Middle managers just as critical as senior leaders
Q: One of the key findings the 2010 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey is that worker satisfaction is more profoundly affected by perceptions of top management than by their immediate supervisor. What lessons can top leaders in the public and private sector glean from this?
This year's Best Places to Work in federal government survey finds that top leadership has a stronger impact on worker satisfaction than immediate supervisors. At the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), however, various research projects over the years confirm that immediate supervisors also have a major influence on employee satisfaction and engagement.
Most recently, a study CCL conducted in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton revealed that among workers who strongly agreed that they work for a manager who cares about their well-being, 94 percent said they intend to stay with their current employer. Of those who strongly disagreed that their manager cared about their well-being, just 43 percent planned to stick around.
Additionally, data from CCL's Lessons of Experience research project, which started in the 1980s, has documented the powerful impact that immediate bosses have on the satisfaction - and, ultimately, the development and retention - of employees.
But rather than spending too much time debating which level of management matters most in furthering employee satisfaction, we are perhaps wiser to remember this instead: the most effective way to keep our men and women engaged and satisfied over the long term is to improve the quality of managers at every level of our organizations.
An in-depth study CCL did with leaders in the U.S, Singapore and India from 2006 to 2008 determined the four most important leadership skills for the future: 1) leading people, which means knowing how to direct and motivate them; 2) strategic planning, defined as the ability to translate vision into realistic business strategies; 3) inspiring commitment, which involves recognizing and rewarding employee achievements; and 4) managing change, which calls for adapting to new external pressures and helping employees do the same. It turns out that most of today's managers are not adept at these four skills, creating what we call the "leadership gap."
Closing that gap calls for developing these four skills with leaders throughout our organizations, from top leadership all the way down to first-time managers. When that happens, employee satisfaction will flourish and organizations will accelerate their strategy and results.
John R. Ryan
August 31, 2010; 10:59 AM ET
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