A recent 24/7 Wall Street article shared the top six-figure jobs in the US. Surprising (to me), six of the ten entries were managers of people. Managing people is a big responsibility, with a huge impact on team performance and team member engagement.
Leaders of others have either a positive or negative impact on team member productivity and engagement. A leader’s impact is rarely neutral! My best boss, Jerry Nutter, used to say, “A leader either helps, hinders, or hurts.”
The 24/7 Wall Street report indicates that people managers are paid well. Is the investment in people managers paying off for US companies? Let’s look at two factors – productivity and engagement.
A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that productivity growth in the US has declined by more than half since 2011. Historically (since 1948), annual US productivity grew at a 2.5% rate. Since 2011, that rate has fallen to only 1.1%.
The article points out a variety of contributing factors. One significant takeaway from this data is that people managers are not inspiring greater productivity in the US workforce.
On the engagement front, Blessing White’s 2013 Employee Engagement Research Report found that US engagement grew from 33% in 2011 to 40% in 2012. That’s very good news. However, it means that 60% of employees are not engaged. Team members do not believe their current work environment treats them with trust, dignity, and respect.
This data leads us to an undeniable conclusion: many well-paid people managers have a less-than-stellar impact on team member productivity and engagement.
How can leaders shift this tide? My research and experience tells me that leaders need to reframe their role and responsibilities as that of servant leaders. Their entire “reason for being” is to help team members build the right skills, to help team members apply those skills in service to team goals and team customers, and to create a safe, inspiring work environment for everyone on the team.
Leaders must coach well, listen well, redirect when needed – and trust team members. Engaged, talented team members deserve the responsibility and authority to act independently, in the moment. Engaged team members that are learning needed skills aren’t ready for independent action – they need mentoring and guidance to build needed skills.
If leaders are able to reframe their role and responsibility as that of servant leaders, productivity will grow and engagement will grow.
Team members, customers, and company stakeholders will all benefit, together.
How have your best bosses created workplace trust, dignity, and respect? How have your servant leaders helped you grow and thrive at work? Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.