In an everyday way, we ‘know’ that leaders are at the heart of organisational performance. Yet proving that, and clearly identifying what it is they do that distinctly contributes to that performance, is much less clear.

This is particularly the case for knowledge work, where measuring productivity is much more challenging – though no less important – than in other job roles.  There’s no time to waste – you need to know what’s going to work so that you can focus your efforts.

Professors Mitchell Hoffman and Steve Tadelis asked to what extent people management skills make a difference in their investigation of upwards survey feedback from tens of thousands of employees about thousands of their managers in a multinational high-tech firm.

The knowledge workers answered six questions about their boss.  The questions focused on the ability of bosses to interact effectively with their team members:

  1. Communicates a clear understanding of my job expectations.
  2. Provides continuous coaching and guidance on how I can improve.
  3. Actively supports my professional and career development.
  4. Consults with people for decision making when appropriate.
  5. Generates a positive attitude in the team, even when conditions are difficult.
  6. Is someone whom I can trust.

These questions are magic. They pretty much have the bases covered when compared with the factors that not just indicate good leadership, but also that when absent, create burnout.

This is the best way to reduce burnout – make sure leaders have the people leadership skills they need to do the job of leading.

 These are their key findings:

  • Good people management skills make a big difference to employee retention, particularly of the highest performers. (The authors provide the example that replacing a manager at the 10th percentile with one at the 90th percentile reduces labour costs by 5% due to lower attrition.)
  • Leaders with higher people leadership skills get higher performance ratings, are more likely to be promoted and receive larger salary increases. (Clearly, in the study organisation, people leadership is truly valued.)
  • The findings were consistent across hierarchical levels, geographies and occupations, with one caveat: the higher up the ladder and the more cognitively demanding the work, the stronger the relationship between good leadership and retention.

Replacing a worst boss with a best boss increases retention; lower attrition reduces labour costs by 5%.

This backs up what we all know intuitively – if leaders support and coach their team members they are happier and more likely to want to continue working for them.

You can read their article here, and read more about this topic here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how be more inclusive and help your team to higher performance don’t hesitate to reach out to me – let’s set up a confidential free discovery call so that I can support you on the journey.


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