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What factors impact managerial effectiveness?

Source | | Fresia Jackson

In our first installment of this manager-focused blog series, we shared what we found from analyzing almost 150,000 managers with ratings from over 2.5 million employees across 2,700 different companies. We covered the basics of where managers were excelling and falling short and how that’s changed since COVID-19. These findings looked at the aggregate insights (i.e., averaging results across all managers), which – while interesting – can obscure meaningful differences. In this article, we’ll go one level deeper by looking at different groups to see what impacts managerial effectiveness.

On the manager side, it’s conceivable that what they have on their plate and the time they have for each direct report would impact their effectiveness. On the direct report side, it’s possible that managers treat direct reports differently based on their experience level in the company.

In this blog, we’ll answer

  • How do manager skills change as they ascend the hierarchy?
  • Does the number of direct reports a manager has really matter?
  • How does the direct report’s tenure affect their managerial experience?

Knowing the answers to these questions may give managers the awareness they need to course-correct, and people teams the insights they need to customize management programs that truly fit and fulfill manager needs.

Our methodology

To explore the factors that impact managerial effectiveness, we again turned to results from Culture Amp’s Manager Effectiveness survey, which covers 10 factors that encompass key manager behaviors.

Direct reports answering the survey assess their manager’s effectiveness with a 5-point Likert scale that ranges from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” If a direct report agrees or strongly agrees with a given statement (e.g., “My manager makes me feel valued”), they are considered favorable. This number is then averaged across all of a given manager’s direct reports.

We used this approach to answer the three questions posed above. Below are our key findings.

1. As managers are promoted to senior leaders, there’s a distinct shift in skills

There’s a plethora of advice available to new managers on everything from what they need to know, the skills they need to develop, to how they can ramp up. But few advice-givers have considered that as a manager gets promoted to higher and higher levels, the skills managers need to be seen as “effective” change, too.

We analyzed a subsection of managers (95,000) for whom we were able to identify the number of management levels below them. We found that some skills show exponential improvement as a manager goes up the hierarchy, while others decline.

In particular, senior leaders (those with 4+ levels of management below them) become more adept at providing vision. They also excel at giving context, like keeping their direct reports informed of what’s happening and aware of how their role contributes to the big picture. But there’s a marked decrease in day-to-day management skills like giving feedback, managing workloads, and understanding the everyday challenges their direct reports face.

Manager skills by level in the organization

These changes illustrate the transformation from manager (prioritizing and executing) to leader (strategizing and motivating).

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