Teams who score highly on engagement tend to attribute their high scores to team spirit, with the line manager an important part of its creation. This is according to research by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) – the latest in the Engaging Manager series.

The research found that line managers can improve performance through praise, getting ‘stuck in’ when needed, and encouraging ideas. A strategic focus helped, letting individuals know the part they could play within the overall ‘big picture’. Good line managers also have an improvement focus, coaching and mentoring people to do better. Engaging managers were not afraid of change and also helped create an atmosphere for innovation by not focusing on blame.

Dilys Robinson, Principal Research Fellow at IES, and one of the authors of the report, says:

“Teams are very appreciative of a good manager who treats them with respect. Managers are human and can be forgiven for occasional lapses, as long as the employee feels they have been treated with courtesy and recognised as an individual.

“The overwhelming image of leaders today is a rather negative (and very male) one, with politicians, chief executives in banks, aggressive entrepreneurs on TV reality shows, and ‘charismatic’ leaders all having lost currency. It does beg the question of what can we expect from line managers if these are the role models they are surrounded by?

“If line managers are confused about how to behave, it could be because their senior teams are not leading by example – yet, at this time of continuing economic uncertainty and cutbacks in the public, private and third sectors, line managers are expected to keep their staff engaged.”

The report recommends six areas to avoid for those who want to be engaging managers:

1. Never hope it will go away.
2. Never have a bad day.
3. Don’t be part of the problem.
4. Don’t encourage discord and don’t play games to keep people on their toes or to enhance competitiveness.
5. Don’t manage performance before people.
6. Don’t hide, even if you are naturally shy and retiring.

The Engaging Manager research is being used by IES to develop a 360° assessment tool focusing on engaging and disengaging managerial behaviour. This tool helps managers understand the impact of their people management behaviours, and is currently being developed from a paper-based to an electronic product. IES has so far worked with British Gas and Family Action to develop the tool, and will be testing the electronic version with further volunteers over the next few months.