact?
- Are your suggestions and applications geared for a strong action orientation?
- Does the engagement work the manager practices for the benefit of her reports also energize and engage her?
- How do we ensure that engagement is not just another one of those “damn things?”