Measure Manager Engagement Effectiveness – You Need to Know What Employees REALLY Think
It may be scary to learn what employees really think about you and your company, but you need to know if you want to truly engage and retain them.

Employees who are dissatisfied with their company or their manager think seriously about giving less discretionary effort and about leaving for greener pastures.  In fact, more employee attrition is due to dissatisfaction with managers than any other reason.  Are you willing to risk losing team members when you still have a chance to find better ways to lead and work together?

Engaging Employees
Based upon over 500,000 annual employee engagement surveys per year, we know that management effectiveness – how well managers perform their jobs and how much respect employees have for their managers – has an extremely strong correlation to employee engagement.  Employees who believe that their managers and supervisors truly care are more likely to be engaged in their work.  And engaged employees are productive employees.

Ask the Right Questions
You need to ask the employee engagement questions – the right questions to see how highly your employees rate your managers.  We know what questions to ask because we know what areas correlate most to higher levels of employee loyalty, discretionary effort and advocacy.  Do not fall into the trap of using questions that do not correlate to increased levels of employee engagement and retention.

The Top 16 Questions that Measure Employees’ Satisfaction with their Managers

About Overall Management

1. Do you regularly receive constructive performance feedback from your manager?

2. Do you understand how your performance is measured?

3. Do you think your manager cares about you as a person?

4. Does your manager care about your development?

About Manager Communication

5. Does management clearly communicate expectations?

6. Does your manager effectively communicate the information you need to understand?

7. Does management explain the reasons behind decisions made?

8. Do managers handle disagreements professionally?

9. Does your manager explain how the organization’s future plans affect you?

About Manager Trust and Respect

10. Does your manager create a trusting and open environment?

11. Does your manager treat everyone on the team fairly?

12. Is your manager responsive to your ideas, requests, and suggestions?

About Manager Business Acumen and Skills

13. Are you confident in the overall effectiveness of your immediate manager?

14. Does your manager have the expertise and ability to help you and your team to succeed?

About Employee Career Development

15. Do you and your manager discuss your career within this organization?

About Work-Life Balance

16. Does your manager recognize the importance of your personal and family life?

The Bottom Line
How leaders and managers work with their teams has an extremely strong impact on employee engagement, performance, and retention.  Since talent accounts for 29% of the difference between high and low performing teams, don’t you think you should keep a finger on the pulse of how good management is at engaging employees at your organization? You need to measure manager engagement effectiveness.

To learn more about how to manage for greater level of employee engagement, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Successful Strategy Execution Is Not the Norm
Sadly, IBM found that less than 10% of well formulated strategies are successfully executed.

When it comes to successful strategy execution, how can you beat the odds?  We define successful strategy execution as a corporate strategy that:

  • Outlines clear and compelling choices about where to play and what actions to take
  • Is carried out in a way that aligns with the company’s cultural values and beliefs
  • Is implemented consistently across an organization
  • Delivers the desired results

When it comes to desired results, a strategic plan is only the beginning, not the end.

Why is Successful Strategy Execution So Hard?

In our 20+years of experience working with leaders and companies of all shapes and sizes, we agree with the research. It is not easy to galvanize a group of people to flawlessly carry out a plan to achieve a common goal together against competitors and changing market conditions.  And there are a lot of factors that you need to get right – starting with ruthless clarity about what you are trying to accomplish.

The Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Strategy is Not Clear Enough to Execute

1. Too Complex
Fundamentally, strategy is about making choices and focusing on the critical few bets that will have the greatest impact. If you cannot identify the top 2-3 strategic priorities in a way that everyone can understand, how can you expect people to make tough choices about investments, resources, customers, markets, products, and solutions? Successful strategy execution counts on a simple and clear articulation of what matters most.

2. Too Untethered
Priorities that shift frequently based upon reactions to outside or emergent events typically lack a solid direction as guidance. Without a true North, it is easy to fall prey to the urgent instead of the important.  While it is natural for priorities to evolve, it is not effective to constantly change the game.

3. Too Political
When strategic priorities are vague, “who you know” can become more important than “what you do.” Strategic ambiguity creates a corporate version of “survival of the fittest” that gets played out with political power plays, turf battles, and deceptions that hinder progress. People start ingratiating themselves with powerful individuals, taking undeserved credit, hoarding information, and blaming others when it furthers their interests.

4. Too Unaccountable
Unclear strategies and plans provide a wonderful opportunity for “B” and “C” Players to hide in the shade of ambiguity. If success metrics are unclear, irrelevant, unfair, misaligned, or meaningless, you have little alignment or teeth to support successful strategy execution.

5. Too Many Silos
If teams are fragmented and working in silos, chances are they are having trouble distinguishing what matters most and how all the pieces fit together. While many leaders mistake this warning sign as personality conflicts, we find that goal and role confusion is the root cause of most internal clashes.  Unless your strategy points your key players in the same direction with clear goals and roles, your path will be impeded by silos, internal battles, and confusion.

Actively Engaging and Involving Key Stakeholders
Once your strategic direction is clear enough to act, it is time to actively engage and involve your key stakeholders.  We used to think that a strategy was ready to be successfully executed once the executive team was all on the same page.  Boy, have we been proven wrong.

