As a HR Business Partner, I was once surprised by the shockingly low employee engagement scores for one of the managers who was considered a “high potential”. The manager was as surprised as I was. She talked about the things that she had done throughout the year and they included all the “recommended” actions that people managers are trained on. The deep dive focus group discussion (FGD) with her team gave us the real insights!
What the manager thought she did: 1:1s with the team regularly.
Why it did not work: In the 1:1s the manager spoke more than 80% of the time. As a result, the team felt unheard and ignored.
What the manager thought she did: Recognition through spot awards etc
Why it did not work: It was not clear what the criteria for recognition was. Most of the team felt that it was a “round robin” and just a way to keep everyone happy. High performers felt that the manager did not know how to differentiate between high and mediocre performance.
What the manger thought she did: The manager told the team that she was always accessible and the team could talk to her whenever they needed
Why it did not work: Whenever an employee reached out, the manager pleaded busyness or asked them to bring up the topic in the 1:1. As a result, team members felt that their manager did not walk the talk
What the manager thought she did: Give feedback regularly
Why it did not work: In the feedback discussion, the manager was not able to answer follow up questions on specifics of the feedback and would attribute the feedback to something “others” had told her about the employee. The employees felt the manager was just the messenger with no idea about their work
The list of how the manager’s perception of her own actions differed from the team’s perception was long. The one thing that became very clear was that that while the manager was checking off the long list of things that were expected of her as a people manager, she had not realized that her lack of authenticity with her intent would be obvious to the team.
Unfortunately, the manager was not equipped with any tools that would help her align her intent with the actions. She focused on what she thought was “visible” and checklists. Manager development programs largely focus on the hard skills. Providing lists of things to do, to manage and engage the team effectively.
It’s time now to provide tools to help managers become more self- aware and lead with intent. This will become the single biggest thing differentiating a great manager from an average one!