52 Powerful Discoveries For Workplace Leaders



Fascinating, timely, critically useful and immensely relevant is how I describe the new book released in May by Gallup. 

It’s called, It’s the Manager. And, it’s based on the largest study of its kind: 37.2 million people surveyed over 30 years through U.S. and global workplace tracking, including interviews of employees and managers from 160 counties, interviews with leading economists and roundtable interviews with CHROs (Chief Human Resource Officers) from 300 of the world’s largest organizations.

The book, authored by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, Ph.D., both of Gallup, presents 52 powerful discoveries leaders can read and implement quickly, including:
  • Adapt organizations and cultures to rapid change and new workplace demands
  • Meet the challenges of managing remote employees, a diverse workforce, gig workers and the rise of artificial intelligence
  • Attract, hire, onboard and retain the best employees to make your organization one of the most desired places to work for current and future stars
  • Transform your managers into coaches who inspire, communicate effectively and develop employee strengths 

The book is not meant to be read cover to cover. Instead, turn to it to advise you on whichever burning issues your organization faces right now—select those from the 50 breakthrough findings by Gallup that are grouped into five main book sections:
  1. Strategy
  2. Culture
  3. Employment Brand
  4. Boss to Coach
  5. The Future of Work 

Some of my favorite key takeaways from the book are:
  • 70 percent of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.  Mangers – through their strengths, their own active engagement and how they effectively work with their teams every day is critical. 
  • Inspirational messages are important, but they’ll have no significant impact unless leaders build a strategy to bring multiple teams together and make great decisions

The changing demands of the workforce of what matters most to employees is evolving from (the past to the future):
  • My Paycheck to My Purpose
  • My Satisfaction to My Development
  • My Boss to My Coach
  • My Annual Review to My Ongoing Conversations
  • My Weaknesses to My Strengths
  • My Job to My Life

Have 10- to 30-minute “Check-In” conversations with your employees once or twice a month. During those, review successes and barriers and align and reset priorities. Discuss expectations, workload, goals and needs.

When discussing career development with an employee ask at least these eight questions:
  1. What are your recent successes?
  2. What are you most proud of?
  3. What rewards and recognition matter most to you?
  4. How does your role make a difference?
  5. How would you like to make a bigger difference?
  6. How are you using your strengths in your current role?
  7. How would you like to use your strengths in the future?
  8. What knowledge and skills do you need to get to the next stage of your career? 

The employee engagement elements most strongly linked to perceptions of inclusion and respect are “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person” and “At work, my opinions seem to count.”

Leaders need to first recognize that diversity and inclusion are not the same thing. Diversity is the distribution of people you bring into your organization. Inclusion is how you involve and treat your employees.

Jim Clifton

Jim Harter, Ph.D.

Clifton and Harter recently answered these questions for me:

Question: What was your most surprising research finding?

Clifton & Harter: While managers tend to enjoy more autonomy, they also experience more stress and less-clear expectations than the people they manage. With increases in remote working, matrix organizations, digitization and increased diversity, managers’ jobs have become even more complex. Two-thirds of managers are either not engaged or actively disengaged in their work and workplace.

If organizations are going to improve the employee experience authentically, they need to get the manager experience right first. Fully 70% of the variance in team engagement can be attributed to the quality of the manager, so making sure managers are engaged and developing them should be a top priority.

Question: What is one of the most outdated assumptions of current management practices, and how should organizations update it for today’s workforce?

Clifton & Harter: Billions of dollars have been spent on manager development, yet only one in three managers strongly agree that they have had opportunities to learn and grow in the past year. A traditional approach to manager development is to identify the desired competencies of managing and then teach the same style of managing to all managers.


Question: What are the five conversations so important for managers to use with employees to drive performance?

Clifton & Harter: The important missing link in performance management is the lack of ongoing conversations between managers and employees. Employees often get to their performance review and have little to no context for how their performance was determined. So, they then perceive that the whole performance management process is unfair.

The five conversations provide a roadmap for managers to ensure they are having the right kinds of ongoing dialogue with each person they manage — reflective and future-oriented conversations such as role and relationship orientation and semi-annual reviews as well as in-the-moment quick-connects, check-ins, and developmental conversations. These different types of conversations are all designed to make each person an integral part of their progress and development future. 

Question: Why don’t employee engagement programs work?

Clifton & Harter: Employee engagement shouldn’t be a “program.” Getting it right — and some organizations have — means the elements that drive high involvement, enthusiasm and development are embedded in everything the organization is about — from the organization’s purpose to learning curriculum to ongoing communications to performance management. The well-intended “programs” that don’t work are nothing more than a relabeled annual job satisfaction survey that combines “agree and strongly agree” responses into a “% favorable metric” that looks good on the surface but hides problems.

A strong metric and reporting system are basic requirements. But even more important is in how the principles of great managing are embedded in everything the organization is attempting to get done.


Question: What would you most like business leaders at all levels to think and do differently after reading your book?

Clifton & Harter: If leaders made it a priority to move their management culture from “boss” to “coach,” they would align with the expectations of the new workforce and operate at high human-potential efficiency. This means that the practice of management will have truly caught up with the science of management — and most importantly, with the demands of today’s employees.

We outline some specific steps organizations can follow that will move them to a culture of high development and away from the current global management practices that operate at 15% efficiency. We’ve seen firsthand that organizations can get at least 70% efficiency by implementing the right people-management practices — first, through intentional identification and development of great managers. 

Clifton is Chairman and CEO of Gallup and bestselling author of Born to Build and The Coming Jobs War.

Harter, Ph.D. is Chief Scientist, Workplace for Gallup. He has led more than 1,000 studies of workplace effectiveness, including the largest ongoing meta-analysis of human potential and business unit performance. He authored 12: The Elements of Great Managing and Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements.

Thank you to the book’s publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.

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