Employee Engagement: Managers Give What They Get

About one-third of the U.S. workforce is actively engaged at work, and this actively engaged statistic includes management (Gallup).


Employee Engagement: Managers Give What They Get.


In translating Gallup’s poll results, three out of 10 managers in a business unit are all-in. These managers are energetically leading a team, contributing to the organization’s strategic goals and performance. If higher level of engagement is a target, then senior leaders can directly influence managers’ engagement.

Leadership behaviors trickle down to positively infuse the workplace, fuel employee delivery of an exceptional customer experience, and spur performance and profitability.

Three actions readily within a leader’s immediate control can begin transforming the managers’ engagement experience:

1. Be Fully Present.

Whether meeting with managers individually or as a group, being attentive in the moment is essential to engagement.

  • Eliminate distractions created from your computer, cell phone, documents, or other leaders, unless mission critical and unavoidable. Make the time with the managers the most important action.
  • Whether presenting a new initiative to managers or engaging in a problem solving session, listen more than you speak.
  • Ask thoughtful questions, but not as an attorney interrogating a witness.  Instead, engage in questioning that:
    • promotes open communications and information exchange;
    • enables the manager to discover a workable outcome; and/or
    • helps the manager gain a sense of being a valued stakeholder on the team.
  • When there is need to share your perspective as the leader, resist doing so at the beginning of the conversation. This will help to reduce the possibilities of stifling creativity and creating a “yes-person” atmosphere where authentic sharing and engagement does not occur.

2. Practice Civility.

Politeness can make the difference between having an engaged or disengaged manager.

  • Demonstrate respect for differences in perspectives, preferences, appearance, leadership and management styles, and more. First, take time to understand the manager’s perspective, then focus on achieving alignment on what is business relevant to supporting the organization’s vision, mission, values, and strategic goals.
  • Demonstrate common courtesies – thank you, please, ask – rather than wielding positional power (making it abundantly clear who has the final decision when asking for input) or demeaning the character of the manager.
  • Pay attention to communication tone and body language.

3. Partner in Professional Development.

Professional development is an avenue to nurture manager engagement. Scott Blanchard of the Ken Blanchard Company refers to mid-level managers as the “heart of the house” or the “glue” that holds things together. Professional development is an investment in mid-level managers, and it has peripheral returns of increased satisfaction and retention.

  • Show interest beyond the numbers and what the manager contributes to the organization.
  • Initiate a professional development and growth conversation – even if the manager does not do so. Why?  A manager’s past experience on the topic or the attention on immediate performance targets might hinder the willingness to begin a proactive professional development conversation.
  • Create the atmosphere where growth and development is a natural conversation. Regularly share information about relevant articles, books, training, podcasts, and more with the manager. This sends the signal of authentic interest, rather than a checklist action.

While mid-level managers set the tone for the vast majority of employees in the organization, the challenge is for all levels of leadership to participate in raising employee engagement.

What one action will you immediately take to inspire a higher level of engagement from managers within your sphere of influence?

We support leaders in achieving higher levels of employee engagement. Contact us to schedule a complimentary Discovery session.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and women’s leadership strategist. Her leadership program, THE END VIEW FLAME SYSTEM, guides women in bringing together their talents, strengths, and executive presence to experience a thriving career.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.