In the final article in this series on performance management, we look at leadership skills and the science of employee engagement profiling.

The traditional view of leadership emphasised the importance of personality characteristics contributing to “charisma” and the importance of a compelling vision. However, recent research shows that leaders do not have one type of personality.

The attributes contributing to high performance are linked to setting clear direction, maintaining personal conviction, acting with integrity and building relationships.

Charisma is not essential, but clarity of purpose and personal conviction do make a difference.

It is also evident that managers can learn effective leadership skills. Not everyone will be charismatic, but it is possible to develop the type of approach that increases the motivation and commitment of team members.

A manager who is committed to personal development must increase his self-awareness. This requires him to be receptive to feedback and open to new experiences — and new ways of doing things.

Being aware of limitations in your own thinking and perceptions also encourages a balanced processing of information. The focus is on seeing issues in three dimensions, not a quick, two-dimensional response that misses wider factors or longer-term considerations.

360-degree feedback

Management development, which is designed to increase transparency and understanding of competencies, often includes 360-degree feedback. The process is now used by many organisations and enables managers to receive feedback from various groups.

Administered online, an in-depth report compares the manager’s self-assessment with feedback from others. This information is linked to coaching and self-development, but can also form part of an overall appraisal process.

In addition to enhancing personal development, 360-degree feedback also encourages open discussion of performance-related issues. However, it is advisable to start at a senior level in the organisation and cascade down, as there may be cultural issues that make it difficult to encourage honest and objective feedback.

There has to be a degree of trust, even though 360 confidentiality is “built-in” and feedback is usually based on groups of four, five or more people in each group of respondents.

Employee engagement profiling

A complementary approach, which may offer an alternative to regular 360-degree feedback, involves well-designed employee engagement profiling. The process is designed for larger groups of staff (typically 50 or more) and explores the four levels of connection that employees express towards the organisation.

These levels range from disaffection, through satisfaction, to motivation, and finally, full commitment, which involves people identifying closely with the organisation and its values.

Each level of engagement is influenced by specific issues, and it is possible to assess these drivers and compare different departments and business units. The focus is on the factors that impact on performance, motivation and commitment — and the steps required to achieve improvement.

Key issues highlighted by the process may relate to employee turnover or how to develop talent. The approach is research-backed and more focused than a traditional job satisfaction survey.

Building on the results of employee engagement profiling, follow-up interventions can be focused more effectively, ensuring maximum ROI (return on investment) on any expenditure relating to training or development. The profiling report highlights relative strengths and weaknesses within the organisation (and across different regions, business units and critical demographic categories).

Transforming managers into leaders should form part of a strategic human resource management system that is based on evidence, not traditional assumptions or outdated theory.

There are now a range of online tools that are research-based, and easily accessed, which support leadership development and add focus to employee engagement initiatives.

Article by David Sharpley, an international management consultant and chartered psychologist. For more information on his masterclass workshops and online resources, e-mail david@pario-innovations.com