by Marshall Goldsmith
What can managers do to increase employee commitment and engagement in their companies?
My good friend, Judith Bardwick, just wrote a book about the answer to this question called One Foot Out The Door, How to Combat The Psychological Recession That’s Alienating Employees And Hurting American Business.
I love her work and asked her respond. Here is what she had to say:
As the Gallup Organizations says, people join organizations but leave their boss. In other words, a manager’s key responsibility is to create mutual respect and trust with the people who report to them. When managers lead and manage their people effectively, their people are much more likely to be engaged – and to achieve results for the organization.
In practice this involves walking the talk, being transparent, communicating effectively, treating people equally, teaching, leading subordinates to increasingly excellent performance – and responding to subordinates as mature individuals who are owed fairness, the truth and recognition of their achievements.
Since managers interact directly and frequently with subordinates they are usually more “tuned in” to how employees are feeling than are executives. Managers are in a better position to know, for example, when employees are feeling alienated and disengaged from their work, which is very common today — and expensive.
Gaining employee commitment results in greater profits because enthusiastic employees stay, contribute discretionary effort, and engage customers. Performance soars when customers are enthused and stay and when executives, managers, and employees are a collaborative team, united in achieving common goals.
But managers are often called “middle managers” for good reason: their job is to motivate and guide subordinates while they, at the same time, are being judged by their bosses. Because of their “tween” position in the hierarchy, managers, to effective support direct reports, must also create relationships with potential allies, especially those with greater power who have access to top decision makers.
Specifically, when trying to create the organizational changes needed to gain commitment, managers need to:
– Prepare their elevator speech, which includes the two or three key points they wish to make with their co-workers.
– Communicate this message initially to people who are known to agree with this position. Managers have to strategize to increase their influence through sheer numbers and by creating allies of people with greater influence and power.
– Finally, you need to collaborate with allies. Effective collaboration doesn’t always happen organically between like-minded people. You’d be wise to follows some specific steps:
1) Prepare a case documenting the major financial gains that will be achieved when employees are enthusiastic and involved.
2) Get a sufficient number of executives on board to begin taking action. You don’t need full-scale buy-in to get started, just enough allies to create real movement.
3) Identify some initial easily achieved targets where success will energize the change process and help you gain more allies.