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Book:  12: The Elements of Great Managing

Author:  Rodd Wagner & James Harter

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Wagner, R. & Harter, J. (2006). 12 : the elements of great managing. New York, NY: Gallup Press.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. The most engaged employees say their manager made relatively minor accommodations, aggressively petitioned for new items, and was generally vigilant in looking for new ways to make his team more effective. They make individual accommodations for employees. (pg. 25)

  2. As long as an employee accomplishes the goals for which he is responsible, without any harm along the way, how he gets there does not matter. I have worked with leaders whose style is so totally different to my own that I have found it incomprehensible that they achieve results, but nevertheless they do. (pg. 41)

  3. While for other workgroups the yearly or semi-annual appraisal can be an anxiety-laden confrontation between employee and company, a better approach is to simply summarize and commit to paper hundreds of discussions that occurred along the way. (pg. 153)


Other Key Ideas:

To create clarity of expectations every supervisor should know their goal in every numeric category and know how they are going to get there. This represents the first element of great managing - "I know what is expected of me at work." (pg. 2)

The employee's perception that the company backs him up with the equipment/resources he wants and needs serves as a powerful psychological motivator for employee engagement. The data shows there are few things more frustrating than to want to make a difference at work, and then to then be held back by inadequate resources. (pg. 17)


Subjects who write and deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind but have never been properly thanked was statistically linked to increases in happiness and decreases in depression for up to a month after the communication. These positive changes happened to the person who GAVE the praise. (pg. 58)

Having a mentor when someone is hired is a fundamental, part of the unwritten social contract workers anticipate when they get hired. Also, nothing in the data indicates having a mentor is any less important for senior managers than for newcomers, yet it appears that many companies do not look after the guidance of their longstanding, loyal employees as well as they do those who just arrived. (pg. 81)

Incorporating employee-generated ideas pays back twice. First, the idea itself often is a good one. Second and equally powerful, the at the idea comes from the employees themselves makes it much more likely they will be committed to its execution. (pg. 101)

One of the worst one-two punches to a team's productivity is having a slacker in their midst and a manager who lacks the spine to do anything about it. (pg. 134)

Gallup was tamped to drop the question "I have a best friend at work" if it were not for one stubborn fact: It predicts performance. Something about a deep sense of affiliation with the people in an employee's team drives him to do positive things for the business he otherwise would not do. (pg. 140)

The best managers encourage friendships in the workplace by creating conditions under which such relationships thrive. (pg. 147)

Whether out of fear of confrontation or sheer workload, many managers detest appraisals and delay them, implying to the employee she is not important. (pg. 155)

Be careful about 360-degree feedback - they can inject a juicy aspect of gamesmanship into the process, allowing underlings to fire back at bosses or sideways at colleagues. Such systems are more likely to grade style rather than substance, and usually focus on weakness rather than strengths. (pg. 156)

For all the complexity of performance appraisals - the balanced scorecards, the 360-degree feedback, the self-evaluations and forced grading systems - the statement that shows the best connection between perceptions of evaluations and actual employee performance is remarkably simple: "In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress." (pg. 160)

While individual pay is usually best kept confidential, common knowledge of established salary criteria is important to feelings of fairness. Workers need to know how pay plan goals are established, the pay plan goals themselves, how the plan goals are evaluated, and how the payouts are determined. (pg. 193)

While money itself does not buy engagement, it appears an employee's perception that the company is aggressively looking out for his financial interest leads to productive reciprocation. (pg. 195)

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