Recently, the Gallup Business Journal published an article entitled, Why Great Managers Are So Rare. While the article is full of valuable and practical insight supported by Gallup’s research findings, the authors (Randall Beck and Jim Harter) make two statements that, while not particularly surprising, are nonetheless shocking:
“Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the [management] candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.”
“Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units.”
One of the reasons for so many management failures, according to Gallup, is that managers often lack the possession of the right talent to thrive in the position. Clearly, an inability to motivate correctly, establish relationships characterized by transparency and authenticity, and build a culture of healthy accountability are among the primary reasons for management failures. In addition to the damaged lives and careers these managers produce, their management failures cost companies millions, if not billions, of dollars annually.
While unprepared and ill-quipped managers are responsible for the majority of management failures, there is another, more insidious and seemingly intractable issue at work that, I would argue, is responsible for creating this crises: the systems (people and processes) used to identify, train, and place unqualified people in management positions. This is the point where the problem needs be addressed.
The criteria used to identify managers and the training employed to equip managers should be revised in at least one particular area. Regarding the selection process…
Potential managers must be screened first for their ability to understand the linkage between personal meaning and engagement and then second for managerial competency and efficient execution. While both are important, maintaining the order is absolutely crucial.
If, as Gallup noted, “the root of performance variability lies within human nature (italics mine),” then beginning with an understanding of and appreciation for the connection between work and human nature is where management selection and training should begin. It is no longer tenable, and one could argue, morally acceptable, for organizations to ignore this order in the face of a changing workforce that understands the connection between meaning and work.
How Can Organizations Adjust Selection and Training Processes to Respond?
Begin by identifying those who have an established track record of personally demonstrating engagement and cultivating engagement in others. People who demonstrate and encourage engagement typically understand what fuels engagement within human nature. When people know they are valued as human beings, when they know their talents matter to the organization, and when those talents (strengths) are well-aligned with actual work responsibilities then personal meaning is created which fuels morale and performance. An appreciation for and understanding of this “cause and effect” linkage cannot be taught or prescribed. It is either intuitively understood and valued on the front end or it is not understood or valued at all.
The ongoing failures of managers (and the damage to human aspirations not to mention diminished productivity) is, in large part, the outcome of selection and training processes that fail in many respects because they begin with the wrong questions and use incorrect and misleading selection criteria. This problem is compounded by people in decision-making positions who do not understand and/or do not see any value in changing the way they select and train their managers. Until these fundamental changes are made, organizations will continue to do the same thing (secure toxic and dysfunctional managers) and getting the same results (a disengaged workforce) and, along the way, damaging the very people who are “supposedly” their greatest assets.