For decades, women in management and upper-level positions have been taught to act more like men. But a recent article from Gallup suggests that men should add a feminine touch to their leadership strategy to improve employee engagement.
Gallup’s 2015 State Of The American Manager Report analyzed four decades of research on the engagement of 27 million employees in 195 countries. The report found both male and female employees with female bosses report higher engagement than those who work for male bosses. In fact, female bosses outscored males in 11 of 12 engagement categories, including being supportive in areas like employee progress and development.
So why take a lesson from the ladies? It’s simple. Better leadership correlates to higher financial performance, according to a study of 1,263 CEOs and HR directors across 85 countries by the Boston Consulting Group, published in March.
In the study, companies that ranked strongest on 20 leadership and talent management capabilities increased revenues 2.2 times as fast and profits 1.5 times as fast as “talent laggards,” or companies that ranked weakest in these areas.
Here are some practices that make female bosses more engaging and how managers can use them to lead employees more effectively:
1. To begin with, they are more engaged themselves.
Part of what gives these ladies an advantage in leading others is their own personal attitude and views toward their work. Gallup found 41 percent of female managers are engaged at work — more than male managers (only 35 percent). Additionally, female employees working under female bosses were found to be the most engaged group surveyed.
A leader’s own engagement has a profound affect on who they lead, which is why it makes sense to see more engaged employees working under leaders who take pride in their work on a deep level. To improve employees engagement, leaders need to improve their own.
Treat the day like a blank canvas on which to paint a mural of accomplishments. Find at least one thing to be grateful for everyday and enjoy the small things, like a nice email, for instance.
2. They encourage development.
Employees working for females are 1.26 times more likely than employees working for males to strongly agree there is someone at work who encourages their development, Gallup found. Obviously, lady bosses know how to give their employees a vision of a bright future.
Think of ways to help employees develop their skills for their future career endeavors. Craft tasks to be stimulating and challenging to inspire growth. Help employees set goals. Try an app like Pico to track employee progress and provide support when employees need it.
3. They provide regular feedback.
Those working under lady leaders are 1.29 times more likely than those working under males leaders to say that someone has talked to them about their progress recently, according to Gallup. This shows female managers tend to provide regular feedback to help their employees achieve goals more than male managers.
Employees need feedback so they can improve areas that may otherwise hinder their career growth. Give regular feedback to employees. Use an app like Engagedly to encourage conversations, share ideas and inspire communication among the team.
4. They use positive reinforcement.
Gallup also found employees under female bosses are 1.17 times more likely than those under male bosses to say they have received recognition or praise for good work within the last week.
Become more sensitive and attuned to employee effort or performance. Recognize and praise employees publicly, vocally and sincerely for great work. Leave a thank you note, either hand-written or digital on an app like Engagedly. Mention stand-out employees in a company-wide email.
5. They are perceived as more honest and ethical.
Thirtyone percent of people consider women in top positions in business to be more honest and ethical than men, as opposed to a tiny 3 percent who said the opposite, according to research conducted in November 2014 by Pew, examining responses from 1,835 U.S. adults.
It seems fit that someone perceived as honest and ethical would also be more approachable as a leader. That’s good news for engagement too, since Gallup found employees whose managers are open and approachable are more engaged.
As honest and ethical as a leader may be, employee perception is what counts. To be more approachable, invite employees to chat with leadership openly about any issues they have at work. Show employees leaders are dedicated to helping them have a happier and healthier work environment. Employees will notice and find it easier to feel like an engaged member of the team.
By Heather Huhman