5 Questions with Carolyn Shiffman: Keeping leaders engaged

1. Over 50 percent of U.S. managers are not engaged according to the 2015 Gallup Study, State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders. Should this figure be alarming, and what may be causing such a high number of business leaders to be unengaged?

Yes, this figure should be alarming, but unfortunately, it is not. Previous Gallop studies have focused on employee engagement.  In addition to the unengaged managers, in 2015, only 32 percent of employees were engaged, which means 68 percent of employees were unengaged. It stands to reason that if the manager is not engaged in their work, likewise employees will not be engaged. Managers become unengaged when there is uncertainty and lack of direction of organizational initiatives. When there is a lack of direction, managers become tentative in providing directions to employees. Uncertainty leads to ambiguity, and ambiguity leads to lack of engagement. 

Keeping leaders engaged. A group of businessmen and women2. Gallup estimates that the “not engaged” sector of managers costs the U.S. $77 – $96 billion annually through the impact on those they manage. In your opinion, what is the impact of engagement on key business outcomes, such as profitability and productivity?

The financial impact could be devastating to some organizations, especially smaller companies. Managers are responsible for executing the goals and objectives of the organization. When goals are not met productivity slows, which in turn affects profitability.

3. This negative engagement among business leaders is causing what Gallup calls a “Cascade Effect” and severely impacting employee production. What is the impact on an employee whose manager is giving far less than 100 percent?

As children, we learned to “follow the leader.” Children are taught to form lines, hold hands and stay together. Managers serve as role models for employees; they lead the way for their staff. When managers are not giving 100 percent effort, employees interpret this as apathy. When managers are unengaged employees are lost and have no sense of direction or motivation to perform at a high level.

4. A third of U.S. executives don’t feel their company views managers as critical to success, according to an annual study on America’s workforce by Root, Inc. How important is the role of managers in the success of an organization?

The statistics of unengaged managers would lead executives to believe managers are unimportant. Still, it is incumbent on the leadership team to empower their managers instilling confidence in their knowledge, skills and abilities. Managers are the linchpin between the executives and employees. Managers organize the flow of work that assists meeting organizational goals.

5. What is the best way for a leadership team to reverse this trend and engage their managers?

In order for the leadership team to reverse this trend they must CARE:

  • Create a passion for the mission and vision of the organization. Communicate clearly and often the value the managers add to the organization.
  • Articulate the goals of the organization through clear transparent messages that align and empower the managers.
  • Respect each manager for their uniqueness, skills and abilities they bring to the organization. Listen to their input, suggestions, and feedback.
  • Emphasize the positives; managers need to feel valued and that their work is meaningful to the organization.  Celebrate accomplishments, big and small.

Carolyn Shiffman is the Academic Program Manager for the Leadership Concentration within Post University’s MBA program. Shiffman has served in executive management positions for over 20 years, working with for-profit and non-profit institutions. Throughout her career she has focused on helping others achieve success with their professional and personal goals. Shiffman earned her Ph.D. in Organization and Management from Capella University.

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