Research has found that staff who rate their manager as "excellent" are five times more engaged than staff who rate their manager as "poor."
But what, exactly, makes a manager excellent? To find an answer to that question, leadership coaching startup BetterUp analyzed their data to identify the most common issues their clients worked on. Their analysis provides a peek at the most common areas for improvement of moderately strong managers, because BetterUp typically works with mid-level managers who show potential but need help improving in a few areas.
According to BetterUp's research, these are the three skills that good managers typically need to become excellent managers.
1: Communicating clear goals
For some managers, the obstacle to setting clear goals is that they're hesitant to delegate. They might worry that an employee's mistake would make them look bad, or they might feel guilty that they're asking busy employees to do more work. However, experts recommend focusing on the tasks that only you can do, as well as the tasks with the biggest long-term impact on your organization.
Other managers struggle with communication when they delegate a project; they might find that the employee's results rarely match what they had in mind. Jesse Sostrin, author and director of PwC's Coaching Center for Excellence, encourages managers to discuss three things with employees every time they delegate a task: why the project matters, what you expect to see, and how involved you'll be during the process.
Read more: 3 things great managers say every time they delegate a project
2: Building a collaborative culture
Great managers establish a foundation of trust and transparency with their teams, says Amy Edmondson, whose research in leadership and management at Harvard Business School helped shape some of BetterUp's methodology. She recommends practicing three habits: asking genuine questions, celebrating team milestones, and asking for input from team members at all levels.
Some managers think they achieve an open culture by simply setting an "open door policy," but these intentions can often go awry. If you aren't showing genuine interest in your team's feedback—or you react negatively to it—then your "open door policy" will fail, according to organizational communication researchers.
Read more: 5 problems with your "open door policy"
3: Adopting a growth mindset
You're probably familiar with psychologist Carol Dweck's research into fixed vs. growth mindsets from a student success perspective—but this research can also be applied to the office.
Managers with fixed mindsets tend to view themselves and their employees in binary terms. They might interpret early challenges with management as a sign that they aren't "cut out for it" and become frustrated.
However, great managers adopt a growth mindset; they believe they will continue learning and improving over the course of their careers. Because they see failure as a learning opportunity, they're more open to taking risks and allowing their employees to innovate. To cultivate a growth mindset, Bill Marklein, the founder and CEO of Employ Humanity, recommends expressing gratitude in a journal or to your colleagues (Robinson, Business Insider, 1/17).
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