Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, Senior Vice President of Engagement Solutions

Continuing our employee engagement series, this month we focus on the second attribute of an engaging culture: people-focused managers. When this attribute is present in an organization’s culture, you see managers and supervisors routinely coaching, developing and genuinely caring about their employees.

If you’ve ever had the experience of working for a bad manager, you understand why that role, and an employee’s relationship with that person, has such a powerful effect on employee engagement. Gallup reports that one in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager and that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement across business units.

It’s easy to see why people-focused managers are an essential part of a culture of engagement.

So, how would you describe a people-focused manager? Here are a few different perspectives…

From a senior leader’s viewpoint:

“It’s very clear to me… I know a manager is people-focused when I see her out on the floor more frequently than she is in her office. She frequently makes rounds, interacts with staff, asks questions, listens, and gives positive feedback. Her employees know that she cares about them.”

From a customer’s viewpoint:

“The staff here is amazing! Somebody must be holding them to high standards because every person who cares for me is consistently service-oriented, giving me their full attention and ensuring that I’m comfortable and have everything I need. And, they all look happy to be doing what they’re doing!”

From an employee’s viewpoint:

“My manager treats my like a valued partner. She knows me well and seems to genuinely care about me as a person. I used to work for a different company where my manager treated me like a ‘nobody’. She got along great with her favorites, but if you weren’t in her inner circle, she barely gave you the time of day. My manager at my new company actually asks me for my opinion and treats me like I’m an important part of the care team.”

It’s really not difficult to spot a people-focused manager. But what are the underlying skills and talents that these managers have? Many of these abilities come down to the manager’s level of social intelligence. The social intelligence skillset includes:

  • Being aware of other people’s emotions

  • Displaying empathy

  • Ability to get along with other people

  • Ability to get other people to cooperate with you.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and prolific writer on this topic, offers five steps for leaders to improve their social intelligence.

  1. Decide if this is something you want to get better at. Do you care about improving your social intelligence? Commitment to improving will take an investment of energy on your part.

  2. Get feedback from others. Goleman says that we are not the best gauge of how we impact other people, but other people, if they are comfortable being candid, can tell you what your strengths are and what you can get better at.

  3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Build on your strengths and seek out resources (coach, mentor, books, and articles) that can help you improve on your weaknesses.

  5. Make a learning agreement with yourself. Commit to improving at least one aspect of social intelligence.

Consider the following aspects of social intelligence… how well do you:

  • Actively listen

  • Pick up on cues that provide insight into what another person is feeling

  • Withhold judgment when someone is sharing an opinion that differs from yours

  • Connect with people on a personal level

  • Support employees’ success in performing their jobs

  • Manage conflict

  • Get people to collaborate and work as a team

As a manager, you depend on other people for your success. By getting better at listening to your employees, tuning in and authentically demonstrating care for them as a person, and supporting their growth and development, the whole organization benefits. Challenge yourself to adopt and/or enhance a few aspects of social intelligence in your day-to-day operations.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, is the SVP of Engagement Solutions for Align.