A survey of the world's top managers found 8 leadership traits all best bosses have in common. Use this checklist to see how you measure up.
Stepping into a management position can be tough, especially because the stakes are high.
Gallup data shows that 50% of employees have left a job because of a poor manager.
Gallup's 2019 Manager of the Year finalists told Gallup about their leadership strategies in the summer of 2019.
The following leadership habits arose out of that discussion and they could help you be a better manager.
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Managers can drive employee engagement or hinder it. If you want to improve your management technique, some of the world's best managers can help.
Gallup data show that around 70% of employees are simply unengaged with their work; they aren't working up to their full potential. Additional data show that 50% of employees have left a job because of a poor manager.
So the phrase "people leave managers, not companies," might be grounded in truth: Managers are responsible for motivating and driving engagement among their direct reports.
Every year Gallup selects a winner for the Manager of the Year Award, based on employee experience, engagement, performance, and retention. This year, Pat Kern, director of social services and case management at Mary Lanning Healthcare, took home the Manager of the Year award.
Advice from the best managers is timely for anyone looking to drive professional growth. Gallup talked to the 10 finalists about their leadership strategies. Here are eight skills Gallup's 2019 Manager of the Year finalists all have in common.
Read more: 26 signs you're a great boss, even if it doesn't feel like it
1. Tie back to the "why."
In today's workforce, change is the only constant. With new regulations, novel technologies, and more, companies are scrambling to keep up. And employees sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Just four in 10 US employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important, Gallup researcher Ryan Pendell wrote in a post. With sweeping changes often come more disillusionment with how their job aligns with the company's goals.
Managers should ask higher-ups why their teams need to complete a task. Ask questions like, "Why does it matter to the company?"
Be persistent with uncovering the "why" and then communicate back to your team.
2. Be receptive to new ideas.
One-third of US employees strongly agree that their opinion at work counts, Pendell wrote. A good way to encourage innovation, and motivate your team, is to ask for ideas and hear everyone out. Acting on good ideas encourages a culture of innovation and change-oriented thinking within your team.
You don't have to have all of the answers, and individuals on your team are probably heavily steeped in the nuances of the tasks specifically assigned to them. They can speak to what matters to them, and where they see avenues for innovation and growth.
It's your job as a manager to listen and act.
3. Encourage transparency when things go wrong.
One manager in Gallup's survey has a morning "safety huddle."
"I ask, 'Has anything happened?'" he said. "We created a culture where it's OK to say we messed up. Everybody knows we're a team, and we are going to work together to fix it."
That kind of honesty creates an environment where mistakes are detected early on. Employees are open about their mistakes if they know that the manager cares enough to uncover the root cause, instead of assigning blame.
The cause is often systemic, which allows other people and teams to learn as well.
If an employee is underperforming, it's crucial to find the right way to ask why. Try asking employees, "What's fun for you at work right now? And what's not really that fun?" That could clue you in on the challenges they're facing, and potential ways to help them meet their goals.
4. Set up a regular time for communication.
It's no secret that good managers communicate well. Even if you or members of your team are mostly remote or traveling, set up a time to talk with each person.
"I speak with them over the phone if not daily, weekly. It's a very hard job we're asking our sales reps to do," a sales manager in the survey said. "So we have to make sure they are staying engaged."
Connecting daily or weekly is a good practice, although it isn't a common one. Gallup polls show that only 20% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they have had a conversation with their manager about the steps they can take to reach their goals.
Read more: 17 signs you're a good boss — even if it doesn't feel like it
But employees appreciate the connection.
"The one thing I admire about my boss would have to be the fact that she always makes time for me and other employees," Mike Sheety, director of operations at custom shirt company ThatShirt.com, previously told Business Insider. "This has proven to be incredibly valuable to all of us."
5. Figure out what motivates people, beyond financial incentives.
As a manager, be curious about what drives your employees. Do they want to learn more? Have a stronger team dynamic? Beat the competition?
"I really think when you get to the right spot with an individual, you find out what trips their trigger, what gets them excited — getting the next order, beating the competition, solving a hard problem — that lets you light the fire in them," an engineering manager said. "Once you figure that out, it becomes fun."
You can reframe tasks and projects to connect to your employees in a meaningful way.
6. Celebrate wins, and show that you believe in people.
Tell your employees how important they are to the company. Tell them they matter by giving praise when it's deserved.
Especially if you're stepping in to helm a demoralized team, it's important to find why people are discouraged, and then show that you believe in them.
"I started as a supervisor in our billing department," one manager said. "A lot of people in the company did not look at them as an important aspect of the company, but they really are."
She attempted to convey that to her team.
"I went in and showed them how important they are and the role they have in the company," she said. "And within three to four months I had employees come in my office to tell me what an impact that made."
7. Care about your employees
Caring means outside of work too. As a manager, you have to see your employees as more than just a means to an end, a reflection that adds to your own performance, and see them as real people with full lives.
"I committed to my team when I started … I want to help you build the best life that you can," a sales manager said.
8. Identify and prepare future leaders
The best managers look ahead and position themselves as coaches in the next line of leaders. They invest time in their team, especially in people with the potential to become a leader.
"Being a good leader is not just about doing things for the sake of doing them," Natasha Case, CEO and cofounder of Coolhaus Ice Cream, previously told Business Insider. "Good leadership produces a higher quality of work for yourself and your team, and is simply better for business." SEE ALSO: How to sell yourself in 30 seconds and leave people wanting more
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