There are approximately 160 million managers in the world today. Yet, according to recent studies, there are few who feel confident in their ability to lead a team.
Co-authors Jamie Roca, Senior VP at Gartner, and Sari Wilde, Research Leader in Gartner’s HR Practice, collaborated to write The Connector Manager: Why Some Leaders Build Exceptional Talent And Others Don’t. In it, they present four models of management, and set out to prove that “the connector manager” is the most effective framework (and teach you how to become one) thanks to their nine-thousand-person global study.
Which of the four types are you? And what can you learn from their research? Check out our interview below to find out:
Darrah Brustein: What motivated you to run a study on management of over 9,000 people?
Jaime Roca: In 2017, we spent a few months in deep conversations with Human Resources executives to understand about which work trends they were most concerned. It became clear that organizations were unanimously growing frustrated by their people managers’ lack of interest or ability in coaching, and people managers were simultaneously being stretched thin across more direct reports. We recognized some clear urgency and ‘pain’ on both sides to increase manager effectiveness.Today In: Leadership
Brustein:You lay out four types of managers who emerged from your research. What are they?
Sari Wilde: When we talk about the four types of managers, we’re really categorizing four distinct approaches to coaching and developing employees. These manager approaches are: the Teacher manager (expertise-driven and directive), the Cheerleader manager (hands-off, but encouraging), the Always-On manager (continuous and comprehensive), and the Connector manager (connection-based and collaborative). What’s fascinating is that while we certainly see individuals displaying a blend of different behaviors, every manager has a tendency toward one of the four approaches, and each type of manager exists in near equal quarters at all organizations, regardless of demographic, geographic, or industry factors.
Brustein: It’s often said that Millennials crave and expect hands-on consistent feedback. Can you share about the semi counter-intuitive results that came out of your study about the efficacy of “always-on managers”?
Roca: Unlike many of the preferences or behaviors that you may hear being thrown around about Millennials, the expectation for feedback that you mention actually does bear truth. Millennials and now Gen Z are asking for more learning, more coaching, and more feedback at work, and many organizations are responding by pushing the “Always-On” management approach. “Always-On” coaching may be born from the best of intentions, but unfortunately, it yields the worst results. In fact, “Always-On” managers aren’t just less effective than the other three manager types, they actively degrade their employees’ performance.
Brustein: Why is the “connector manager” the most consistent highest performer?
Wilde: It’s important to consider the work environment we’re operating in today, which is rapidly shifting to the point where managers themselves may not possess the emerging skills their teams require. Faced with this dilemma, we see “Always-On” and “Teacher managers” tending towards providing more direct guidance and advice even when they lack expertise. They’re trying to help their teams stay focused and grounded, but can unintentionally steer them off-course. In the same situation, we see “Cheerleaders” backing off entirely. “Connectors” take a third course, recognizing when they may not be best positioned to provide coaching and leveraging the highly-skilled employees on their teams and in their organizations to round out each other’s coaching and development.
Brustein: Did any of your findings surprise you? If so, what?
Wilde: It’s so shocking when you really dissect the “Always-On” manager’s results. The “Always-On” approach doesn’t just lose out against the other manager types, it actively harms employee performance. That means that working for an “Always-On” manager is worse than having no manager at all! Many of our readers will recognize some of the signs of an “Always-On” manager from their own experiences, and thankfully, we’ve provided a handful of tips for dealing with your “Always-On” manager, if that’s a situation you face.
Brustein: How have your learnings impacted your work in your leadership as well as how you interact with those leading you?
Roca: We have each become more aware of our own tendencies. I think of myself as a “recovering Always-On manager”. When I first started managing, I actually had a fantastic direct report tell me that I gave her too much feedback. I learned a lot from that experience and now have a lot of new techniques to demonstrate more “Connector” behaviors. Sari originally identified as a “Cheerleader” and has learned to take a more active approach to ensure her teams are learning and developing from their connections and experiences.
Brustein: You share about the super-connector framework as the connector next level. Can you share more about this role in an organization?
Wilde: The average manager today oversees a team of ten direct reports, which is large, but also just a drop in the bucket at a large company. And even if every manager at a firm became a “Connector manager”, there still might be systematic hurdles to really scaling high-quality connection across the organization. Super Connectors are those leaders in positions of great authority or influence that take it upon themselves to really scale the Connector principles upwards by generating systems, processes, or norms to do so. In the book, we share some compelling examples of Super Connectors that are changing the status quo of coaching and communication in their organizations and having a massive impact.
Brustein: In addition to reading your book, what’s the best first step for a leader who is not currently a Connector manager to begin to become one?
Roca: Whether you’re naturally a Cheerleader, Connector, Always-On manager, or Teacher, there are some different logical first steps to take, so it bears repeating that the first step towards change or improvement is awareness of where you stand. We offer an assessment in the book to help readers understand their natural coaching tendencies and fit into one of the four manager types. Regardless of whether you take the quiz, you can absolutely take stock of your coaching patterns, relationships, and tendencies, and question them. Even just building the self-awareness and reflection practice will likely strongly improve the next coaching conversations you have with your team.
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This article was originally published on Forbes.