BOOK REVIEW & SUMMARY
What you will learn?
- What do the most talented employees need from their workplace?
- How do the world's greatest managers find, focus, and keep talented employees?
The authors, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, refer a Gallup survey in which several questions were handed out to over a million employees about their workplace needs. Twelve questions out of the numerous given out elicited similar responses from the most productive workers. These questions form the backbone to the qualitative question; What do the most talented employees need from their workplace? The most important finding though is that "Talented employees need great managers." A great manager matters more to talented employees than factors such as compensation, benefits or status.
Great managers do share one thing: Before they do anything else, they first break all the rules of conventional wisdom.
The book also refers to a 20-year research (interviews with 80,000+ managers from 400 companies) of how the methods of the world’s greatest managers differ from those of lesser managers. This study used metrics such as productivity, profitability, employer retention, and customer satisfaction to identify the best managers. The study then examined how great managers find, hire, direct and retain talented employees. The authors found that the methods employed by great managers fly in the face of traditional thinking about managerial practices.
The Four Levels of Management Support
Great managers can be compared to a coach who strives to help his or her teammates climb a mountain to reach the summit.
- Level 1 - Base Camp: The climb starts at the Base Camp where employees want to know “What’s expected of me?” and “Do I have the materials necessary to do the work properly?” i.e. the manager must offer support, clarify expectations and provide resources to employee.
- Level 2 - Camp 1: This level deals with encouragement and satisfaction. Employees at this level are engaged when they can positively answer the following four questions about their work i.e. "At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?", "In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for good work?", "Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?", and "Is there someone at work who encourages my development?"
- Level 3 - Camp 2: At this level, employees will ask how well they fit into the organization - "At work, do my opinions seem to count?", "Does the purpose of my company make me feel like my work is important?", "Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?", "Do I have a best friend at work?"
- Level 4 - Camp 3: Camp 3 deals with employees’ progress and personal growth. Engaged employees should be able to positively answer the following two questions - "In the last six months, have I talked with someone about my progress?" and "At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?"
Chapter two moves away from the essentially employee centric tone of the previous chapter, focusing more on the managers. The methodology employed by the very best managers are examined and documented. Sourcing data from the second research project carried out by Gallup, we discover there is no prototypical great manager across the board. There is a great variance in their actions, thoughts and processes. They employ unique and radical methods that may go against the grain of common sense with regards to managing employees. However, despite this overall divergence in method, all great managers share a common nugget of wisdom:
“People don’t change that much. Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in. That is hard enough.”
You cannot change an employee’s deeply ingrained nature, so rather than trying to remodel such a worker, you work towards his strengths to encourage a suitable work environment that meets his peculiar needs. The importance of noting the distinctions between a manager and leader is paramount to getting the most in a workplace: A leader seeks to challenge competing companies and focuses on the workings of the competition while a manager looks towards the employees of his company and challenges them to better their work and boost the company’s value from the inside out.
The conventional roles of a manager in the workplace are far too ambiguous to be productive and should be approached in a new improved manner. These roles are styled as the Four Keys.
1. Select The Right Employee Based on Talent
Understand that training and experience can only take you as far as an employee’s natural ability carries. A lot of managers make the error of choosing workers based on their years of experience or their ‘hustle'. However, the right method would be employing experience and talent as complimentary pieces during recruitment. Talent in this instance is the ability to go above and beyond the norm. You can’t teach nor force a talent in a person, he/she must posses a natural flair or affinity for the task at hand. Contrary to popular belief, talent is not restricted to the arts or white-collar jobs, even labor-intensive jobs like plumbing and truck driving manifest talents. Understand the difference between skill, knowledge and talent. Skill is the practical aspect and manifestation of the knowledge that has been garnered about the topic. Talent however, is the uniqueness that every individual has that differs from the norm.
2. When Setting Expectations, Define The Right Outcomes Not Steps Understanding the limits of your control as a manager will go a long way in ensuring your employees work at their peak. The manager’s power ends at the superficial level, the subordinates have all the power as they are the ones who carry out the actual tasks that make the company tick. Micromanagement of employees will only lead to resentment, you must give them a relatively free rein to exercise their creative input. You must identify the strengths and roles of each worker however to have a baseline for the expected outcomes. Setting only a defined outcome but leaving the steps towards that up to the employee creates a sense of positive pressure to impress and produces great results. Trust is the foundation of this role. You have to believe your employees are capable of fulfilling the task assigned to them to the best of their abilities.
3. Motivate, But Focus on Strengths
When motivating an employee, it is prudent to focus on their productive strengths rather than their perceived weakness. Do not try to change the fundamental nature of an employee, as we have discussed earlier, that is impossible. The notion of fixing flaws is an incorrect method of management as this would essentially deplete the individuality of such a person. It is impossible for a group of persons to have equal potential, so you must focus on the stronger employees and give them more attention. So many managers think intensive training would fix the problem of a lack of talent, but persistence only fixes acquirable voids like skill and knowledge.
Popular opinion states that favoritism should be eliminated in the workplace but the result of the Gallup experiment runs directly against this assertion. The most productive members of a team must be given more attention than slower employees. A lack of appreciation and recognition may lead to a marked drop in productivity, so it is in the company’s best interest to give a higher priority to the big earners. For identifiable weaknesses, the manager must identify the root cause of the same; is it a trainable weakness? Or is it a result of managerial oversight, a misstep in the process of interacting with such an employee. Trainable weaknesses relating to skill and knowledge can be learned and the employee should be given an opportunity to do that. In cases of managerial oversight, the manager must review his relationship with the employee and resolve whatever caused the flaw in question.
4. Find The Right Fit
When looking to fill an employee position, in your capacity as a manager, you must strive to appoint only the perfect person for the job. Managers must come to the realization that sometimes employees only seek higher positions and ranks because of the prestige that accrues with the post rather than a natural flair for the same. A hierarchical system of appointments is not necessarily optimal in all work environments. The mere fact that an employee excelled in a subordinate position does not mean his abilities will proportionally increase as soon as he is promoted. There is a disturbing spate of employees only accumulating degrees, certificates and qualifications with the sole purpose of seeking employment, rather than a result of flair. You must ensure that the employee you select to fill a post has the talents necessary to fulfill the tasks expected of him in his new positions. After employing such a person, you must create a personal relationship with him/her(within the confines of platonic relationships) in order to eliminate the factor of intimidation you posses as his/her superior. However, this does not mean a manager should be lax on disciplining subordinates, you must ensure that every employee is held accountable for his work and follows the proper channels at work.
The four keys discussed above are not a hard and fast rule towards optimal management. Rather they are a process employed by managers towards ensuring the 12 questions answered by the employees are in line with those of the very best and productive employees across the world. The secret of great managers is that they ensure their employees are satisfied with their working arrangements and as a result loyal to the goals and notions of the companies. Radical ideas and methods are employed and traditional thought processes are disposed of or remodeled to conform with changing times. The bottom-line is that a complimentary relationship between the employee and the manager bodes well for the company since “Talented employees need great managers.”