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5 qualities of high-performing managers—and why they matter

Jeff Jokerst | Sep 21, 2017 Jeff Jokerst 09/21/17

It’s unfortunate, but most of us have been there: working a job that leaves you uninspired, unfulfilled, and eventually looking for something more meaningful. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many of us have been fortunate enough to find jobs that feel less like daily grinds and more like careers that tap into our true passions. And if you think back to those jobs that fall into the latter category, chances are they all have one thing in common: high-performing managers.


Quantifying the qualities (and impact) of great leaders

The common adage has always been that leadership skills are intangible—but in our industry, it’s important to put a data point behind everything you can. That’s why we recently worked with one of our employee engagement clients to get a sense of what separates great managers from the rest of the pack—and the impact they have.

First, we established a composite score based on key characteristics. In short, a great manager:

1. Celebrates success: It’s hard to stay engaged with a job when it feels like it doesn’t even matter whether you do it well. A big part of making work feel meaningful is presenting every victory as noteworthy—from day-to-day wins to long-term achievements. If you’re not sure where to start with this one, you can read our past blog on recognition best practices here.

2. Values employees’ opinions and feedback: Nothing puts a bigger damper on the work environment quite like a “My way or the highway” mentality. Great managers don’t just solicit employee feedback—they show they value it by using it to build a more engaging workplace.

3. Gives timely feedback: From the employee’s perspective, it’s not just about how you give them feedback—when you give it matters, too. Timely feedback can be the difference between reprimanding an employee and having another success to celebrate.

4. Makes it easy to get information: The only thing worse than not knowing what to do is not knowing how to find out. Great managers empower employees by putting a system in place that makes it easy for them to get the information they need to excel.

5. Allows employees to take time off if necessary: While policies vary from company to company, we all know things come up that impact our ability to work. High-performing managers are flexible in accommodating those situations, so unexpected issues don’t put jobs in jeopardy.


What impact does a great manager have?

With those 5 key qualities in mind, we calculated composite scores for each manager based on the results of employee surveys. Then we broke out locations into four groups based on how their managers scored to see how they affect other key performance measures. As you might suspect, locations with high-performing managers outperform their counterparts in employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and sales.

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While those high-level measures are obviously critical to the success of the overall business, we also dug a little deeper into the survey results to see just how big of an impact they have on the actual workplace environment. It turns out great managers lead high-performing locations because they’re devoted to developing strong teams. So how do they do that?

  • Training effectively and giving constructive feedback on an ongoing basis
  • Building a work culture on teamwork, respect, and employee recognition
  • Using employee feedback to make informed decisions and take meaningful actions

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Invest in the right leaders

Great managers engage their employees. And engaged employees have an enormous impact on both the customer experience and financial performance. In fact, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%.

But if hiring and developing great managers was easy, every brand would be successful. Like anything worth doing, it takes energy and effort. Knowing which qualities matter, fostering them in your employees, and integrating that knowledge into your hiring criteria is critical to positioning your brand for success at every location.

To see how Caribou Coffee used their employee engagement program to build a winning work culture, check out our case study.

Jeff Jokerst | VP, Client Insights
Grace Black | Sr. Account Manager