40 Years of Research Proves Women Are Better Managers Than Men Because They Tend to Have This Crucial Skill

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In a Gallup report based on over four decades of research, including the analysis of 27 million employees' responses, female managers outperform their male counterparts when it comes to driving employee engagement. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.

Regarding the day-to-day practical evidence, the study found that if you reported to a female manager, you were more likely to reply "yes" to the following statements:

  • "There is someone at work who encourages my development."
  • "In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress."
  • "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work."

Why is this such a big deal? The main reason is that 87 percent of employees worldwide report being disengaged at work. On the flip side, companies that have engaged employees outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. That's a lot of uncapitalized potential.

Let's take a look at the four components of employee engagement that gave women an advantage over their male colleagues.

1. Setting basic expectations.

One of the quickest ways to create confusion and stifle productivity is to be ambiguous about expectations. A major indicator of an engaged employee is ownership over one's role, and it's awfully difficult to take control without baseline responsibilities. To ensure that your employee is crystal clear about their position, make sure you:

  1. Have a job description review and discuss areas of importance, key contributions (what tasks affect others), the potential for impact and areas of accountability.
  2. Lay out the consequences, in a friendly manner, and be consistent. This includes both the positive and negative side-effects of your employee's performance.
  3. Establish clear metrics, key performance indicators, and behavior standards. Everyone wants to understand how they will be evaluated.
  4. Clarify areas where your employee can be autonomous.
  5. Ensure all process-based capabilities are handed down, a.k.a. department "know-how", training, and standard operating procedures.

Word to the wise, be careful about assigning accountability without authority. It's frustrating, as an employee, to be held accountable for something you can't manage or make a decision on.

2. Building relationships.

Great managers understand engagement is an outcome of meaningful relationships. What constitutes a meaningful relationship? Here are some of the top characteristics, as defined by the Mind Tools Editorial Team.

  • Trust -- If you could pick a cornerstone for a good relationship, trust would definitely be the best option. It enables employees to be open, honest, and transparent. You'd be surprised how much energy employees can conserve (and redeploy) by not having to constantly watch their back and question everything they say/do.
  • Mutual Respect -- You can't expect respect without giving it first. We must value everyone's thoughts, ideas, and input. Then, it will be much easier to develop solutions based on collective insight -- a key to engaging your employees in your vision and mission. People don't take direction and learn from those whom they don't respect.
  • Mindfulness -- We must take responsibility for our own actions, words, emotions (or lack thereof), and the effects they can have on those around us. Employees are products of their environments. Make sure you're mindful of the one you're creating.
  • Welcoming Diversity -- "People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. For instance, when your friends and colleagues offer different opinions from yours, you take the time to consider what they have to say, and factor their insights into your decision making." (Mind Tools)
  • Open Communication -- This one is pretty simple: the more we communicate with our employees, the richer our relationships will be.

3. Encouraging a positive team environment.

In efforts to automate and systematize our work, we've become obsessed with computing outcomes and collecting data to drive decisions. Don't get me wrong, data is necessary and there is definitely a place for it, but it does not replace the need for leadership.

Unfortunately, this obsession with measuring throughput and efficiency has created mechanistic management crutches. News flash: people don't thrive in standardized environments. Our employees are naturally different and diverse. Forcing them to conform stifles creativity and limits leaders to the role of a delivery system. Instead, focus on creating a human system, one that is characterized by team harmony, respect and caring for employees' welfare. Then, watch as these humanistic conditions unearth your employees' engagement.

4. Providing employees with opportunities to develop within their careers.

The feeling of stagnation is terrifying. Help your employees stay relevant and challenged by investing in their development. If you don't, others will.

It may seem like engagement is just another buzzword that HR departments throw around to create more work for managers. However, this Gallup report proves that higher levels of engagement produce higher-performing teams. 

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