3 Secret Ways Successful Leaders are Undermining Team Engagement

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Research has consistently proved companies with engaged employees outperform those without.  And the manager, is the single biggest influencing factor.  Gallup estimates managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement across business units.  And companies that increase their number of talented managers, double the rate of engaged employees and achieve on average 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.

There are certain manager behaviors that are outright demoralizing: such as favoritism, bullying, unethical practice.  However, there are certain manager behaviors that are undermining team engagement, you see the impact in their best employees leaving, but issues not urgently recognized and addressed as a "leadership" issue.  Why? 

Often, these managers are promoted for their success in a previous non-managerial role or their tenure in their company or field.  These managers know the organization, processes and have good connections.  Also, these behaviors are either disguised as good intention or good intention executed poorly. 

Here are 3 secret ways successful managers are undermining team engagement: 

Always adding their 2 cents.  These managers will have their "2 cents" to add to every conversation & discussion.  They are keen to show their value add, improve on the quality of work by their team.

Overly prescriptive.  Not only they make sure you know what to do, how to do and who to involve.  They also remind you what you should be telling your direct reports, so they can set the right expectations with their direct reports.

Believe more activities = higher commitment.  You know, the manager with 12 critical few, 15 top priorities, 20 non-negotiables.  And they question the commitment of their people who are not willing to stretch and do more as asked.

These managers fail to recognise 3 things:

  • What got them here won’t get them there.  The higher you rise in the org chart, the less control and more influence you will use to get the job done.  
  • As businesses globalize, the dispersion of knowledge and power are wider and deeper.  Their direct reports will be more knowledgeable in their respective domains than the manager, and that's healthy.
  • In an era of agile everything, having a team that are capable of making sound judgements & generate energy are more important than the ability to execute relentless (possibly to burnout)!

As Peter Drucker said,

Leader of the past knew how to tell. Leader of the future knows how to ask.

The command & control leadership style is no longer effective.  Boxing the team's potential to the manager's knowledge and perspectives is irresponsible.  It hurts the business and drives away the best talents. 

To thrive in our competitive and at times disruptive world, managers must be able to harness the knowledge, insights, creativity, motivation and energy of their diverse workforce.  Yes, coach.  Coaching as a required leadership skill.

The good news, more and more organization are citing the importance of building a coaching culture.   The bad news, many have no clue what that means.

If you are leading teams and you want to build your coaching skill, don't wait for your organization to run the training.  You must equip yourself NOW.  Starting April, I'll be publishing weekly coaching tips in my newsletter.  These will be bite-sized contents that you can learn and apply right away.  And it's free.  Go sign up now and I'll have you covered!


Jacinta Quah