Every year, Gallup releases the State of the American Manager, its analysis of the current condition of managerial expertise. The latest results, released December 2017, contained several new conclusions, but the grim fact remains: Little has changed with the state of management in the United States. The sobering news:
- One-third (35 percent) of managers are engaged in their work.
- One in five managers (18 percent) has the “high talent” needed to succeed in their roles.
- Bad management costs the U.S. economy anywhere from $319 billion to $398 billion in lost productivity annually.
We all know that bad managers wreak havoc on employee performance—either by not developing their teams and enabling accountability for results, or by simply creating an environment where employees don’t want to come to work. In fact, Gallup reports: “Managers account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. Gallup’s study of employee engagement found that just 30 percent of U.S. workers are engaged, demonstrating a clear link between poor managing and a nation of ‘checked out’ employees.”
Yet, the most somber news in the Gallup analysis may not be that the state of management is in disarray. More worrisome is Gallup’s conclusion about the innate nature of good managers: Only a certain number of managers are born with the capacity to manage others and, as a result, companies should focus more heavily on selection of managers rather than the development of them.
“If great managers seem scarce, it’s because the talent required to be one is rare. Talents are innate and are the building blocks of great performance,” the report states. “Gallup’s research reveals that about one in 10 people possess high talent to manage. Though many people are endowed with some of the necessary traits, few have the unique combination of talents needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance. These 10 percent, when put in manager roles, naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers, and sustain a culture of high productivity.”
It's an odd conclusion to make because it defies the fundamental understanding we have about human development and the ability for people to change in a positive, progressive way. What’s more, taking such a static view inherently limits many people by default into managers or nonmanagers, ignoring the capacity for people to develop their skills.
So, are there some leaders who are just bad managers and can never be that great? Sure. But I would argue that a majority of individuals can be great—with the right tools, culture, and framework. That’s where ATD can set the right approach with its ACCEL model, a framework for the core skills managers need to be successful: accountability, collaboration, communication, engagement, and listening and assessing.
ACCEL revolves around establishing a culture (from the CEO to every manager on down) where learning and improving is the focus. And rather than focusing only on an individual’s strengths, ACCEL encourages managers to develop in five core areas, which might be areas that they currently are not considered strong.
Some might say this notion is folly, because having a talent for managing is simply innate. But ATD believes that everyone has the capacity to become better—where weaknesses can become strengths, with a focused effort on culture and learning as a priority.
Think about it: If every executive focused their efforts on improvement of their team, wouldn’t they see improvement in performance? Wouldn’t their results also improve? Indeed, in the end, your business certainly isn’t static, so why should your view of people be?
Learn more about our ACCEL model at www.td.org/accel, and make sure to check out our ATD/Yale Foundations of Management Excellence program, which is based on our ACCEL model.
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