Thursday, 31 January 2013

Smiling Sunny Faces

Today I am writing this post while enjoying the sunlight coming through the window into the living room, making it warmer and shining.

With that, I recall a research project conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), 'The Engaging Manager' (2009) aimed at identifying the behaviours and competences of engaging managers.

Among the varying tools used by the researchers, there were pictures: participants were asked to draw a picture that represented how they saw an engaging manager. Several themes emerged however, the most popular picture of all, was a smiling sunny face. This represented the positive impact of engaging managers and their warm, motivating approach.

I read the report with great deal of interest and I believe it could be considered a good source of reference for any manager who would like to engage with their staff.

While as always I encourage you to enjoy the original source, below I report some of the findings highlighted by the IES study:

  • SELF-AWARENESS: Engaging managers in general have high level of self-awareness. They learn from their mistakes, consciously adopting engaging behaviours, modify how they do things and become more aware of themselves and their impact on others.

  • COMMUNICATION: Effective listening as well as explaining is an essential feature of engaging management. They seeks the views of their teams, involve them in decision-making and explain things in a straightforward, open and clear way.

  • TIME SPENT ON INTERACTING WITH OTHERS: Engaging managers do not allow workload pressures to get in the way of the day-to-day interaction. They spend considerable amount of time interacting with others.

  • EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING: Engaging managers are empathetic and understand their team members as individuals. This allow them to allocate work, support the team and develop people appropriately. Also, they are good at helping their team to become more self-aware themselves. Their teams appreciate them for being treated with respect and recognition, being praised and listened to.

  • PERFORMANCE FOCUSED: Engaging managers have a performance focus, manage high-achieving teams and they are quick at tackle poor performance or difficult individuals. They are clear about expected standards, behaviours and objectives, and monitor team achievements closely.

  • WHEN BREAKING BAD NEWS: Engaging managers set it into context, explain why it has to be done, for the good of the organisation. They do this with honesty and integrity, allowing people to be better able to cope with and understand any changes that happen, even those that are not at their advantage.

  • IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE OF THE ORGANISATION: Engaging managers have an in-depth knowledge of their organisation and how their role fits into the bigger picture. Also, they tend to be extensive internal networkers.

  • MAKING JOBS INTERESTING: Engaging managers try to make jobs interesting and enjoyable, although they also expect their teams to tackle unpopular tasks when necessary. However, they themselves are willing to help and see themselves as part of the team as well as its manager.


The report distills much more valuable information and it also describes the elements of disengaging behaviours. Indeed, it is important not only to adopt positive approaches but also to avoid the negative, disruptive ones in order to engage.

As the IES study highlights, for people and organisations to shine, engaging managers – SMILING SUNNY FACES - are key.