One of the widest and most damaging gaps in an organization exists between managers and their teams. A sure sign of this problem occurs when we hear the terms “them” and “us” used to characterize the relationship. This gap inhibits an organization’s ability to execute strategy, and it is sadly commonplace. But it doesn’t need to be this way. We can and must work towards a more aligned and inclusive approach that values all levels for the contributions they make, irrespective of their tenure or seniority.
Managers must take the lead in this. They are the linchpins when it comes to mobilizing or engaging their teams and closing the gaps so that strategy can flow seamlessly with conviction from the leaders who create it to the front lines who bring it to life on a daily basis with every customer, guest, or patient interaction. These interactions define a business’ brand and ultimately its success.
This phenomenon is known as the Service-Profit chain, and we see it play out across all kind of organizations – whether they are retail focused or not. Managers are the number one driver of employee engagement; research shows unequivocally that employee engagement drives the customer experience, which in turn impacts growth and profitability.
Unfortunately, research also shows that managers are not doing such a great job of closing the gap:
When managers can’t effectively engage and communicate with their people and when they don’t understand their role in the organization, the gap widens and seriously impacts our ability to successfully execute our strategy. So, how do managers bridge the gaps and break down the “them and us” mentality?
The answer is not complicated. Managers need to understand and master four things:
It sounds simple; but for many, making the leap from individual contributor to a people-manager is far from easy. Managing human beings, who bring complex emotions and experiences to work every day, can be incredibly daunting, especially in the absence of any direction or leadership training. And, remarkably, very few organizations address this. Manager training tends to focus on compliance and safety and HR policies and procedures, but very few organizations make leadership or soft-skills training a priority. In reality, these soft skills drive hard business metrics and enable critical organizational gaps to be bridged.
In a recent training session, a participant summed up the manager’s dilemma very eloquently. She explained that each year she is trained on how to use a fire extinguisher, but she has (thankfully) never had to use one. Yet she had not received any training whatsoever on how to lead people – despite the fact that she has been managing them for 14 years.
Managers are likely one of the biggest untapped sources of productivity in our organizations. They hold the key to unlocking our people talent, satisfying our customers, driving growth and productivity, and bridging the critical gaps that can thwart our best efforts to execute strategy. So we must make it an absolute priority to set them up for success and invest in their training and development. It’s too important to leave to chance!