Recognise This! – People leave bosses, not companies. Good managers make sure their employees succeed before themselves.

We’ve all heard the truism that people quit managers not jobs. If retention of top performers and key talent is a priority for you, then one of the first places you should look for improvement is in the relationship between managers and employees. This recent article, for example, points to a recent survey showing 20% of people say their bosses hurt their career. Half of employees, on the other hand, said the boss had a positive impact.

The article goes on to share common advice we’ve all likely heard before: End micro-managing and help bosses learn the art of delegation. Help bosses feel secure in their role and the importance of leading a team so they are confident and comfortable in giving team members credit where credit is due instead of snatching it for themselves.

While that advice is quite true and valuable, I’m far more interested in why these managerial tactics work. It all boils down to these three points (supported by reams of research conducted by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in The Progress Principle).

  1. Employees need meaningful work.
    Busy work kills the spirit. Yes, some work tasks are menial, repetitive and just have to get done. But doesn’t mean they aren’t meaningful. Good managers help employees see the greater value of even the most menial, repetitive tasks. Help your employees see how their efforts help move the greater mission forward.
  2. Employees need to make progress in meaningful work.
    But meaningful work isn’t enough. Employees also need to know they are getting somewhere. Good managers cast a vision for the future and help employees see where they are on the path to achieving that vision. Help employees see forward progress toward big goals by recognising them for smaller achievements along the way.
  3. Employees need recognition of efforts and achievements that make an impact.
    All of this boils down to employees’ need for recognition. Don’t misunderstand me. This is not a grab for another trophy or a gold star. Employees simply need to know what they do matters within a bigger picture. Indeed, our Spring 2012 Workforce Mood Tracker survey showed 78% of employees said they would work harder if their efforts were better recognised.

Instead of micromanaging, micro-appreciate. Hone in on what your team members are doing and recognise smaller achievements and progress towards bigger goals. Instead of snatching credit for yourself, be the one to give credit to your team for success and let the entire company see how much you all achieve together.

What other attributes do you see in good managers? What made your best manager so good?