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Leadership Development

Google Knows My Birthday! (Does My Boss?)


Paul Downey // cc by: 2.0 //

Manager as Coach: How to Personalize the Way You Lead

Do you know the birthdays of your employees? How much do you know about the personal and professional aspirations of your employees?

Think about this for a moment. Can you recall the last time you intentionally spent time with an employee to get to know him or her better?

No doubt you’ve heard “people leave managers, not companies.” Even though our workforce demographic is shifting to a younger age and our working environment is becoming much more complex, it’s still the case that people leave organizations due to dissatisfaction with their relationship with their manager.

The current level of employee disengagement is staggering; it hovers somewhere around 60–70%, as reported by top survey firms:

Now, equate employee disengagement to dollars, and Gallop estimates disengagement-induced lost productivity (in the US) to total costs of approximately $450 billion annually. 

There’s one more important factor before moving from WHY it matters that managers know their employees’ birthdays to HOW managers can personalize leadership more intentionally. This factor comes from US labor statistics (2014): the median tenure of US employees across generations for salaried hourly workers is 4.6 years, while workers between age 25–34, the median drops to three years. That's a significant differential!

Throughout my career I have been privileged to work alongside hundreds of leaders to help them elevate their effectiveness focusing on enhanced relationships and connecting personally with employees. I’ve found that engagement increases when intentional, targeted areas of focus include employee involvement in daily decisions, two-way communication, trust, and a vision or direction.

So how can you personalize the way you lead? How can you better focus on people?

First, define the leader you want to be. What you will do to ensure your employees feel cared about, heard, and empowered to take ownership in their work? At FlashPoint, we use an evidence-based approach with many organizations that comes from the work of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge®. Kouzes and Posner have shown that over three decades, five primary leadership practices could be observed most frequently by exemplary leaders. The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® include: 

  1. Model the Way
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision
  3. Enable Others to Act
  4. Challenge the Process
  5. Encourage the Heart

Although all of these practices are critical and must be used in conjunction with one another, for today let’s delve into Enable Others to Act as a way to build stronger relationships and engage employees.

The practice of Enable Others to Act is comprised of six leader behaviors that any leader can try, at any time, even today. An exemplary leader:

  1. Treats others with dignity and respect. 
  2. Develops cooperative relationships among the people he/she works with. 
  3. Gives people a great deal of freedom and choice in deciding how to do their work. 
  4. Actively listens to diverse points of view. 
  5. Supports the decisions that people make on their own. 
  6. Ensures that people grow in their jobs by learning new skills and developing themselves. 

Engagement and Enablement Drivers

Key measurements on national engagement surveys include “engagement drivers” and “enablement drivers.” Engagement drivers are behaviors such as treating others respectfully, building effective and trusting relationships that are collaborative, and listening, as well as providing two-way communication. 

Enablement drivers include those things leaders do to provide the resources and capabilities to act independently to do one’s work. A key enablement driver includes an employee’s involvement in decision making that affects him or her directly. This means providing freedom and choice in decisions impacting their work, supporting the decisions employees make, and enabling development opportunities in order to contribute to the enablement side of engagement.

Build Relationships to Mobilize Others

Leaders who are able to mobilize their teams have built relationships and trust, which enables the ability to influence action. If employees are willing to struggle, they are putting forth discretionary effort—which is a key indicator of highly engaged employees.

Kouzes and Posner define leadership as:

“The art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.”

Engage, empower, and connect—know your employees’ birthdays!

Download an Overview of The Leadership Challenge

Stephanie Wood

Stephanie Wood Stephanie is a past FlashPoint employee who is passionate about leadership development and results-oriented coaching.