James Mueller Smiling colleagues talk working together on laptop in office

Leaders Who Manage the Middle May Have Cracked the Code

It’s poorly skilled managers who present the greatest risk because they exacerbate most other risks. When managers are not engaging in regular, meaningful conversations with employees, their mental health and clarity of the organization’s purpose deteriorate. The quality of an employee’s work experience has three times the impact on their overall wellbeing as the number of hours they work. Having engaging work—which also depends on the manager—has five times the impact on wellbeing as the number of weeks of vacation.

– Jim Clifton and Jim Harter

When I read this candid excerpt from an article by Gallup colleagues Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, I was so appreciative that someone looked at the data and stated in plain language just how important our job as leaders is to hire and mentor great managers—or, as some of my colleagues call them, coaches. We often look at a leader for the laundry list of core competencies they must demonstrate with ease. Though true, if a leader focuses on making better, more precise hiring selections and upskilling their new hires to coach and interact rather than direct, employee engagement dramatically increases. 

Employee engagement becomes your multiplier—affecting retention, continuity, stability, and many other admirable organizational qualities. Gallup’s well-known research tells us that a leader’s connection with each employee is the number-one reason a person stays or leaves. What Clifton and Harter point out is that the connection is made with the employee’s direct report—not the person at the top. With nearly 50 percent of employees actively searching for their next job, leaders must diagnose their employees’ well-being and look to the middle managers. 

Wellbeing at Work coauthors Clifton and Harter explain that there are five elements of well-being:

  1. Career – You like what you do every day.
  2. Social – You have meaningful friendships.
  3. Financial – You manage your money well.
  4. Physical – You have the energy to get things done.
  5. Community – You like where you live. 

Managers don’t have to become financial advisers or life coaches, say the authors. But they must integrate well-being conversations into their management practices once they’ve established trust. Why? Career well-being has the greatest influence over the other four aspects of our lives. It’s no surprise when you consider the fact that many of us spend two-thirds of our waking hours working.

When you combine an employee’s need for engagement at work, the daily access managers have to their teams, and the importance of career well-being, it’s hard to overstate the vital role well-informed hiring practices play in a leader’s job. I’m fortunate to have helped many clients improve their hiring and retention processes by coaching them and using an astonishingly simple tool. It measures a person’s decision-making style and ability in regard to management, customer service, and a number of other job responsibilities. This approach enables executives to see and embrace their own unique leadership style and provides accurate insights into the abilities of their direct reports so that they can more effectively coach them. 

If you’d like to learn more about using this tool for your next hiring decision, let me know. I’m happy to chat with you.  

AUTHOR - James Mueller

Jim Mueller is president of James Mueller & Associates LLC (JMA), a national consulting firm that provides services in the areas of organizational development, governance, and philanthropy. Follow Jim on LinkedIn.