Today’s show is Equipping Managers to Lead. Listen to the show on iTunes and Stitcher.

“We don’t want employees feeling invisible. We want managers to be noticing them. And, we would like them to find one thing to give recognition to, every single one of their team members, once a week. Does it take more time to be relational with employees? Yes. Is it going to pay off in the long-term? Without question.”

Don: [00:00:22] My name is Don Rheem CEO of E3 Solutions and author of the book, “Thrive By Design; The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.”

Don: [00:00:31] I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement, and I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level create engaging, workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized and validated. Employees who feel safe are happier, healthier and more productive.

Don: [00:00:49] Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers and we offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges. And, you’re listening to Thrive By Design, a podcast, created by E3 Solutions to give managers, CEOs and leaders, the tips, strategies and tools needed to create an engaged, culture at work.

Kelly: [00:01:12] Welcome. I’m your host, Kelly Burns, Vice President of Client Experiences at E3 Solutions. As always, we tackle critical workplace themes each week with our resident expert and CEO, Don Rheem.

Kelly: [00:01:24] Welcome Don and thank you for taking the time to be here with us.

Don: [00:01:28] It’s my pleasure, Kelly.

Kelly: [00:01:29] As we heard at the top of today’s episode, this week’s focus is equipping managers to lead.

Kelly: [00:01:35] A 2012 Gallup report estimates that only 1 out of 10 managers has the natural capacity to excel in a leadership position. And, another two of 10 have the essential abilities to lead, but they need some coaching and structure to really lead well.

Kelly: [00:01:51] As this stat reveals often times managers aren’t inherently equipped with the skills they need to actually manage people on their teams. What does this report really mean Don? Why is it so important to recognize the importance of equipping managers with the right tools to lead? What about those other seven people?

Don: [00:02:09] Yeah, it’s a good question and it’s an issue inĀ organizations today obviously as we see you know a great deal of disparity of engagement within work groups and teams. So, when we measure engagement in our client companies we do it by manager. And, it’s not unusual to see some work groups at 100 percent engagement and other work groups that are 100 percent disengaged.

Don: [00:02:30] And, so you ask the question, what’s the only difference between those two work groups because it’s the same company, the same culture, the same pay scale structure. What’s different? Well, it’s the manager.

Don: [00:02:39] And, so we have these managers that aren’t performing well, as a leader. Now, they may be technically brilliant. They could be great people everybody loves them, even charismatic, but as a leader of other adults, they’re struggling, frankly. Those are the managers we want to go in and to help. So, what it means is, three out of 10 managers can do it without much heavy lifting, but seven out of 10 managers are really going to have to focus on the leadership part of their manager portfolio in order to do well.

Don: [00:03:08] From a science perspective, we say well, it’s nature and nurture. And, some people have the natural capacity to lead and we’ve all met those people in our lives and we’ve been blessed when we’ve worked for them. But when it’s not your part of your natural capacity, what are some of the things you can do to nurture into that role?

Kelly: [00:03:27] That is the million dollar question.

Don: [00:03:29] That you probably want me to answer.

Don: [00:03:32] Well, fortunately, Kelly, it actually doesn’t cost a million dollars to get those answers. But look that’s one of the reasons why we measure engagement. We do it by manager. We have a 28 question online survey that every employee takes and then we aggregate the data by manager so it gives us some real insights.

Don: [00:03:48] For example, we have a manager that’s clearly not performing well, the disengagement is rampant in their workgroup. First thing we do is we go to the data. We look at the numbers. So, we now have 28 metrics that we can look at. And, for every manager, even the ones that are the lowest performing managers in the organization, from an engagement perspective, typically have some things they’re doing really well.

Don: [00:04:08] We always start with a manager’s strengths. These are what you’re doing well. Here are your high scores. And, then we go to some of the scores that are at the bottom of the list, in terms of the score ranking. We say look these are opportunities. So, these are the things you want to work on. And, then for every single one of those questions, we give those managers a list of things they can do.

Don: [00:04:26] What do managers do that aren’t a part of our program? Well, look at the things you’re struggling with. Some organizations are doing 360s. You could do a simple survey on one of the free survey tools, Survey Gizmo or Survey Monkey and ask employees to just give you some suggestions.

