Recently, we shared a somewhat startling finding about what it takes to be an effective manager: Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of employees prefer to work with managers who are competent — so much so that as much as 77% say they value competency more than warmth, friendliness, and likability.
If you were intrigued to hear this statistic, you may be interested to know it wasn’t the only surprise. We came across several other findings that may not be quite what you’d expect.
Based on our latest research here at Emplify, there are four more essential elements that consistently appear in the most effective management styles.
Essential Element #1: Trust
For teams to operate at peak performance, there has to be an element of trust. When this key driver of engagement is at play, employees feel there is respect among the people with whom they work most closely.
As neuroscientist Paul Zak explains it, trust happens when employees feel a manager “has their backs.” The results are undeniable: Research has shown that a 10% increase of trust in leadership creates the same levels of engagement as a 36% salary increase.
Successful managers understand the importance of instilling trust among their teams — whether that means celebrating great work, allowing greater autonomy, or taking other steps to make it clear that employees are cared for.
Essential Element #2: Professional Development
While professional development may not be the first thing people think of within the context of employee-manager relationships, it surfaced as one of the most important aspects in our research.
Turns out, the presence of someone who promotes and encourages an employee’s professional development can be a powerful motivator. Providing ample opportunity for personal growth is one of the most important factors when someone decides between staying or leaving a company.
The key is to look for ways your organization can match pre-existing programs to the evolving needs of employees. For example, some managers have had success with formal mentoring programs in the multigenerational workplace; others have improved professional development by creating online training programs.
Essential Element #3: Fairness
This one may not be a big surprise, but it is deeply important. Every employee needs to feel that the treatment of individuals across the organization is fair and unbiased. And managers play a big role in this.
Effective managers know to ask two critical questions:
Do employees feel they’re being treated fairly, both within the team and within the organization at large?
Do employees feel that compensation and other rewards match the work that’s being done?
If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” it’s time for management to take action. In these instances, several steps can help: Share concerns with leadership, evaluate current processes, or ask for further feedback from the team.
Essential Element #4: Feedback
Here’s something many managers may not think about nearly enough: How often do your employees feel they’re receiving adequate and helpful feedback — and not simply direction for the next project at hand?
Employees need feedback to understand when they’re meeting expectations, where they’re having the most success, and how they can improve. Without it, there’s little opportunity for growth. Constructive feedback not only increases employee engagement but can serve to strengthen leadership as well.
In our study, the most effective management styles were those that regularly incorporated feedback into day-to-day interactions. Simply making one-on-one meetings a top priority can send a strong message to people that their feedback is valuable.
Looking for more insights you can use?
We look at these four essential elements, plus several others, in greater detail in our new report: The Qualities of Effective Managers. This resource reveals important research for all leadership, from the new manager to the veteran C-suite visionary. If you’d like actionable tips you can use to increase proficiency within your organization’s teams, I highly recommend giving it a read.