I ended my last LBE with the point that it is not difficult for managers to be ahead of the pack in engaging employees by being aware of the key engagement influencers identified by Gallup and committing to managing with these in mind.

As I look back on my closing statement, I realize that I made an assumption that managers already possess both the talent and skills necessary to implement Gallup’s key engagement influencers or at least have the talent for it but still need to develop and practice the skills required to actually do it.

This realization came to mind after reading another article on the 2013 Gallup survey findings on Managers and Engagement. The article pointed out that according to their research, Gallop estimates that Managers account for at least 70% of the difference in employee engagement scores.

Selecting Managers Who Can Engage Employees is Key

When I saw this figure it dawned on me that this was most likely the primary reason for the dismal employee engagement scores I reported in my last Leadership Brief. If you remember, Gallup reported in two large-scale studies in 2012 that 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work and only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged. So you’d think that selecting managers with both the talent and skills needed to engage employees would be a top priority for companies today.

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” – Peter Drucker

However, Gallop’s research actually indicates that companies make the wrong choice in hiring/promotion decisions regarding managers of people 82% of the time. In fact, typically the decision on who to hire as a manager is based either on performance or length of time in non-management positions. The impact of these decisions on companies is the untold billions in lost profits they experience in the form of a disengaged workforce. On the other hand, companies that take the time to make the ability to manage the top criteria in their selection of managers and also provide the resources/support for those with the talent to develop / expand their managerial skills will have a significant advantage over companies who do not.

Few Have All the Talent and Skills Required

According to Gallup, only 10% of people have the full complement of both the talents AND the skills to be a great manager. They point out that “While many people are endowed with some of them, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance”. Another two out of ten exhibit some of the characteristics of managerial talent and can function at a high level only if their company invests in coaching and plans development for them to acquire the skills they need. Bottom line … engaging employees may not be rocket science, however, the managers who have both the TALENT and the SKILLS to do it well are few and far between.

“I believe the real difference between success and failure in a corporation can be very often traced to the question of how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.” – Thomas J. Watson, Jr., A Business and its Beliefs (1963)

Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability where employees are aware of their responsibilities and feel accountable for what they are responsible for.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” – Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism

Gallup’s research indicates that about one-fifth (18%) of those currently in management roles demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others, while another 2 in 10 (20%) show a basic talent for it. “When Gallup asked U.S. managers why they believed they were hired for their current role, they commonly cited their success in a previous non-managerial role or their tenure in their company or field. Most companies promote workers into managerial positions because they seemingly deserve it, rather than because they have the talent for it.”

According to Gallup’s research, when companies increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees as a result, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition. This sounds like a pretty good return to me!

A Recent Post From the Good Boss Story Blog

“My boss transforms my challenges into strengths every day. Despite being the most experienced and valuable person in our department, he strays from micro-managing. He is also willing to listen to my challenges and is open to my ideas. As far as I can remember, he has never said “no” to a new idea before. He not only is the first person to applaud my performance but also the one to have higher expectations each day. I can easily attribute all of my success to his understanding, openness, and perceptiveness.” …The blog continues with the key attributes the person blogging learned about good management as a result… “be empathetic and fair, deal with personal conflicts privately and resolve them right away, be humorous – something my boss is very good at.”

The Best!

Dave Fleck


Gallup’s Top 10 World News Findings of 2013 (Dec. 27, 2013)
Harvard Business Review (HBR) ‘Why Good Managers Are So Rare’; March 13, 2014
Harvard Business Review (HBR) ‘Developing Mindful Leaders for the C-Suite’; March 10, 2014
Gallup: Northern America Leads the World in Workplace Engagement (Nov. 4, 2013)
Gallup: Worldwide, 13% of Employees Are Engaged at Work (Oct. 8, 2013)
Thinking Bigger (online Mag.): Engaged Employees, Engaged Customers (11-1-13)