Frontline Managers, People Skills & EAPs: A Winning Formula for Improving Employee Engagement

What happens when you have a winning product and/or business strategy but your managers have poor people skills?

Lost opportunity is what happens.

Failure to capitalize is what happens.

Your business loses is what happens.

Even the best business strategies do not implement themselves.

They require communication, coordination, alignment, and efficiency.

In other words, they require leaders with strong people skills:

  1. Self-awareness: The ability to understand and manage what you are feeling (including stress) and how you are coming across to the people around you.
  1. Self-control: The ability to override impulses and fluctuations in mood so they don’t interfere with the achievement of goals.
  1. Empathy: The ability to understand what the people around you are feeling.
  1. Interpersonal skills: Being able to communicate effectively (includes listening and receiving/giving feedback), promote teamwork, resolve conflicts, bring out the best in people, delegate effectively and positively influence the motivation and performance of others.

No matter what industry you’re in. No matter how rapidly markets and technology are changing. These are the core people skills that foster successful performance.

These are the leadership competencies that lead to employee engagement, better problem-solving, improved teamwork and the achievement of business objectives.

The bad news is that, according to the recent State of the American Manager report from Gallup, only 10% of managers possess this winning combination of people skills and “the majority of managers are miscast.”

The good news is that these skills can be taught. They are observable, controllable and teachable.

The best models for teaching these skills include the following elements:

  1. Skill assessment: Helps the individual take stock of their current competencies and knowledge and stimulates an appetite for change and skill development.
  1. Skill learning: Sets out the desired leadership behaviors and principles and the underlying rationale for why they are crucial to business success.
  1. Skill demonstration: Case studies that provide examples of successful and unsuccessful leadership.
  1. Skill practice: Opportunities to practice the skills and receive feedback and assistance.
  1. Skill application: Opportunities to apply the skills to actual business situations and receive ongoing guidance.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are uniquely positioned to help organizations develop systematic processes to groom and train frontline managers and supervisors in these people skills because EAPs remain linked with the organization long after the classroom training phase of the program ends.

EAPs are able to provide the personalized consultation and guidance that supervisors need once they begin applying their new skills in actual business situations.

It’s a false choice to think managers need to be either hard driving and task focused or supportive and team oriented.

They need to be both to be successful in today’s hyper competitive and continuously changing business environment.

Organizations who want to build smarter and higher performing teams need leaders who are people smart.

Your EAP can play a key role in helping ensure that your frontline managers are up to the challenge.

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