The managers are not all right. Why? Because they’re trying to ‘manage’ through the effects of the fourth industrial revolution, a worldwide pandemic, and the Great Resignation with the management styles of a bygone era. And a recent survey by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) shows how damaging these poor management practices are.  

  • 84% of American workers say poorly trained people managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress  
  • 57% of American workers say managers in their workplace could benefit from training on how to be a better people manager
  • 35% of those surveyed said that managers need to know how to cultivate a positive and inclusive team culture

Because the manager accounts for so much of an employee’s work experience, it’s really imperative that organizations help managers improve their people skills. They need to provide development in the mindset and methods that will empower managers to lead better. In particular, managers need to build listening and empathy skills, and help their employees feel like they belong. 

Managers Need to Listen

In most organizations, the biggest emphasis at work is placed on output. What’s missing is the connection and community that makes people want to engage in their work. This is crucial because the better our working relationships, the more we actually produce.  Essential to building good working relationships is the art of listening. 

“We have 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictitus

I say that it is an art form because it’s not a skill that comes naturally to most people. Usually when we are in conversation with another person, we listen with the intent to respond; to share our side of an issue, tell a similar story that we’ve experienced, or completely change the subject. To really listen requires focus, patience and a desire to truly understand what is being said. It focuses solely on the speaker. One such method is ‘Active Listening’. While the speaker talks, the listener pays close attention to the explicit and underlying details, using only non-verbal cues to show that they are listening. This could be as simple as nodding your head. It’s important not to interrupt and stop the flow the information. Only once the speaker finishes, should the listener summarize the key points of what they heard and then ask for confirmation. Then the speaker can clarify any misunderstandings. Active listening is an excellent way for a manager to gain information and perspective, and to show an employee that what they have to say matters. 

Managers Must Show Empathy

The second skill managers should develop is empathy. This is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The idea of having and sharing feelings at work often makes people uncomfortable, though, making this a major roadblock to effective management. To begin to engage in empathetic leadership, managers need to let their employees know that they are there for them. Employees should be encouraged to openly and regularly ask questions, take appropriate risks, and discuss obstacles with management. And sharing personal struggles should be encouraged as well. Empathy is a cornerstone of relationship building because it serves to improve communication and collaboration. A truly cohesive team has no fear around these types of behaviors.

Managers Have to Create a Sense of Belonging

The third thing managers should focus on at work is creating a sense of belonging. Employees today want to feel safe and wanted at work. And when they don’t, they look for jobs elsewhere. This is happening in almost every industry and is especially relevant to remote workers. However, managers can help reduce the effects of the ‘great resignation’ by working to help employees feel like they belong. In fact, BetterUp research shows that fostering belonging can lead to a 50% lower risk of turnover. Plus, employees who feel they belong take 75% fewer sick days, which means they’re more productive at work. To begin to build a sense of belonging managers must first embrace the idea of diversity and inclusion and make sure their teams reflect this. Then they need to make sure people feel welcome. This is especially important for new hires who won’t be familiar with the company culture, and remote workers who don’t have the same opportunities to get to know their teammates. Helping each team member understand their role and how it fits into the bigger picture and overall corporate vision/mission is another excellent way to help people feel like they belong. 

The Ripple Effect

In today’s workplace, managing effectively means working alongside the team to make sure they have what they need when they need it. The ability to listen well, show empathy and help employees feel like they belong can create a great team culture. And these behaviors will create a ripple effect. When a manager shows they care, employees feel freer to show that they care to their fellow workmates. When other teams see the camaraderie and productivity happening they will want to figure out how to bring those experiences to their team. The more managers listen, empathize and help others feel like they belong, the more successful they will be. 

The skills mentioned in this article are related to emotional intelligence. Unlike IQ, EQ can definitely be improved over time. To get started, reach out to us about our Agile EQ™ program.

The Culture (R)evolution Starts With You!

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