The Engaged Manager

We had the privilege of having organizational health movement pioneer, Patrick Lencioni, in Chico last month where he spoke with key leaders in the business, non-profit, health, agriculture, and other sectors about the importance of being an engaged manager – and the tremendously high cost of employee “job misery” for businesses and organizations who do not effectively engage their employees.

According to Lencioni, “Some studies show as high as 77% of workers are dissatisfied with their work, and that the primary driver of job dissatisfaction is not pay or benefits, but rather the relationship that an employee has with his or her supervisor. Such widespread dissatisfaction kills morale and productivity within companies and drives up the cost of recruiting, hiring, and retraining new employees, all of which takes a huge, if not easily measured, toll on the bottom line. Gallup estimates that the annual cost to the American economy due to lost productivity is somewhere in the vicinity of $350 billion.”

Let that statistic sink in…77% of workers are dissatisfied with their work…and the primary driver of that dissatisfaction is the relationship an employee has with his or her supervisor…not pay, not benefits, but rather relationship (or lack thereof) with their manager…

Lencioni identifies the following three main causes of job misery – all of which seem obvious, but are equally elusive if not intentionally addressed.

  1. Anonymity – The basic concept of anonymity is that employees need to be known by their manager and that they will not and cannot be fulfilled in their work without being known. Lencioni asserts, “All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority. People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.”
  2. Irrelevance – In discussing this second cause of job misery, Lencioni highlights the fact that everyone needs to know that their job matters to someone. They need to see the bigger picture, the larger connection of how their work makes a difference to someone in this world. Whether it is fixing ice machines in the hospital, to data entry for a large company, employees must be given a greater concrete vision for how their work matters – and they need to be reminded of that vision with frequency. Lencioni states, “Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just their boss.”
  3. Immeasurement – The last component of job misery according to Lencioni is immeasurement, or the idea that employees must know the concrete measurements of success for their jobs so they can gauge progress. He states that employees, “cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without tangible means of assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.”

Let’s pause to consider the level of engagement of our own employees – those we directly manage as well as the overall level of employee engagement in our companies and organizations – using the following questions as initial prompts to delve more deeply into this issue.

  • How would you rate your employees’ satisfaction with their jobs? What role do you play in that satisfaction as their manager? How is their satisfaction or dissatisfaction contributing to or taking away from your company?
  • Do your employees feel known by you? Do you know the names of their significant others and kids? Can you identify activities they enjoy? Identify a plan to sit down (even briefly) with your direct reports to intentionally get to know them a little more. And ask good follow up questions about what you find out in the days and weeks that follow.
  • Do your employees see the connection between their daily tasks and activities to a bigger picture? Have you taken the time recently to cast (or recast) that vision? Identify a time to explain and affirm how their work contributes to a larger vision. Whether their work serves you, the company, or others outside the company, be intentional about articulating the importance of their work and how it connect to a larger picture.
  • Lastly, do your employees have concrete measurements for success? If not, how can you develop them? Make a timeline to implement measurements of success for your employees.

Your role as a manager of people is consequential and substantial. Don’t underestimate the importance of your influence on those you manage – not just while they are at work, but also how your influence impacts their lives with their families and their communities. The benefits of employee engagement and job satisfaction to your business and to your community are significant and cannot be overstated.

About the Author
Hilary Tricerri is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our Grants practice. To get in touch with Hilary, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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