Don: [00:04:41] Hopefully, you’re having a monthly feedback conversation with your employee and you can just ask them, hey, what could I be doing better? What can I do differently? But, we know managers when they focus on this when they get intentional around being better, they use data, they ask questions, they’re curious, they’re open, they’re vulnerable, they make progress. And, we see managers make remarkable progress year over year. It isn’t unusual, for example, in one of our companies between the first year they measure and the second, to have a 30 percent increase in overall engagement employees. And, that’s because managers are doing things differently.

Kelly: [00:05:15] In an ideal world, only that one in 10 that has the natural capacity to lead is actually the person that gets put into leadership positions.

Kelly: [00:05:23] So, we have an entire country full of excellent leaders. Which means that we have excellent workplace engagement, we have great positive environments and attitudes, we’re taking that home with us every single day. But we know but based on both the data that we see on a day-to-day basis and intuitively that’s just not the case there. That seven out of 10, or the 7 in 10 people, who don’t have this natural capacity are often put into leadership positions. And, how they get started off, how they get started off on the right foot when they’re elevated into these managerial roles is really important.

Kelly: [00:05:56] Last week we were talking with a real estate company and a brand new manager asked the question in the group. She wanted to know how as a new manager she could get started on the right foot leading a team. You had some great insights for her. Do you want to share those?

Don: [00:06:10] Sure. When I hear that question what I look at is our global data. And, what are some of the lowest scores that managers are getting because that’s where you want to start.

Don: [00:06:18] And, the low hanging fruit is almost typically around validation, recognition and feedback. That is, there’s not enough of it in organizations. And, the other one is simply the frame around your leadership style. Is it positive or negative? And, by negative I mean, that old, what we call leadership 1.0 management style that tends to be top-down, it’s hierarchical, it’s punitive, it’s I’m the boss and you’re not, just the way most people have been led for the last 250 years since the Industrial Revolution started.

Don: [00:06:48] We know that employees increase their capacity to do great work by over 30 percent in a positive environment. I think the research showed 31 percent increase in just native capacity of employees when they work in a positive environment versus a negative.

“One area for a manager to start, it’s just how can to be more positive in my approach? Fewer negatives, no shaming, no blaming. Working with people and recognize that employees have strengths and opportunities to do better so that the way you approach it is important.”

Don: [00:07:18] But let me come back to validation, recognition and feedback. Because we’re herd animals at our core. Homo sapiens are herd animals were hardwired to be in groups and clans. We also are hardwired to be validated, to be seen, to be noticed. How do we validate employees? And, validation by the way in our view, is unconditional. That is, it’s not based what the employee did for you, it’s the fact that they’re a human being and they’re in your presence. So, we’re going to acknowledge them with a hello, a good morning, how are you doing, what’s going on. Just validate their presence.

Don: [00:07:48] We had one employee in a survey said, “I walked by my manager at least two or three times a day and she never even recognizes me.” And, then they say, “why am I invisible?”

Don: [00:07:57] We don’t want employees feeling invisible. We want managers to be noticing them. So, let’s validate the recognition. We want managers to, we use the phrase, slice it thinner. We want managers to look for smaller increments of discretionary effort and just comment on it. And, we would like them to find one thing to give recognition to, every single one of their team members, once a week. So, look hard for it, try to find it.

Don: [00:08:21] At one of our recent workshops, it was a big one, this manager comes up to me at the break and he said, “Gosh, I love that about recognition and doing it weekly.” And, then he looked at me and he kind of looked left and right, then he lowered his tone, and he said, “but my people just aren’t that good.”

Don: [00:08:35] And, so he was trying to say, hey, it’s not me, it’s them, they’re just not that great. Now, I have a problem with that. If he thinks they’re not that good, it’s because number one, they are doing these, small incremental examples of discretionary effort. But he’s just not seeing it, either because he’s not around or he’s ill-attuned. Or, they’re actually really not doing it. And to me that is also his responsibility. Why aren’t they in an environment where they feel encouraged and recognized to do that?

Don: [00:09:01] The fact is, what we have discovered, and it’s not rocket science, it’s going to sound like common sense when you hear it, but when you give employees these incremental instances of where you’re recognizing discretionary effort, they’re actually more likely to do more of it.

