“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,  French writer and pioneering aviator

Do you know anyone who dreads work? What if there were a solution to that problem? What if we could find a way to rewrite the story of someone who shows up and counts the hours until they get to go home, eager for the hours in the day when they get to enjoy their real life. What if the effect of the manager was so strong that she could transform how her team felt about work?

Managers Effect on Engaged Employees Communication Leadership PI(3)

Then we wouldn't have to stay stuck in this rut, forever waiting for that small snippet of time away from work when we can enjoy what we are doing and when we feel like we can do the things that matter most to us.

Is it possible that managers are the answer to making our work lives so REWARDING that we don’t feel like we need to escape from work?

Turns out, yes! Managers ARE the answer to transforming how employees feel about work and how they perform at work.

What?! I know, it's shocking, but It's true. Promise, I'm not making this up.

The 70% Effect of the Manager on Employee Engagement

Proof:  Let’s begin by looking at Gallup’s research on the ability of the manager to influence (positively or negatively) the performance of their team through engagement. (And yes, I quote Gallup often, because they are my favorite researchers – no offense, Harvard Business Publishing, I love you, too).

Gallup determined (through extensive worldwide research) that managers account for up to 70% of the variance in an employee’s engagement level. They further determined that employee engagement is strongly correlated, or linked, to performance.

According to Gallup, higher employee engagement is strongly linked to higher performance outcomes such as higher customer ratings, increased profitability, increased productivity, lower turnover, fewer safety incidents, less internal theft, lower absenteeism, fewer patient safety incidents and increased quality of products.

Simply put, managers can positively affect the employee’s engagement level which then leads to improved performance.

In other words, engaged employees typically are more productive and show increased work quality when compared to workers who are unengaged.

Illustration of the Manager's Effect on Employee Engagement

Let’s look at an illustration to help put those numbers in perspective.

In the diagram, you can see how a single employee performs with different managers.

Let's assume an employee can perform up to 100% of his/her potential.

The chart shows a single employee who performs at a baseline of 30% without any managerial influence. So this means that whether the manager is there or not, the employee is giving that 30% that is solely based on his/her internal motivation and work ethic.

You then see in the diagram how the employee's total performance is affected by different managers, with the weakest manager on the left and the stronger manager on the right.

Manager #1 on the left is a weak manager who only:

  • Motivates the employee to give an extra 20% effort above what the employee would give WITHOUT the manager.
  • This leaves the employee with 50% untapped POTENTIAL.

Manager #2 in the middle is a little better and is able to:

  • Motivate the employee to give an extra 40% above what the employee would give WITHOUT the manager.
  • This leaves the employee with 30% untapped POTENTIAL.

Manager #3 on the right is a much stronger manager who is able to:

  • Motivate the employee to give an extra 60% above what the employee would give WITHOUT the manager.
  • This leaves the employee with 0% untapped POTENTIAL, meaning that this manager has maximized the employee’s potential as much as possible.

What all of this tells us is that the manager can have a profoundly positive effect on how engaged employees are at work.

The Manager's Effect is Significant

The manager’s leadership and the type of work environment that is provided can make ALL the difference (or at least 70% of the difference) in an employee being a no-good, horrible, hate-this-job employee or being an awesome, love-this-job employee.

Look at the amount of BLUE on the graph below. That’s the amount that a manager can positively OR negatively affect. Never again can a manager say he or she cannot influence employees to be better.

Most importantly, YOU can make a POSITIVE DIFFERENCE in how well your team performs and how much they love their jobs.

It’s all about engagement. Is your team engaged? Are you maximizing your ability to influence 70% of an employee’s motivation and performance?

Additionally, research tells us that only 1 in 5 employees feel like they are managed in a motivating way.

That means 4 out of 5 employees do NOT feel like they are managed in a motivating way.

So, the odds are that 4 out of 5 of the people reading this might need a little support in engaging their teams, which leads to motivation, which then leads to high performance and has the wonderful side effect of helping employees love their jobs.

Where to Start with Engaging Your Team

The top reasons for poor engagement reported by employees are:

  1. lack of purpose and meaningfulness in their work and
  2. a boss that doesn’t care about the employee’s individual development.

Starting place #1: Purposeful Work

You can get started improving the engagement of your team by:

  • Helping your team understand how their daily work aligns to a larger purpose.
  • Help them to see that what they do is important and contributes to the greater good.

People want to be part of something bigger than themselves that makes the world a better place. Help your team see how their work is doing just that.

Starting place #2: Developing Your Team

Equally important is helping each of your team members to develop. You can do this by:

  • Spending time focusing on the strengths of your team as individuals.
  • Help them to see strengths in themselves they may not have realized.
  • Provide the future vision for how developing those strengths could help them grow in their career.
  • Provide opportunities for your team to take on stretch assignments that are in their area of interest and strength but which are challenging enough to push them to grow.
  • Be careful that stretch assignments don’t overwhelm by creating a safe team environment where people feel free to take calculated risks and know that they will be supported by you if things don’t work out perfectly.
  • Coach your team members, have honest two-way conversations focused on growth and development and give meaningful feedback that is designed to help them be their best.

Sometimes people don’t even realize what they are capable of doing until someone points it out. Be sincere and caring. Build your team up, trust them, support them through tough times and make that 70% count for something great.

The Leadership Reformation Power of LanguageYour work as the leader matters. Make it matter 70%.

Some other resources you might enjoy and find helpful are:

5 Powerful Action Steps to Engage Your Team
The Biggest Danger of Leadership
10 Leadership Qualities that Scare the Status Quo


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