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Engaging Managers – 7 Strategies to Succeed in Manager Engagement


Managers are usually the ones bringing about change in an organisation, thanks to their direct impact on day-to-day operations, office culture, staff performance, and employee engagement.

Engaged employees are enthusiastic brand advocates. The disengaged are indifferent to the impact their work has on their organisation’s performance―and largely influenced by the environment their managers are creating. In fact, Gallup estimates managers account for at least a 70% variance in employee engagement. If disengaged employees are a symptom of disengaged leaders, how do you motivate your managers?

Here, we’ll take you through what defines an engaged manager, strategies to keep them motivated, and how engaging managers boost your bottom line.

How engaged managers engage employees

Christ. Churchill. Caesar. They may not have worked in today’s offices, but they prove great leaders are engaged in the values of their organisation, tap into their people’s personal motivations, sustain engagement, and simply lead by example. (Yes, even Caesar.) Amongst great leaders throughout history and offices alike, you’ll find shared attributes like focus, confidence, passion, patience, integrity, and innovation.

It’s not just what they convey personally, though, but the practices they follow. Great leaders show their employees what they need to do, both to succeed in the business and help the business succeed. Engaging managers are highly motivated, efficient, collaborative and, most importantly, nurture engaged employees. 80% of employees with a higher level of trust in their management are more committed to the business. Engaged managers understand they represent their company and its values, and are committed to achieving any objectives that align with those. If the managers make the company, what makes the engaged manager?

How to engage your managers

Succession planning is one proactive strategy to encourage engagement in managers. Maintaining a list of candidates with potential is a viable way for talent management to nurture and engage managers. It’s not about promising them a position that is likely already filled, but rather communicating their potential has been clocked for possible advancement. The benefits for your organisation? Increased loyalty, maximised productivity, and better quality output. If you’ve already implemented succession planning, here are another seven methods for successfully engaging managers:

1. Build trust

Without trust, you can’t – and won’t – have loyalty. Start by openly and honestly communicating with your managers, who are all too often left to explain changing or inconsistent policies without the right information. Be honest about metrics, goals, and company performance. Even if some company initiatives can’t be disclosed, you can still promote transparency by explaining why.

Managers call some shots, executives call most – but it doesn’t give them the right to be distant and autocratic. Leadership involves helping people understand why they’re being asked to do something. A persuasive approach vs an authoritarian one gives managers the discretion to decide the most efficient way of achieving a certain task, encouraging innovation and passion.

Never fall into the trap of thinking that because you make the rules, you don’t make mistakes. Admitting when you’re wrong engages critics of company strategies, creates bonding opportunities, and shows you take responsibility for failures. Plus, it’ll also help forestall future criticism.

2. Respect everyone

We’ve all made Karen jokes. However, name-calling, gossiping, and badmouthing does not make a positive office culture. Make it known you won’t tolerate people playing Judas, but be certain to condemn an action, not the person. Giving feedback in the context of overall performance to encourage and empower rather than vilify helps to address behaviours hindering individual strengths. Remember, you get the behaviour you are prepared to walk past. Your office is an ecosystem. Weed out any toxicity before the whole thing is poisoned.

3. Collaborate more often

75% of organisations rate collaboration as critical, yet 39% of employees feel they are not being asked to collaborate enough. You know that all-consuming feeling after you’d won a game with your teammates when you were a kid? The same sense of camaraderie and success applies to teams in the workplace. Increase collaboration by creating specialist teams to tackle problems across departments, encourage peer-to-peer networking with intra-office communications, and keep different departments in the loop on the others’ projects. Making collaboration a foundation of your organisation will shape engaged employees and managers alike. When in doubt, remember: hold conversations, not court.

4. Institutionalise empathy

Just as employees will do as their managers do, managers do as their organisation does. Showing empathy when your managers express they are caught between a rock and a hard place will subconsciously encourage them to do the same, taking stress out of the workplace when the going gets tough. HR departments were born to perform in this area, so make sure to seek managerial input when learning from failures. Make it a habit to simply get to know them. Ask how their day is going, learn about their families and backgrounds, inquire about their hobbies. The bottom line? Good relationships and goal realisation are not mutually exclusive. You can have it all.

5. Recognise performance

Aside from adding to their workload, when executives assign performance recognition to managers to delegate, the opportunity for them to be recognised is taken away – eschewing engagement in the process. It’s human nature to feel a little jealous at times, but it’s not natural to have your managers thinking the grass is greener at the bottom of the totem pole. The buck shouldn’t stop at a corner office. Remember your managers like to get a pat on the back every now and then, too.

6. Provide them with the literal tools for success

No one likes paperwork. We live in a technological age, so your HR systems should reflect the times. Managers can often find their efforts hindered by outdated technology that doesn’t provide remote or mobile access to their teams. Set your team up for success by removing development obstacles and offering a tailored eLearning system like Acorn. The crux of it is your team is only as good as their tools.

7. Provide opportunities for training and growth

Career opportunities don’t stop at middle management. Giving managers every possible resource to upskill keeps them engaged in their role and the organisation, and adds talent to your leadership pipeline. Find out what your managers believe they are lacking in (whether tools or experience) as a jumping off point. If additional training is needed to complement or reinforce key responsibilities, offer it. If an opportunity arises where they can shadow a colleague or work with a mentor, arrange it. Showing you want them to succeed will help raise levels of engagement in their work. Remember: Investing internally will leverage loyalty.

How engaged managers boost your organisation’s goals

The big HR trend right now is holistic employee engagement. Engaging your managers on a personal level is one small step for HR, one giant leap towards achieving your engagement goals. In layman’s terms: figure out what makes them tick. Are they active users of social media? Post on your company pages about subsidised workshops and charitable initiatives, or invite them to scavenger hunts, bar crawls or picnics. Extend invitations over enforcing impositions. Engaged employees are motivated by companies who foster skills outside of their job description. Consider if they have other skills that could be nurtured and moulded into their role. This conveys you want their job to work for them, rather than making them fit to work for you.

Unlike the ten commandments, our seven strategies for engaging managers aren’t set in stone. They do, however, provide a snapshot of an overall approach to increase manager focus and energy. Management are often champions for innovation and change, greater efficiency, and proactive conflict resolution. HR departments and executives can foster this dynamic engagement – and in turn, swifter realisation of company goals – by reducing busywork, loosening formal guidelines, communicating openly and regularly, and seeking honest opinions instead of coerced endorsements.

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