This week I’m at the SHRM Conference in Las Vegas with 15,000 of my HR brethren, and there is definite excitement in the air. Marcus Buckingham started off Monday’s general session by talking about strengths, leadership, and performance. One of the specific areas he focused on was the importance of a good team leader for the performance of the organization.
Many of the processes companies put in place are focused on improving the organization or supporting the employee populace, but there is a dearth of support for the team leaders. Even a traditional engagement survey doesn’t necessarily serve the needs of the supervisors as we might expect. Buckingham talked about this phenomenon with this example:
When we do an engagement survey, we gather information and HR is the first group to see it. Then the human resources team passes it up to the appropriate senior leadership staff with commentary (engagement is up, communication is down, etc.) Finally, after everyone else has seen the information, the actual team leaders see the data weeks after it has been collected. In that period, the teams may have grown or shrank, the issues listed in the survey may have been resolved, or other problems raised might have spiraled out of control due to the time lapse.
This example is one that helps us to understand the need for faster access to data, not just for the HR team or for the leadership, but for the specific managers as well.
The Red/Green Experiment
Several years ago I read the book All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results. One of the interesting points from the book was the red/green experiment. A company mapped out its departments using green, yellow, or red. Green teams were higher than average in productivity, profitability, etc. Red were just the opposite and were especially poor in the area of turnover. So the company decided to experiment by moving some “green” managers to “red” areas and vice versa to see the results. Here’s a direct quote:
In every single case, no matter the background or expertise of the manager, within a year the red departments were green and green departments were red. It was the manager who made the difference.”
Wow! That’s a major vote for focusing on our team leaders to ensure they are the right people in the right roles at the right time.
Great Managers? They Matter
My colleague Laci Loew writes often on how to make managers better, and I recommend you check out one of her latest pieces on transforming managers into coaches. In addition, we recently published a piece on how managers figure into the performance of the employees under them as well as for the organization. The snippet below helps to support the points Buckingham made in his presentation.
In the research, organizations identified the top three activities to improve performance. This can serve as a guideline for how organizations should be developing managers:
- Increase alignment between performance goals and in business goals (74%)
- Focus on coaching for development (64%)
- Improve manager skills in giving feedback (64%)
I would encourage each of you to look at how your company is supporting team leaders to do their work more effectively or efficiently. Also, consider the red/green experiment. Would it be worthwhile to profile team performance within your organization so that you can accurately focus efforts on improving the “red” ones and understanding what makes the “green” ones great?
Ben Eubanks, Associate HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group