Businesses do a poor job picking managers to lead their employees, collectively costing companies billions of dollars each year, according to a recent Gallup report titled “State of the American Manager.”
The report is based on more than “four decades of extensive talent research, a study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, and analysis from measuring the engagement of 27 million employees.”
The research yields a striking failure rate – 82 percent – when it comes to how well companies select their managers.
“On the plus side, with such an abysmal success rate in hiring managers, we can reasonably expect improvement in the workforce,” says Debora McLaughlin, CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group, and author of “Running in High Heels: How to Lead with Influence, Impact & Ingenuity.”
“More importantly, Gallup points out what many of us have known for decades – that including more women in leadership positions will reliably improve conditions within an organization’s work culture.”
An important criterion for how success is measured in management is engagement, where women have a decided advantage. Those who work for female managers are, on average, six percentage points more likely to be engaged, and those who work for female managers outscore employees of male managers on 11 of 12 engagement items.
“While I am a strong advocate for women in leadership positions, I think it’s safe to say that all of us, no matter our gender, have room to improve our management skills,” says McLaughlin, an executive and business coach who offers insight into achieving management goals.
• Rigidity won’t help you retain top talent; be open. The ideal management style for today’s business climate is evolving. The traditional top-down hierarchal structure is giving way in favor of a more collaborative team approach. That means being open to communication, empathy and encouraging inspiration in employees.
“In my years as a business coach, I’ve had to convince men that a strictly hierarchal approach is often a company’s demise,” McLaughlin says. “Retaining and encouraging talent today means I emphasize open communication, empathy and employee inspiration.”
• Encourage engagement by focusing on an employee’s strengths or positive characteristics. Of course, emphasizing someone’s positive traits doesn’t require you to ignore areas that could or should be improved. Clearly, if an employee is severely underperforming, then that must be addressed. However, if you can assume your employees are at least competent, then be proactive with your praise. Expressing positive reinforcement toward their tangible contributions has an empowering effect that will yield greater ownership of their roles.
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“For many, this positive reinforcement may mean encouraging employees to be themselves,” McLaughlin says. “Our natural talents are freer to flow when we aren’t battling ourselves.”
• Too many exceptional women succumb to ‘off-ramping.’ Multiple studies have found that, on a woman’s path to the C-suite, she faces an abundance of “off-ramp” options – life decisions that take her off her career path. And, since the recession, the “on-ramps” have become scarce. According to a 2010 study from the Center for Work Life Policy, 73 percent of women trying to return to work after a voluntary timeout for childcare or other reasons had trouble returning to work or finding a job.
“This can lead to a cascade of resulting problems, such as reduced pay for women when they return or not off-ramping in the first place, which tends to yield an over-burdened lifestyle,” McLaughlin says. “This is a developing issue with more studies to be completed. However, I believe companies that are accommodating to a woman’s familial needs, for example, are ultimately helping themselves by retaining proven talent, promoting loyalty and preempting the uncertainty of a new hire.”
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Debora McLaughlin is the best-selling author of “The Renegade Leader: 9 Success Strategies Driven Leaders Use to Ignite People, Performance and Profits.” Her new book, “Running in High Heels: How to Lead with Influence, Impact & Ingenuity,” is a how-to leadership companion for women in business. She is CEO of The Renegade Leader Coaching and Consulting Group (www.TheRenegadeLeader.com.)