I’ve written articles about concepts like 68 percent of managers not being involved in their employees’ development. I’ve also seen things where only 34 percent of managers can name the strengths of their employees. These are depressing stats, much like 95 percent of managers not understanding core tenets of motivation.
Almost every manager I’ve had fits into one of these groups (often all three). At a certain level, it’s all bullshit. You can go fly to a leadership conference and learn “best practices” on the matter, but at a certain level you have to come back and care. That’s a growing disconnect in the digital age. E-mail is a time suck, but it’s also very easy to hide behind. So you can go over here and claim “OMG I’m So Busy!” but go over there and claim “Well, I’m managing them in that I’m e-mailing them deliverables every now and again.” People are often morons – and then they correspondingly think they’re geniuses.
Here’s a good article from Harvard Business Review on how managers need to remain “human” even in the “digital” age. A logical point, no? Here’s maybe the most logical point:
Last month, I attended ATD’s global conference in Orlando, Fla., along with almost 11,000 talent development professionals from 100 countries. Speaking to people from five continents about engagement, I noticed that they quickly associated their level of engagement with the performance of their supervisor. When people told me they were dissatisfied with their supervisor, the dissatisfaction seldom related to poor technical or business skills. Instead, it related to supervisors’ poor personal skills and their inability, or unwillingness, to invest energy in the people on their team.
When I asked people at the ATD conference to describe a great supervisor, they often described the ability to do two things: Perform the technical aspects of the job and personally invest in getting to know them better and investing in their development.
The information I gained at ATD is consistent with the findings of another recent study by Gallup. In that study, Gallup found that workforce engagement was higher when managers 1) have some form of daily communication with their employees, 2) make a concerted effort to “get to know” their employees and help them feel comfortable talking about any subject, and 3) personally help employees develop in their jobs. Clearly, a key ingredient in highly engaged workplaces is leaders who are personally involved with people.
So think about that for a second:
- This author goes to a conference with 11K talent development professionals (from five continents!)
- They all associated their level of performance with their supervisor (logical)
- The dissatisfaction is seldom tied to technical or business skills
- Rather, it’s often tied to inability/unwillingness to invest energy in people on the team
- What did matter was personal investment, development, and conversations
You can make a point about “the employment contract,” of course — it’s not your job to seek relationships and empathy, it’s your job to do work and get paid for it so long as the company churns along — but maybe we need to rethink that a little bit. Not legally, perhaps, but in the general sense of “What can I expect here?” Because the “digital manager” is pretty far out of whack with how real human connection needs to work.