If you want to be a great leader, you must first manage to engage
Want a workplace with fewer accidents? Want to achieve better results? Perhaps your boss wants to avoid the 75% to 80% failure rate that plagues company transformations. You’ve probably heard the stats: only 25% of business transformations cross the finish line. No matter how big or small the change you want to make, if you’re a team leader, it all comes down to you.
That’s a little different than what our guts tell us, right? It’s easy to point the finger at top leadership—it starts with them. The CEO needs to be leading the parade, setting the vision, and pointing the way. Well, yes, she does. But that’s not enough.
And then there’s the view that if you properly scope out what needs to change, you’ll get there. After all, aspiration—the “what”—is as important as the “how” when you want to make big change. That’s true, too. But it’s also not enough.
While the last decade has flattened our organizations and reduced the need for some managers, the need to create leaders at every level has never been more necessary. Not to supervise but to build great workplaces that work for people, not against them. We need frontline leaders to help workers bring their best selves to work each day, to find out what’s holding team members back and how to address it. We need connected managers to create community and spark collaboration.
Essentially, we need these leaders to engage, enable, and energize the people on their teams. And it starts with really understanding the role of the frontline team leader.
An Eye-Opening Revelation
That’s been one of the most eye-opening revelations for many of the supervisors we’ve worked with over the past few decades. After conducting a few million DILOs (Day in the Life of) across 30,000 organizational operations assessments, we found one thing in common. Those who get out on the floor where the work gets done, who spend time with their teams, who listen and learn about the people and ecosystems that make up their workplace, make better decisions. When supervisors actively engage their team members—getting out of their offices and lifting their noses from their reports and devices—their teams are more productive, often safer, and their businesses are more profitable.
Supervisors hold the success of a business in their hands, and it’s all in how they manage. Put simply: those who don’t engage their people don’t do well.
So how do you engage well? Here are a few pragmatic solutions to get you started:
- Be visible, get in the game, and go “heads up.” Great things happen at the intersection of people and technology. Prioritize people over your technology. Lift your nose from your device. Take the data from your reporting and use it to engage your teams in conversation about their work.
- Develop a people rhythm. When you routinely connect with your people, you earn the right to discuss operational performance. And, if the job of a manager is to help people be successful, then the best way you can help others be successful is to speak regularly and understand how they’re performing.
How? Use this simple but effective process, called 1.5.30, to check-in at one, five, and 30 days.
One: Ask, “How is your day going?” Check-in once a day for a quick health check and catch-up. What’s up? Howzit going?
Five: Ask, “How is your week going?” Meet or Zoom for at least 30 minutes once a week. Make this time together about progress: how the week went, what help people need, and how the following week will go. Coach where you can.
Thirty: Ask, “How is your job going?” Have a meaningful face-to-face (or video chat) once a month to discuss how someone is feeling and performing. Coach and guide on how to keep leaning forward and achieve remarkable results.
- Actively check-in, but don’t check-up. Importantly, 1.5.30 is not about watching over people’s shoulders. It’s a launchpad to build better ecosystems as you learn what’s preventing results—to uncover issues that need resolving in the business so you can set action plans to improve. By using 1.5.30, you’ll set your teams up for continuous improvement as you coach people to build capabilities and reach higher levels of performance. And it will create a healthier workplace as you better connect with your teams by knowing what turns them on, not off.
When you recognize that nothing moves until your people move, it’s clear that it’s the supervisor’s job—their primary purpose, in fact—to move their people to move. A supervisor’s or manager’s presence is key to results, transformations, and safety in the workplace. If you want to be a great leader, you must first manage to engage.