Engagement. I am still waiting for Gallup. Are You?


Last years article by research firm Gallup, provided pretty clear direction on the “Five steps to firing a manager with a disengaged work group”. I remember that it created a little HR controversy when published, it was bold, and raised some very relevant points around the role, and expectations of a manager.

The Gallup article asked us to focus on the 25% of managers with the lowest engagement scores, look at external factors, reposition them, and, if all else fails, fire them.

However, I was still waiting on the next article that tells us what the top 25% of managers are doing so right? Had I missed it? Had Gallup changed their strategy? Was it a secret we have to pay for? Were we already more interested in day to day engagement analytics than annual surveys?

I actually agreed with much of what Kevin McConville said, “Bad managers are chasing away your talented employees and valuable customers, and they are damaging your brand” makes perfect sense to me. Surely the next statement was “Good managers are attracting talented employees and creating loyal customers, they help build your customer and employee brand. And THIS is what good managers look like”…………..

Nope, sack them and silence.

So whilst waiting, Gallup got me thinking, what do I think the 25% do so well? And why is there no mention, context or honesty around the leadership team? Zero analysis on the people who set the tone, values and actions of the company.

I got to work

As Gallup hint. They are naturally gifted

You cannot expect your manager’s approach or attitude, to be anything more or less than how they naturally feel, act, or think. You can’t pretend to care and share, some managers are always going to score a little better, they just find it easier.

Managers understand Engagement ( It’s not hard ), the best build their actions round it.

They know what an engaged employee looks like and how their behaviour and actions can influence or make a difference, for good and bad.

  • Intellectual engagement – thinking hard about the job and how to do it better
  • Effective engagement – feeling positive about doing a good job
  • Social engagement – actively taking opportunities to discuss work-related improvements with others at work

They look beyond themselves

The best managers understand that for any team to work effectively and sustainably, the ideas and skills of others, need to be central to the team. The best managers develop a culture where sharpness of ideas and arguments are accepted, rather than the dominant egos taking priority. The manager looks to others for the answers, and invests in the process.

Forgive me, but it was easy to get the Workstars promotion out of the way quick. They Excel at Recognition, no doubt.

The best managers see giving, and encouraging recognition, as an integral part of their management skills. They understand recognition is an emotional expression, and a human connection that helps frame performance, and bring organisational values, behaviour, actions, and transparency into the day to day lives of every employee.

They use intrinsic rewards to motivate and engage.

The very best managers know you very well, they are first class “noticers”. They know the value of giving a little time and space for the right responsibility, learning, and relationship building opportunities, that soak up your natural curiosity.

They are consistent

They make being the meat in the company sandwich look easy. Consistent, honest decision making, they don’t over react. They have perspective, meet bad behaviour face to face and earn your admiration, respect, and trust.

They encourage risk and failure

Engaging managers create and promote an environment that breeds entrepreneurship and independent thinking. Most importantly, they understand that decision making is connected to growth, and growth, in tiny mouse bite sized pieces, is connected to engagement. That just makes failure and feedback part of the journey, and not the end of the world.

They are fit for today’s challenge.

The top 25% are tomorrow’s manager. They draw strength, pleasure, and reduced stress from teaching, team building, and empowering others, without ever losing sight of results. Does that make them altrocentric, or just a genuine lover of people and teams? Tomorrow’s manager blends we, with me.

I did not feel compelled to keep going, I liked what I had. I was sure my list was not as complete as some would like, I am no David Zinger and it is unlikely to make the educational blackboard at Engage for Success, but if you are a strong 5/7 I reckon you make the Top 25% easy.

I came to a holt because of leadership team anonymity. Yes, our own level of engagement is heavily influenced by our managers, and our colleagues, but what about the values, and actions of the company itself? What about visible, inspiring and emotionally engaged leadership teams? Personally I cannot look at manager engagement without some insight and honesty around the leadership teams ability and desire to lead with their own actions and behaviour. All these factors can increase my level engagement, or decrease it, and heavily influence my managers.

My conclusion was the engagement landscape is not mature enough? There has been enough emphasis and expectation placed on leadership teams to start sacking managers on engagement scores alone. A manager who brings out our best, who makes work interesting and engaging, and can see the impact of their own actions is valuable, today, and essential for tomorrow. We know that.

However yesterday was different, and most managers were employed yesterday. If your leadership team are not also in the engagement spotlight, transparently shining it on themselves first, and truly understanding what needs to change, and the challenges that change presents. Sacking managers is nothing more than changing the rules, half way through a game, you are not even playing in.

So come on Gallup, we agreed with much of what you had to say, it was thought provoking. It is time to finish the story


Jason Harney

Founder, also Director of Product and Marketing at Workstars. Jason has been instrumental in progressing social recognition software to the forefront of HR, against a backdrop of the traditional reward industry. As HR strategy begins to shift and innovate to meet the people and social challenges of the day. Trust, culture, values and engagement, matter more than ever. This is where Jason spends his time.