Don: [00:09:16] So, Kelly if you do something really well, and I say, hey Kelly, thank you for working so late on that project and getting that done for the client, you’re actually literally more likely to do it again. So, when employees do these things, we want to notice it.

Kelly: [00:09:29] It is such a critical but easy step for a manager to take to start leading well to do that recognition.

Kelly: [00:09:37] Just this past week we’ve spent a ton of time analyzing some comments from one of our survey clients and we’re analyzing thousands of lines of data from participants who are speaking up about what’s working and not working well in their organization. And, the things that they’re asking for are so simple.

Kelly: [00:09:54] They say, I just wish they would say thank you. I just wish they would recognize me. Tell me privately tell me in a one-on-one meeting. They’re not asking for something that’s difficult to do. They’re asking for a 30-second, 10-second conversation with their manager, that the ramifications of that conversation will last so much further beyond the 10 or 30 seconds it takes to validate an employee for doing the job that they were hired on to do. Doing a little bit better than what they were hired on to do. Some people might call this coddling when they say, they’re doing the job, why would I be thanking them for doing their job. But truly, it’s just a basic human need and a basic human desire to be seen, valued and recognized for showing up and for committing well to the tasks that they were brought on to do.

Don: [00:10:43] Well, this is what is so alarming in many ways to us, Kelly. This issue of giving validation and recognition, it’s free. It doesn’t cost a manager anything or a company. There’s no monetary value, this isn’t something thatĀ has to be a budget item, and yet, we’re not doing it. It’s not happening.

“Every human being on the planet wakes up every day in search of validation. Do you see me? Do you know I’m here? Do you value my presence? Am I my doing something you recognize?”

Don: [00:11:00] And, you’re right, every human being on the planet wakes up every day in search of validation. Do you see me? Do you know I’m here? Do you value my presence? Am I my doing something you recognize?

Don: [00:11:12] And, here’s another angle to look at this. When I’m meeting with managers in our workshops, one of the things I ask them is, can you visualize a top-performer in your company? And, how many of you can visualize a real top-performer? And all their hands go up. And I say okay, I want to ask you a question about these top-performers, what you might call your, “A players.”

Don: [00:11:29] Are they a top-performer because of their compensation package because of what they’re paid? And there’s a little bit of a pause as they process that. And then all the head start shaking, no, it isn’t. And then some of them kind of have a furrowed brow like yeah, no it’s true. They’re not an A player because of what they’re paid.

Don: [00:11:48] I come from an industrial family. Some of our podcast listeners might have Rheem water heaters or heaters or air conditioners. I was the black sheep in the Rheem family. I didn’t get a business degree. I’m trained as a biologist and ecologist. And, I want to know, well, if the top-performers aren’t doing that because of this of what they’re paid then the question is, what is the nutriment of a top-performer? What do they need to sustain that level of activity and stay there? And the answer is, it’s attention. That’s all they need, is to be noticed, to be seen.

“The primary nutriment of top performers, is attention.”

Don: [00:12:17] The primary nutriment of top performers, is attention. And yet, most organizations most leaders, aren’t recognizing that fact, and they’re not giving these top performers just that kind of feedback and recognition and validation. And that’s one of the reasons why these top performers leave organizations. They say in exit interviews, I wasn’t valued for who I am. They know they’re A player, and if they’re in an organization where that’s not being reflected back to them, they feel like well these people don’t value me. It doesn’t matter that I’m an A player here. Maybe I’m wasting my time in this organization. I’d kinda like to be in a place where people are recognizing me for who I think I am.

Kelly: [00:12:59] So, let’s come back to those leaders, especially those seven in 10 leaders, who don’t have this innate ability to know when to recognize, to lean in, to step forward and to validate their employees.

Kelly: [00:13:10] Training is such an incredible part of equipping managers to lead well and as you talked about earlier, the more a manager attempts and tries to lead well the greater we see their scores go up every year, the better their teams are, the better they lead.

Kelly: [00:13:26] In a 2013 study, in The International Journal of Science and Research, they found that training greatly benefits both employers and employees. It leads to greater efficiency, greater productivity. There’s a section in our online resource center, Manager Resource Center, called Lifelong Leadership.

