22/07/2015 - 05:58

Are your leaders a liability?

22/07/2015 - 05:58


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If your business’s leaders aren’t doing their job properly, chances are the rest of the team is underachieving too.

PRESSURE: Leadership doesn’t sit well with some. Photo: iStockphoto

If your business’s leaders aren’t doing their job properly, chances are the rest of the team is underachieving too.

Leaders at all levels have a significant impact and influence over the factors that determine employee engagement.

Employee engagement has long been shown to have a direct relationship with business metrics such as productivity, quality, customer loyalty and talent retention. The question to ask is, how effective are your leaders and managers? Are they driving your business forward or opposing its success?

The Australian Institute of Management’s ‘management capability index’ for 2013 found that ‘people leadership’ was one of the areas 67 per cent of Australian CEOs and senior managers assessed their organisations as being least capable in.

As a training consultant having recently moved to Perth from Sydney, I am hearing similar stories from clients. The mining boom of the past decade welcomed an influx of new workers in the mining companies and all their support services.

Companies prospered, recruiting more and more staff and promoting them into leadership and managerial positions to cope with the demands of the boom times. Demand was so high and staff so busy that there wasn’t time to train the managers and leaders effectively.

Now that the boom is over – for the time being – organisations are noticing a lack of engagement, and staff discontentment, as a result of poor management and leadership skills. Evidence for this comes in the form of negativity, customer complaints, poor performance, and a lack of motivation.

Leaders and managers are being exposed for their ineptitude at engaging and connecting with their staff through tough times. Due to a lack of formal training, they find themselves unable to manage their people effectively through the changes. They genuinely don’t know how to motivate their team, develop a positive working environment, manage poor performance or engage the hearts and minds of their staff.

Certainly Perth leaders are not alone. In 2012, Right Management undertook a study of engagement among 28,000 employees across a broad range of industries from 15 countries, including in the Asia-Pacific.

Respondents were asked to report on their perceptions of leadership effectiveness in elements such as:

• developing people;

• providing on-going feedback on performance;

• leading by example;

• managing change effectively; and

• explaining the link between work and the organisation’s strategy.

Less than 50 per cent rated their immediate managers and senior leaders as effective.

So it seems that, if we want our staff to be engaged, productive, and loyal to our organisation, we need to ensure our leaders and managers are trained in the skills it takes to provide an environment in which employees can flourish.

Some of the skills, attributes and behaviours leaders can leverage to drive employee engagement are:

• provide employees with the support they need to do their jobs well;

• focus on developing people by offering opportunities for career and professional development through delegation, involvement and performance feedback;

• help employees understand the link between the work they do and the organisation’s strategy (providing validity to each and every role);

• manage work processes effectively to solve problems; and

• connect with employees on a personal level and treat them as individuals.

In support of these actions, a McKinsey report published in September 2014 from a survey of 189,000 people around the world found that 89 per cent of the variance between strong and weak organisations in terms of leadership effectiveness was explained by the frequency of use of four out of a possible 20 types of behaviour. The more they were used, the more successful they were.

These behaviours were: being supportive; driving for results; seeking alternative perspectives; and problem solving.

As businesses seek out every competitive advantage to move forward, research strongly suggests that leadership and management development should become an undisputed priority.

For Western Australia, in particular, the economic downturn presents an excellent opportunity for businesses to consolidate and invest in their staff in order to equip them with the skills and abilities necessary to transform their management team from liabilities into leaders.


Jill McCrum


JEM Training



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