Today I’m writing to those of you who are not the top leader at your company. You’re in the middle somewhere. Maybe you run a department, or have a person or two reporting to you.
According to Gallup, you play the most important role of anyone in your company’s success. Not the CEO. Not the board chair. Not the senior leaders or executive team. You.
In a study involving nearly 2 million employees and 300,000 business units, Gallup discovered that 70% of the variance in comparative results depended on the quality of the middle manager in charge. Gallup described this insight as “the single most profound, distinct, and clarifying finding in their 80-year history.”
If your company hopes to achieve superior performance, three-fourths of the battle depends directly on you. Think about it.
It’s you who:
- Controls company culture: You set the pace by modeling right behaviours (or not).
- Determines the experience of most of the employees of the company: People join companies and quit direct bosses. If you are a good leader, your employees have a good work experience. If you aren’t, they don’t, and then they leave – or worse – quit and stay. Most employees don’t interact much with senior leadership.
- Knows who the good people are, and who the jerks are: and it’s you who can do something about it by reporting your findings to senior management, and raising the bar on performance in your team.
- Determines efficiency: You control a lot of the work flow of the company. If you do that well, the company prospers. If you do it poorly, the company languishes.
- Controls turnover and retention: People join to work with you, and leave because they don’t want to anymore (see #2)
- Determines the happiness of the people who work for you: Your employees spend more time with you that they do with their families and children. Most of the structure they have in their lives is provided by you
Studies consistently show that about one-third of employees describe themselves as ‘engaged.’ But Gallup found that that number can approach 70% in companies that focus on people and culture.
This matters more than ever today, because people’s priorities have shifted.
In previous decades, when Gallup asked people to order their priorities, they ranked family, having children, owning a home and living in peace above having a good job.
Starting in 2002 (about the time that social media began) the order shifted. Today, Gallup reports that having a good job ranks first in priority among respondents. Maybe we’re comparing our lives and raising our expectations?
Whatever the cause, they refer to this shift as ‘seismic.’
Gallup further advises companies to seek out and train managers who act as coaches, rather than conventional top-down bosses.
It’s your job to help your direct reports see purpose in their work, and connect what they do to helping someone, somewhere. In short, you must inspire them, not the CEO.
Inspiration looks different for different personality styles, but you can begin by showing real care. Care about your job. Take it seriously; and care for those who report to you.
You hold the key to your company’s success, and to the happiness of the people who work for you. You’re pretty important in your role.