Organizations today are under tremendous pressure to innovate, expand their capabilities, and become more efficient and competitive. To achieve those goals, managers are called upon to play an even more active role in steering their direct reports’ professional growth and development. As coaching becomes a more critical aspect of managers’ jobs, HR functions are devoting more attention to training managers in the best ways to drive performance on their teams.
In our research at Gartner, we’ve identified four types of managers, each with a distinct approach to coaching. These include the teacher, who develops employees using their own experience and expertise; the cheerleader, who enables employees to take their development into their own hands; the connector, who introduces employees to the right people to meet their development needs, and the always-on manager, who provides continuous coaching and feedback across a broad range of skills. In an era when organizations are most concerned with constant growth and performance improvement, the always-on management style has become common, even preferred. However, our research finds that it is the least effective of the bunch; in fact, always-on managers tend to degrade employee performance rather than augmenting it. Teachers and cheerleaders improve performance to a degree, but it’s the connector manager who stands out, with a maximum impact on employee performance of 26 percent: around three times the impact of a teacher or cheerleader.
The connector manager model is not really new, Principal Executive Advisor Scott Engler pointed out in a session at Gartner’s ReimagineHR event in London last Wednesday. In a sense, it represents a return to the roots of performance management theory from the 1980s, before the term became conflated with performance measurement and ratings, and coaching transformed into feedback. By becoming connectors, managers can rediscover the power of coaching and substantially increase their impact on their team members’ performance without spending time they don’t have.
The high-impact coaching connector managers do has two essential qualities: it takes an employee-centric approach and uses a broader coaching network.
One of the innovations in organizational learning and development promised by the UK’s apprenticeship levy scheme, which came into effect last year, was that it would enable employers to apply the apprenticeship model to professional and managerial roles in addition to its traditional use in skilled trades. As of last October, however, official figures showed that only half of companies eligible for levy funds were using them, and often on training programs other than apprenticeships, such as sending their executives to earn MBAs.
Personnel Today’s Rob Moss highlights some new research from ILM that investigates how HR decision makers in the UK are applying their training budgets, which turned up one possible reason why few organizations are approaching management training through apprenticeships: 58 percent of respondents said middle and senior managers would be unwilling to be seen as an apprentice due to the “reputation and image” of apprenticeships and the implication that they require additional support:
Professionals’ reluctance to be seen as an apprentice could be putting businesses at a significant disadvantage. Of those surveyed who currently run a formal leadership training programme to help fill middle and senior management or leadership roles, over two thirds (70%) aim their programmes at mid-level employees. Yet only a quarter (25%) would consider using apprenticeships to improve the skills of middle managers, and 21% would consider using them to develop senior managers.
Leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman looked into whether the leadership habits of high-level managers carry over to their mid-level subordinates, and found that indeed, those who work under good bosses tend to be better bosses themselves. They discuss their findings in the Harvard Business Review:
We already know that good leadership creates engaged employees and that leaders influence a variety of outcomes such as personnel turnover, customer satisfaction, sales, revenue, productivity, and so on. But if you’re a good leader, do you make the people around you more likely to become good leaders as well? And which behaviors are most readily “caught”?
To answer this question, we examined 360-degree assessments of high-level managers and of their direct reports who were mid-level managers. Matching 265 pairs of high-level managers (HL) and their mid-level manager direct reports (ML), we found highly significant correlations on a variety of behaviors. …
We also examined overall performance. Unsurprisingly, the direct reports of the worst-performing HL managers were also below-average performers. Conversely, HL managers who were rated as very effective had ML reports who were also rated far above average.
Zenger and Folkman also measured which specific behaviors showed the strongest correlation and found that “developing self and others” was the most “contagious” behavior, followed by technical and strategic skills.
Responding to signs that many workers are looking for reasons to take off for the job market this year, Training Magazine‘s Margery Weinstein suggests that organizations make sure their managers are avoiding the habits of bad bosses:
Along with unrealistic, or poorly managed, workloads, employees are eager to leave managers who are ungenerous. Ungenerous managers are mainly interested in preserving and bolstering their own position. They hoard all plum assignments, such as interesting conferences or events or exciting projects, for themselves, while relegating their employees to the grunt work. They also tend to shut their employees out of meetings, choosing instead to present their employees’ ideas and work themselves. They don’t want their bosses to have too much exposure to the high-performing employees who work under them. They don’t want their bosses to know that some of the employees working under them are more efficient, and have great ideas of their own, and require only half, or a quarter, of the salary the manager is being paid.
Department heads should be taught not to be too deferential to hierarchy in communicating with employees. If an employee sends her ideas or observations to a department head, or her manager’s boss, it’s not OK for the manager’s boss to just communicate back to the employee through the manager. It’s important for employees to see that they are acknowledged in a first-hand way by whomever they send the e-mail to, even if that person is not their direct manager.