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Book Summary – It’s the Manager: Moving from Boss to Coach

In the past decades, people’s lifestyles and expectations about work have changed drastically. Yet, many organizations are still using old, outdated management practices. How exactly do people see their work and careers today? Which organizational practices are the most effective for the modern workforce? What can your organization do to make the most of your talents? This book by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter presents Gallup’s extensive research answers to these questions, with useful insights for any leader, manager, executive or human resource (HR) professional. In this free summary of “It’s the Manager”, we’ll outline some of these key findings.

Do also check out our complete summary bundle in pdf/mp3 infographic, text and audio formats!
It's The Manager summary - Book summary bundle

It’s the manager…who makes the difference

One of the key goals of management is to maximize human potential. Employees’ performance and growth affect their organizations’ results, national GDP and even global productivity. Yet, about 85% of employees globally don’t feel engaged at work.

To understand what modern employees want and how to bring out the best in people, Gallup conducted a comprehensive review of more than 30 years of research data involving managers, employees and economists from 160 countries.

This book presents their findings and recommendations about strategy, culture, employment brand, coaching, and the future of work. In particular, Gallup found that an organization’s long-term success can be predicted by a single, most-critical factor: the quality of your managers and team leaders. The best way to shape your organization’s future is to nurture great managers.

It's The Manager summary - overview

Strategy and Culture

Strategy

The workplace is being reshaped by new generations of workers. Millennials (born 1980-1996) and Generation Z (born in or after 1997) have different needs and expectations from their predecessors:

It's The Manager summary - evolving workplace expectations
Specifically, they want purpose in their work, not just a pay-check. They want personal development, not just job satisfaction. They want coaches who understand, value and develop their strengths, not just bosses who control or manage their work. They want ongoing conversations, not just annual reviews. They want managers who develop their strengths, not just fix their weaknesses. And, they see see their work as an integral part of life, not just a job.

Management practices must keep up with these new needs and expectations. To do so, leaders need a clear direction and a strategy to translate their vision into real-world outcomes by bringing multiple teams together and making great decisions.

Culture

Your organization’s culture reflects your purpose (why you’re in business) and your brand (how employees and customers see you).

When teams/employees are aligned with their organization’s culture and purpose, they perform better and stay longer. However, an organization loses credibility with both customers and employees when it fails to deliver on its brand promise.

Signs of a broken culture include:
• An inability to attract or retain world-class talent;
• Failure to implement initiatives, and
• An inability to respond to changing customer needs.

To build a great culture, leaders must:
• Identify a common purpose and brand;
• Align all systems and programs and communications around the purpose/brand; and
• Help managers to become coaches to improve employee engagement and performance.

Attract, Develop and Retain Top Talents

Your employment brand is defined by the cumulative experiences in an employee’s life cycle. This includes: attracting top talents, hiring the best fit, onboarding to set the right tone, managing performance, coaching people to grow, and creating a positive exit experience.
It's The Manager summary - the employee life cycle

Gallup’s research addressed findings and best practices across the entire employee life cycle, including how to (i) attract, hire, and onboard star players, (ii) apply and develop strengths, (iii) turn managers into coaches, (iv) engage and retain talents, (v) manage performance and rewards, and (vi)  and manage succession and exits.

Here are some quick snippets. Feel free to get remaining insights from the complete version of It’s the Manager summary (full 17-page summary here).

Attracting, Hiring and Onboarding Star Players

Hiring the right people isn’t easy because hiring managers are only humans and have biases that can lead to bad hiring decisions. Gallup identified:

  • Common hiring manager biases;
  • 4 recommended criteria for finding the right hires (including 5 crucial traits for performance in any job); and
  • What to address during employee onboarding.

Applying and Developing Strengths

Great managers hold people accountable for results and address their weaknesses, but focus on maximizing and growing their strengths. The most engaged employees spend 4x as much time focusing on what they do best (vs areas they don’t do well in). Disengaged employees spend about the same amount of time on their strengths and weaknesses.

Gallup explains the 5 steps to build a strengths-based culture, and the 7 key competencies required to succeed in any role.  [Learn more the the Clifton StrengthsFinder and the 34 strengths themes from our Strengths-Based Leadership summary].

Help Managers to Become Coaches

To make your organization truly productive, help managers to become coaches. Train and equip your managers to meet 3 coaching requirements/goals, including:

  • Set clear expectations: Employees are likely to be 4x as engaged when their managers involve them in goal-setting.
  • Provide ongoing coaching: Employees who get daily feedback are 3x as likely to be engaged compared to those who get feedback once a year or less.
  • Create accountability and link employees’ performance to their personal development.

Use 5 coaching conversations tailored to each employee or role, and incorporate 4 patterns found in all high-development cultures (elaborated further in the complete version of It’s the Manager summary).

Improving Engagement and Retention

There’s a consistent relationship between employee engagement and performance. The most engaged employees outperform disengaged ones across a wide range of performance metrics (e.g. absenteeism, safety, quality, turnover, customer ratings, sales, productivity and profitability). Gallup found 12 key elements behind engagement, 3 elements that affect employees’ perceived career growth, and provides a list of recommendations to build employee engagement.

A good performance and reward system should be fair, hold employees accountable for results, and help them to grow/develop. Gallup explains (i) the limitations of annual performance ratings, (ii) how you can improve the objectivity and accuracy of your organization’s performance ratings, (iii) key principles for structuring pay and promotion, (iv) why you should use flextime as a key differentiator.

Get our full summary and infographic for more tips and insights!

Managing Succession Planning and Exits

Ideally, every role should come with proper succession planning. Yet, most successors are often chosen randomly or subjectively, with little or no prior planning. Gallup recommends a 4-step process to find the best successors for each role, and manage exits effectively so people feel positive about your organization and even become your brand ambassadors.

The Future of Work

Finally, the book identifies some of the biggest work trends you must pay attention to. These include:

Diversity and inclusion at the workplace, including why/how to create gender-balanced teams and successfully transition older workers to part-time roles or retirement.

Telecommuting, remote work and gig jobs, all of which are becoming more prevalent.

• How to encourage creativity and innovation throughout the organization; and

• Trends in technology and digitization, such as the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of human capital management (HCM) systems.

Getting the Most from “It’s the Manager”

Engaged employees create engaged customers which in turn create successful companies. And, the best way to create engaged employees is by developing great managers who can identify/develop employees’ strengths to help them achieve consistent peak performance.

If you’d like to learn the specific findings in the areas summarized above, do check out our full book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 17-page text summary, and a 30-minute audio summary.
It's The Manager summary - Book summary bundle

The book comes with more than 200 pages of appendices, including a code for the online CliftonStrengths assessment, a guide to the 34 strengths themes, additional information on the 12 elements of employee engagement and Gallup’s meta-analysis. You can purchase the book here or visit gallup.com for more details about Gallup’s research and management tools/resources.

 

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