According to extensive Gallup studies over two decades, one of the most important decisions any organization will ever make is whom to hire or to promote to management

Not to be a downer, but good luck with that. Why? Gallup has determined that only one in 10 people actually possesses the talent to manage others.

The magical 10 percent who have the right manager mojo, "frequently realize 48 percent greater profitability, 22 percent greater productivity, 17 percent greater employee engagement, 5 percent greater customer engagement, and 19 percent less turnover," Gallup has estimated

It's not impossible to find them, and Gallup asserts that they may be hiding inside your own walls. But first, you have to stop promoting people into managerial positions because you think they seemingly deserve it, rather than have the talent for it.

Gallup says this is a huge no-no, but companies the world over keep making the same mistake. While experience and skills count, employees' innate talents, what Gallup calls "the naturally recurring patterns in the ways they think, feel, and behave" are what actually predict where they'll perform at their best.

5 Talents Every Manager Needs

As a starting point to determine whom to promote or hire into your managerial roles, great managers, Gallup found, have the following talents, regardless of how much experience or subject-matter expertise or the skills they possess. If someone has not demonstrated the capacity for these abilities, have the willpower to walk away from hiring or promoting him or her (asserts Gallup).

Here are the five talents below, with my supporting commentary for each. 

1. They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.

Motivation requires exploration. Great managers will find ways to tap into what gets their team members out of bed in the morning and will ask engaging questions about what they (employees) need to do their job better. Do they need better equipment? More information? Training? More resources? Better space? Now that they're set on course, forward-thinking managers in today's social economy will cast a company or team vision and enroll their followers to express their voices as co-creators and co-contributors to the vision. This is relational, adding to intrinsic motivation where people are liberated and empowered to collaborate, innovate, and engage. 

2. They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.

Yes, assertiveness is good under pressure or uncertain times, but they are graceful when driving outcomes, and especially when dealing with people. It's having the self-confidence to boldly declare your stance on an issue (even when it's the unpopular choice) and let your yes be yes and your no be no under pressure. It's what most thoughtful employees seek in a trustworthy boss -- someone who values the rule of setting boundaries. A boss who defines what is acceptable behavior and what isn't--then communicates those expectations for accountability, with tact, to the whole team. Speaking of accountability ...

3. They create a culture of clear accountability.

Managers who help employees establish and prioritize their work goals and then encourage their employees' performance with clear and continuous expectations have employees who are much more accountable and engaged in their work. Accountability is also a two-way street. The best companies hold managers accountable for listening and responding to the expressed needs of team members and creating positive change.

4. They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.

In related studies, Gallup found that more than half of employees who strongly agree that they feel they can talk with their manager about nonwork-related issues (55 percent) and can approach their manager with any type of question (54 percent) for open dialogue are engaged at work, compared with fewer than one in 10 who strongly disagrees with these statements and is engaged in his or her work. The bottom line? Managers who promote transparency, an open work environment, and open lines of communication will increase their teams' engagement bar none.

5. They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

This is because great managers, and the managers that manage them, encourage healthy relationships and team collaboration as the best way to sustain productivity and deter something like politics or competition among the team (a completely impractical idea for boosting productivity). Managers who are protectors of the culture seriously regard politics or any other toxic behaviors as a threat to the shared values of the team, and will quickly dispose of them. (In most cases, employees that violate sacred cultural values are dealt with swiftly, even terminated at once, to safeguard the values the company stands for, because it matters that much to the work environment and customers alike.)   

Let's Get Real

Very few people can pull off all five of these skills of good management, so don't be discouraged. But to be absolutely clear, the list of five manager talents are learned skills (as are countless other leadership attributes you'll find in hundreds of other leadership and management books).

The real question you need to face comes down to conscious choice and intent: Are you willing to devote yourself to consistently learning and applying what would help you be more successful on the job? And is your company equally devoted to building you up as a leader or a manager with these skills? 

While some of these talents will come more naturally for some people than others, knowing that someone in your organization may already possess the natural strengths of, say, Nos. 1, 3, and 5 on the list can be extremely helpful in informing your hiring decision now. Once hired, your organization can invest in filling the gaps for successful management. 

Playing Devil's Advocate

The Gallup study is certainly not the be-all, end-all solution to hiring and developing managers (ask Google). Far from it. And to make the assumption that only those who check all five talents on the list should be hired would be an injustice to others with naturally good management skills for your particular jobs.

And that's what it comes down to in the end. Ignoring those people inside your walls whom you could groom into great managers will set a precedent you don't want, which Gallup has done masterfully well on a global scale: creating the illusion that good managers don't exist (therefore, you must promote unqualified workers with no capacity to manage), and if you happen to find the needle in the haystack, 10 of your competitors will be fighting you for that person.

Don't drink the Gallup Kool-Aid, as this is rarely, if ever, the case. And to always avoid this potential scenario, simply develop your own "farm system."

Figure out who your high-potential managers are; every company has two or three great role models whom all others can be measured by; identify the natural skills (people-centered work behaviors, not hard skills) that will make your future managers successful for your company-specific job; and then blast them with unending support, development, a clear career path, and plenty of future opportunities to grow with your company.

Published on: Nov 29, 2017