Among the top qualities a business requires of its managers and leaders, their ability to motivate employees is key.
A 10% increase in employee engagement can make for a profit boost of more than $2000 per member of staff. If a manager has truly succeeded in motivating their employees, they are also less likely to call in sick, and more likely to cultivate a strong team spirit and to share their enthusiasm with clients and customers. Motivational skills are themselves a composite of many of the other strengths expected of a manager. A boss who is creative, engaged, and focused will find their enthusiasm is contagious. And that creative engagement should be applied not just to the business, but to the individuals they lead. When a boss displays genuine interest in both the job at hand and the human personalities around them, they have the beginnings of that elusive quality: charisma.
But leadership isn't just about soft skills like these. To be a successful manager, leaders should develop these traits alongside professional managerial skills and competencies.
“Managers need to understand how each of their employees tick and what motivates them to come to work in the morning.” says Kerstin Alfes, Professor for Organisation and Human Resource Management and Academic Director of the MBA in International Management at ESCP Europe Campus Berlin.
“Every employee is different and has his or her own challenges and ambitions, and therefore a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works in motivating employees.”
The secret to tailoring individual motivation strategies is communication. A boss who holds regular meetings is three times as likely to engage their employees as one who doesn’t.
Daily communication between a boss and their staff through a combination of face-to-face, phone, and email contact, increases engagement. It ensures the employee knows that their manager cares, and allows the manager to get to know his crew individually and modify his approach. Responding to messages within 24 hours shows an employee their boss respects them and values their work.
It is this sense of value that defines a worker’s passion for their job.
“Employees show higher levels of engagement if they find meaning in their role,” continues Alfes. “For example, a teacher can make an impact by fostering a student’s learning experience; a controller can make an impact by presenting data to his/her colleagues in a useful way; and a consultant can make an impact by developing innovative business solutions for his/her clients.”
Empathy is crucial to this relationship. A manager who hands out tasks and targets with no sense of how it is to be in their employee’s shoes may struggle to keep their team engaged.
Basing performance management on clear goals keeps everyone on the same page. When an employee is clear on what their manager expects of them, they have one less obstacle to achieving excellence. Bosses who provide meaningful, measurable performance parameters have been shown to have more engaged workforces than those who don’t. That means using realistic but emotive everyday terms, involving employees in planning sessions, and checking in regularly as a team and one-to-one.
“It is important that the feedback [managers] give is focused on what employees can improve in the future (feed-forward), rather than the mistakes that they have done in the past,” says Alfes.
“Managers should show appreciation for the work that employees have done. This can be a thank-you card after an employee has completed a specific project, or an award for stellar performance, or any other creative means to show recognition.
“Importantly, showing recognition does not necessarily involve a monetary reward - non-monetary rewards can be equally or even more powerful in fostering employee motivation."
The ESCP Europe MBA in International Management is an ideal place to learn these skills. The program is accredited by the Association of MBAs, and students complete it over two of ESCP Europe's campuses in Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Turin, and Warsaw.
The MBA provides courses in different leadership styles which students explore during group work and internships. The Professors practice what they preach, offering one-on-one coaching sessions to engage management students and fine-tune their skills.
Says Professor Kerstin Alfes: "The majority of leadership behaviors are learned throughout our lives. We all have role models that have influenced us during our upbringing, and we have probably had good and bad leadership experiences in our previous working lives that have shaped our vision of leadership and helped us to develop certain leadership skills. Managers can therefore change or adapt their leadership style.
“I believe that reflecting upon our own approach to leadership and being able to amend it when needed, is an important skill in order to be an effective leader in a changing business environment.”
This reflective approach is just one of many management skills a student can pick up en route to business success via ESCP Europe’s MBA in International Management.
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