While executive leaders must absolutely be on the same page about the game plan for success and the priorities that matter most, a strategic plan is just wishful thinking until you get all your key stakeholders on board.  A recent study by Bain of more than 400 companies backed this up.  The most successful executive teams overwhelmingly rated their ability to effectively engage their organizations as the No. 1 factor in their success – ranking it more than 50% higher than any other factor.

In other words, the most successful strategy execution leaders do not overlook the importance of harnessing both the hearts and minds of the workforce they rely upon to make the plans a reality.  To succeed at executing your strategy, you need employees to jump in with both feet.  Too many executives wait until everything is fully baked before actively involving their employees.

How to Capture Hearts and Minds
There’s no secret to how to engage people in a common purpose.  They have to believe that it’s worthwhile, that they have a meaningful stake in the outcome, that they have something of value to contribute and gain, and that they have a say in how to make it happen.  They need to buy into the vision of success and participate in the design of the roadmap to get there.  In a nutshell, they need to feel listened to, included and appreciated.

What You Gain – Alignment
Leaders who heed this advice are rewarded by employees who understand the strategy, support where the organization is headed, and do their best to move their team in the right direction.  They make daily, on-the-job decisions that are in sync with the over-arching strategy.  They execute their jobs with a commitment to making those “clear and compelling choices” outlined in the agreed-upon business plan.

The Bottom Line
If you really want to implement a winning strategy, be sure your workforce is working alongside you and that they have a similar drive to achieve strategic success.  The good news is that this approach allows you to share a half-baked strategy with your teams so that you can get their “in the trenches” help and advice in completing it in a way that makes sense.

To learn more about successful strategy execution, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy

Sell Value versus Price in Complex Sales Situations
In today’s market, the real winners in complex sales situations focus on customer value, not price – even when price is a critical factor.  How?  Top solution sellers know that buyers ultimately care more about the value than price.  A less expensive product or service that doesn’t fit their needs or that adds more risk or complications is usually not worth it – you get what you pay for.

Defining Value During the Sales Process
Value is truly in the eye of the customer or buyer.  In order to make an important and material purchase, a buyer has to fully understand how the tangible and intangible benefits outweigh the fully loaded costs.  If your sales team is feeling pricing pressure, remember that while price is an important piece of your value proposition, it is only one component of the overall buying decision.  What really counts is your ability to fully deliver what matters most.

The Role Your Value Proposition Plays
Your unique value proposition should be an essential part of your brand positioning, messaging and go to market sales strategy.  Every sales rep should be able to clearly articulate what sets you apart from the competition to your target clients.  An effective value proposition answers three key buyer questions:

1. Relevance: How your offering will tangibly improve their situation in an area of high importance

2. Differentiation: Why your offering is uniquely better than any other available alternative – is it better, faster, or cheaper?

3. Proof: What specific evidence do you have with customers that your claims of superiority are accurate?

Defining Customer Value is Dynamic
The best solution sellers understand that your value proposition may need to be customized according to the needs of each customer.  Not every buyer is the same; they have different needs, come from different backgrounds, occupy different situations, have different working styles, fulfill different roles, etc.  And because high performing sellers intimately know their target customers, they know that the unique recipe for customer value has important nuances across customers.

The better you can match what you offer to what the customer values most, the better your chance of closing the deal.  Remember, for the same product or service, different customers perceive different levels of value.

So Where Does Price Fit?
If value matters more than price, where does price fit?  Know your competition.  You can charge more and still win if the perceived value is greater in the customer’s eyes.  What matters is the way the customer assesses value vs. price.  This is the seller’s challenge.

The Bottom Line
When a seller can deliver according to the expectations set in the value proposition to the customer, they earn a customer’s satisfaction, their loyalty and the opportunity for repeat business. This is the way to win again and again.

To learn more about How to Sell Value versus Price, download 30 Effective Sales Questions More Important than Budget

A Positive Company Culture is Worth It
It takes constant clarity, effort and perseverance to shape and maintain a positive company culture for your people and your business.  But it’s worth it.

  • According to a Harvard Business School report, an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business.
  • Our own organizational alignment research shows that cultural factors account for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer retention, leadership effectiveness, and employee engagement

Successful organizations and leaders understand and leverage their positive corporate culture to win the talent war and to outperform their competition.

If You’ve Got It, Keep It
Let’s say you’ve worked hard to improve your culture to the point where you can be proud of how things truly get done in your organization. The known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors are in sync with the high values you hold dear and with the strategic direction you are heading.

We know that company cultures, regardless of their strength, progress and change over time.  So it is your challenge to see that your positive company culture stays aligned with your strategy, and your talent, keeps true to your high standards of behavior and continues to be that critical variable that can set you apart from the competition.

7 Threats to a Positive Company Culture
Here are seven of the most common threats to a positive company culture – the pollutants that can undermine what you worked so hard to build:

1. Gossip
You should not allow secret whispers about anyone behind their back. When there are honest disagreements or important issues to discuss, they should be addressed openly and respectfully. Otherwise you sabotage the atmosphere of trust that is the foundation of the collaboration, innovation, and decisiveness required to succeed.