Kelly: [00:13:43] Leaders are more prone to burnout than any other member of a team, because so much weight sits on them to both produce effective results and foster a high-performance culture in their team. Leaders have to be on guard to protect themselves and prevent burnout to maintain effectiveness for the long haul. But to that end, how do managers equip themselves long term to lead consistently with motivation, authenticity. How did they do that?

Don: [00:14:04] Being a leader today has never been more complex and our time demands are incredible. Leaders tell us, managers tell us, they feel compressed for time. I can’t do it there’s not enough time. There are all these transactional details of being a manager today from utilization rates, to productivity and everything is measured. And they don’t feel like they have time to be human, to be relational with their employees, which we know is a huge, wellspring of engagement on a team.

Don: [00:14:34] You know there’s there’s this phrase, “work-life balance.” I’m not sure in our culture today we’ll ever be truly balanced. I like the phrase, “work-life integration.”

Don: [00:14:43] But, managers do need to take care of themselves. It’s called, self-care. And, are they exercising self-care? Are they giving themselves the time, the breathing room, to sustain their level of performance? But, here’s another slightly different filter or lens on that. The less engaged the team, the more drama and issues and problems they’re dealing with. The more highly engaged their team a lot of those pressures are diminished. They don’t have the shortfalls, they don’t have the quality control issues.

Don: [00:15:14] Leaders tell us, Don, I don’t have time to be relational. I don’t have time to sit down with my employees once a month and have a conversation around feedback. And, my response is, one of the reasons you don’t have time is because you’re not doing these things. And, so you’re now dealing with all of these workplace issues again from quality to performance, to productivity, worker dissatisfaction, people quitting.

Don: [00:15:34] These things go down when engagement goes up. So for example, when engagement levels go up, sick leave declines, accident rate declines, turnover goes down, those people voluntarily quitting goes down. It has a huge impact. It literally is a rising tide lifts all boats. Does it take more time to be relational with employees? Yes. Is he going to pay off in the long term? Without question.

Kelly: [00:15:56] So, we’ve talked today about the fact that one in 10 managers, one in 10 people have the innate ability to lead a team. An additional two have the capability to they just need to be fostered in the right way. There’s a remaining 7 and 10 people who are potentially going to struggle in leadership, but with the right approach, with the right training, with the right equipment, anybody can lead a healthy and thriving team.

Kelly: [00:16:21] There’s a couple of ways we’ve talked about doing this. A quick win way, would be for managers to demonstrate and articulate plenty of validation and recognition to their employees, to truly see their team members for who they are and what they contribute and value them as human beings, as colleagues, and to support the work that they’re doing in the workplace. And, in the longer term view would be to get training, to get space, to create ways that they can prevent burnout so that they can lead a team well for the long haul. What am I missing here?

Don: [00:16:56] Training is clearly important but training it’s an event. Now, what am I going to do to reinforce that over time? And, that’s why you mentioned our, our platform for managers, so that they can be surrounded with resources 24/7.

Don: [00:17:10] Ask your employer for training. Say it’s needed. Make some requests for it. Try to get it but then you need to figure out how am I going to come back to that training and reinvigorated and create reinforcement and do it.

Don: [00:17:21] It’s really about changing habits. Becoming a better leader is about developing better habits around leadership. Make lists for yourself.

Don: [00:17:27] Now on the other issue of what do those seven out of 10 need? If your organization measures engagement, look at the scores for yourself, your team and use that as a roadmap for what you need to do. If your organization isn’t measuring engagement try simple 360, try doing some anonymous surveys with your employees. Or, just in a monthly feedback conversation say, hey what could I be doing better? But the key thing is, you have to be intentional about doing it. You can’t do the things the same you’ve been doing and expect engagement to go up.

Kelly: [00:17:57] That’s it for today. I’m your host Kelly Burns and thank you for listening. Tune in to next week’s episode, building better relationships with your employees.

Kelly: [00:18:09] Are you looking for science-based solutions to increase employee engagement and retention? Are you ready to measure key drivers of high-performance? Do you want your team to look forward to coming to work? Don’t wait. Check out right now.

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Kelly: [00:18:33] Thrive By Design is produced and audio engineered by Megan Rummler. All music in this episode is sourced, royalty-free from

Kelly: [00:18:41] Thank you for listening and subscribe wherever you enjoy your podcasts. See you next week!