12: The Elements of Great Managing – Book review & Actionable insights

Marius Vetrici
CEO wpriders
February 1, 2017

It took me around 12 months to read and internalize the ideas from the book 12: The Elements of Great Managing” by Rodd Wagner and James Harter.

I will only say that the authors wrote the book after interviewing 10.000 people on their work job. Full stop. You just need to read the book.

The book helped us a lot in shaping our organizational culture, therefore I would like to share with you some of our insights and actions that we are trying to do on a regular basis.

Today I’ll tell you about the first 3 elements of great managing out of this wonderful book as well as some personally actionable insights.

Why Employee Engagement is Important

Highly engaged employees translate into:

  • higher individual productivity (18% higher)
  • higher customer satisfaction
  • fewer sick leave days (27% lower)
  • fewer work accidents (62% more accidents happen in companies with low employee engagement)
  • lower employee turnover (turnover is 51% higher in companies with low employee engagement)
  • lower stock theft rates (51% theft rate higher in companies with low employee engagement)
  • higher profitability (12% higher)

If you [the company] care, we[the employees] do care as well!

1. Making sure employees know what’s expected of them

This is is the foundation of management.
Clearly define the roles in the company as well as what every role has to do.

How are we doing it

Write a detailed Job Description. A real Job Description, not just an administrative yada-yada.

Talk with your employee about every sentence from that Job Description and make sure they understand what’s expected of them.

On a daily basis, define as clearly as possible the scope of each web development task.

Take time to understand what customer wants and needs, then write down the necessary functional specifications + draw up some mockups for the visual interface if needed.

2. Materials and Equipment

Productivity can’t get off the ground if employees don’t have the right materials and equipment

How are we doing it

  • We work on the best in class Mac Book Pro Retina with 15”.
  • Every employee has 1-2 external monitors (apart from the laptop).
  • We are using the best Logitech mouse out there and it’s worth the money 🙂
  • We buy all the necessary furniture (high quality chairs, etc.)
  • We buy all the software licenses they need to be productive
  • On a regular basis, I ask my colleagues what else they need to do a better job.
  • On a regular basis I ask ask my colleagues how we can do our job better/faster/more efficient.

3. The Opportunity to Do What I Do Best

You are one of a kind. Genetically you are different than all the other fellows and this makes you good at some things and completely unfit for doing other things.

Just as some are born tall and are good at basketball, others are born with neurons for math, or for music, or for cooking and so on.

It is difficult to do something that you are not.

As a manager, do you best to match the right person with the right job.

My role as a manager is to help my employees discover their unique abilities, to create the right environment for them to grow those abilities, to foster them and to make people thrive at work.

How are we doing it

Ask employee candidates during job interviews: “What are you really good at?”

Then I make sure I allign these unique skills with the tasks and projects that we have. Moreover, I do my best to contract those projects that we have people that are “really good at”, so as to deliver maximum value and quality!

I try to take every employee on a one-on-one lunch once every 1-2 months. I ask him/her how does she feel about the job, what do they like and dislike about the job.

I try to just listen and do my best to understand and get to know them as much as they are allowing me to.

This is part 2 of the article and book review about how to manage a WordPress team and how to create a healthy and strong organization culture.

In case you missed part 1, you can find it here.

4. Recognition and Praise for Good Work

Employees that receive Recognition And Praise For Good Work (RAPFoGoW) on a regular basis are 50% less likely to leave the company during the next year. RaPFoGoW is the simplest yet the most overlooked opportunity in the business world.

The book recommends observing what things have been done well and then vocally expressing your appreciation. You can do this both in private as well as in public, in front of other colleagues.

How are we doing it

I trust my employees and their consciousness. I trust that they’ll make the best decision under the given circumstances. If they will make a mistake, then that’s going to be a valuable lesson learned for them as well as for me as a manager. You may ask, but hey, dude, isn’t it dangerous, to trust your employees and to let them make mistakes? Well, you unbelievers 😃 my answer to you is: choose the right employees before investing them with your trust. But that’s a completely different story.

Observe what are they doing well, observe their initiatives. Then show them that you’ve noticed, express recognition, and praise them.

Every 7 days ask myself: did I noticed something good at my employees. Did I articulate that?

5. Someone at Work Cares About Me as a Person

Create the feeling of a tribe. Let every employee feel like a full-time member of that tribe, not just another number on the paper. Whenever people feel treated as human beings, they start bonding and creating emotional ties to their peers, their work, to the clients, and company. As consequence, studies show that employees cheat less at their workplace. Bottom line: when someone cares about them, they start caring as well!

How are we doing it

Be human and show that you are a human being yourself: acknowledge if you make a mistake, accept you are not perfect, talk openly about your mistakes and what are you doing/changing to avoid this in the future.

Do whatever it takes to be human.

Say Good morning! Really look at your peers and see how they are feeling today. Give them a few mindful moments of undivided attention. Be present when you listen to them. Keep looking at them when they talk to you. Ask your employees what is their spouse/kids doing? And… listen…

Wanna get better at listening? Here’s a terrific resource: Listening First Aid by Gregorio Billikopf

I’ve noticed that our employees like to have a very good coffee in the morning. Therefore, we make sure we have a good supply of high-quality coffee.

I do my best to take care of the emotional well-being of the team. Our team organizes “pizza” evenings, Xbox or board games events.

One thing about which I disagree with the book: the book recommends publicly displaying individual results so that people will get inspired and will get more ambitious. I could have displayed the hours every developer spends on a daily basis, how much money every developer makes for our company, etc. But I feel this will foster competition rather than cooperation. And this is completely against our cooperation-based, tribe-like culture.

6. Someone at Work Encourages My Development

Employees need clarity over their day-to-day activity, both for what and for how. This is especially true for new employees.

A good mentor assigned to the newcomer is a sure path to getting the new employee up to speed and top engagement as quickly as possible. The mentor will watch and encourage the growth and development of the new employee, will help him/her with the on-boarding, with understanding the processes and the general flow.

Actually, the book tells us that only 1% of those who don’t have a mentor is able to reach full engagement in the company.

This one management element is an important condition for promoting all the other elements inside your team. A good mentor will patiently show and teach how are things being done here both technically, but most importantly, culturally. He/she will transmit all the values of your company to the new employee at a practical level and will show the way you apply our values on a day-to-day basis.

Having a good mentor is also a key to fulfilling the other element: the right person for the right job. The mentor will be well connected to his mentee, will know and understand his strengths and weaknesses, and will be able to guide and advise both the mentee and the management in assigning the mentee to a specific project.

How are we doing it

We have a very talented and dedicated developer-mentor on our team that takes care of the wellbeing and onboarding of the newcomers.

I personally tell my employees: I would like to know you as much as possible, as much as you are allowing me to. The better I know you, the more I can help you be better at this job.

It’s important to have a mentor at the office even if you are not a newcomer anymore. Therefore, we are functioning like a support group where everyone jumps in whenever something needs to be fixed/decided.

Encourage your new employees, acknowledge that they might have a hard time adapting. Ask them to give themselves some time 😃

I do my best to invest in the relationship with every employee.

I do my best to fulfill their true potential, to find the place that will match their innate skills, and to make them thrive.

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