Nothing Fixes a Bad Manager

Companies seem to try everything imaginable to fix their workplaces, except the only thing that matters: Naming the right person manager.

Leaders go to seminars, hire consultants, and employ a long list of interventions — competencies, 360s, and so forth. I don’t think any of them work. What’s worse, nobody really cares that they don’t work.

Most CEOs I know honestly don’t care about employees or take an interest in human resources. Sure, they know who their stars are — but it ends there. Since the people in the corner offices don’t care, they never put much pressure on their HR departments to get their workplace cultures right, and this allows HR to implement all kinds of development and succession strategies that don’t work.

The results of this indifference and ineffectiveness have become significant. Gallup reported in two large-scale studies that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged. Worse, over the past 12 years, these low numbers have barely budged, meaning that the vast majority of employees worldwide are failing to develop and contribute at work.

Why is that? Gallup estimates that managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units. When managers have real management talent, workgroups develop and win customers. When managers don’t have that talent, human development freezes and workgroups fail.

Now, here’s a truly frightening number Gallup has uncovered: Companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time. Those companies are wasting time and resources attempting to train bad managers to be who they’re not. Nothing fixes the wrong pick.

There’s a reason for this — authentic management talent is very rare. Gallup research shows that just one in 10 have the natural, God-given talent to manage. Those gifted people know how to motivate every individual on their team; boldly review performance; build relationships; overcome adversity; and make decisions based on productivity, not politics. A manager with no real talent for the job will deal with workplace problems through manipulation and unhelpful office politics, because they lack the inner personal courage required to manage teams effectively.

Gallup also found that another two in 10 people have some characteristics of basic managerial talent and can function at a high level if their company coaches and supports them.

The fact is, rare management talent exists in your company right now — it’s hiding in plain sight. Companies that use predictive testing analytics to find that talent will have the biggest advantage in the global war for the best customers.

Jim Clifton
About the author: 

Jim Clifton is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Gallup, the global leader in public opinion research and analytics, with 30 offices in 20 countries and regions.  Mr. Clifton is the author of “The Coming Jobs War” and co-author of “Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder”.  Jim serves on several boards and is the Chairman of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Follow him on LinkedIn.