Do what it takes to have open and honest conversations so that important feelings and issues do not fester.

2. Low or Unclear Performance Standards
Do not accept behavior that is sub-standard from anyone, including yourself. The minute your team sees that you overlook mediocre results or inappropriate behavior, high performance expectations lose their influence and team morale can sink.

Clearly define and stick to relevant, fair, and meaningful standards of success and failure to protect what matters most in your positive company culture.

3. Emails as Preferred Communication
Sure, technology is a great time saver and emails can be a good way to track conversations and connect. But not at the exclusion of face-to-face conversations.  There is so much that cannot be communicated in an email – body language and empathy for example – and once in print your email thoughts cannot be retracted or easily changed.

Foster strong interpersonal relationships and meaningful one-on-one connections across the company.

4. Empty or Disproportionate Praise
We all appreciate being recognized for a job well done. However, praise that is not earned or specific has little value.  In fact, it can undermine a team’s discretionary effort.  Be sure that you give proportionate credit only where it’s due and in enough detail to show that you were really paying attention.

Make sure that you proportionately reward and recognize what matters most at your company.

5. Ineffective or Infrequent Feedback
Employees look to leaders for feedback that will help them improve their performance and fulfill their career aspirations. Negative or ineffective feedback is counterproductive.  Keep the objective of constructive feedback in mind – performance improvement and continuous learning.

Everyone should know where they stand and what is required to get where they want to go.

6. Pointing the Finger
You may know who is to blame for the latest snafu, but it often does little good to point fingers. It is better in most instances to accept mistakes as part of a continuous improvement process and to work with people to help ensure that it doesn’t happen again.  Your team will appreciate that you shoulder the responsibility as a leader and demonstrate that you have their back.

Are people afraid to make mistakes at your company?

7. Explicit or Implied Threats
It should go without saying that dominating employees through threats and fear tactics is toxic. But some insecure leaders or those under stress resort to this kind of behavior.  While threats may get short-term tactical results, the long-term negative impact on organizational health, employee engagement, and alignment can be deadly.

Weed out bullies early and often to protect your company’s cultural health and well-being.

The Bottom Line
A company culture matters – a lot.  Once you’ve achieved it, stay vigilant and see that you are not guilty of any of the top threats that can derail a positive company culture.

To understand the three components required to build a positive company culture to outperform your peers, download The 3 Must-Have Levels of a High Performance Culture

Employee Tips to Improve Career Development Discussions
Especially if you conduct career development conversations only once a year, you as a manager need to be sure you’re able to get as much information as you can about what dreams your employees have for their career.  After all, we know that employees who feel valued and supported in their continued job growth are more fully engaged in their work.

Implications for Employee Engagement
While many areas and actions matter in terms of engaging and retaining employees, there are two in particular that a manager can leverage when talking about an employee’s future track: (1) Feeling Valued and (2) Job Satisfaction.  And you should care – our employee engagement research based upon surveying over half a million employees across more than 5,000 organizations every year shows that engaged workers are over 40% more productive and effective than their unengaged counterparts.

Feeling Valued
As you might expect, whether an employee feels valued is highly correlated with their engagement in their work. Managers help shape an employee’s perceptions about the organization’s commitment to its people – from investing in employee development through fairly compensating employees to commitment toward making the company a great place to work.

Job Satisfaction
An employee’s job satisfaction focuses on the intrinsic value an employee finds in their role. Does the role challenge them, utilize their unique strengths, and fit into their long-term career aspirations? All things being equal, happy employees are more likely to be engaged employees.

Maximize the Effectiveness of Career Conversations
Here are four tips to improve career development discussions:

1. Be Specific
Questions that are too broad elicit general answers. You want to tap into the kinds of work that truly motivates your employees.  What, specifically, in their current job excites or challenges them?  Would they like more opportunities to do this kind of work?  And where in the organization do these opportunities exist?

2. Talk About Opportunities for Growth
Discuss ways that they can grow meaningfully in their job. Would they benefit from a mentor or coach?  Are their development programs that will advance them along their career path?  Would different projects or a job rotation make sense?

3. Set Clear and Meaningful Goals
Work together to set short-term, achievable goals that aim toward longer term aspirations. If, for example, an employee wants to improve their presentation skills with a view toward more confidently addressing executives, talk about what can be accomplished in three months, six months, and a year.  The plan might include a presentation skills program that focuses on content and delivery with lots of practice for the first step; presenting to the team on two different topics for the second; and a 15-minute presentation to senior managers on a topic of interest for the third.

4. Check in on Progress Regularly
Don’t consider the discussion “one and done.” Your job as manager is to stay connected, track progress, and support achievement of the agreed-upon goals.  Be there to advise, guide and celebrate each milestone.

The Bottom Line
Do you know what each member of your team wants to accomplish in their work life and why?  The better you understand and help them reach their goals, the more productive they will be, and the more effective you will be as a manager.

To learn more about how to improve employee engagement, download 6 Manager Strategies to Move the Engagement Needle

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