A tall, double espresso with wings. Sounds a lot like a Starbucks' coffee call. With a little imagination it could also be the order of the day for managerial skills, although not exactly the job description one would expect to find in the classifieds. There are similarities, however. Perhaps demystifying the lingo in the relevant context will reveal some of the qualities sought in today's manager.
So, while in the coffee cafe you would be asking for a very large, double shot of espresso to go. In an organisational framework ‘tall' alludes to the figurative stature managers require to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said and in the right way; ‘double' indicates the nature of conversation (because any meaningful interaction takes at least two); and the ‘wings' - these are essential to maintain constant flow.
As for the ‘espresso', well, literally, the word encapsulates an intense coffee beverage brewed by forcing hot water under pressure through finely ground coffee. Due to the pressurised brewing process, all the flavours and chemicals in a typical cup of coffee are highly concentrated. It's powerful stuff and as such constitutes the base for other drinks. The origin of the term espresso also conveys a sense of ‘expressly or, just for you'. There is definite focus on people.
Those passionate about their coffee know that a poorly pulled espresso ruins the entire coffee experience. Creating the perfect cup is part science and part art because espresso is not a bean, it is a method.
Much like brewing an espresso, a manager operates under intense pressure, merging myriad facets to produce excellence: managing change; regulating, co-ordinating and integrating function; inspiring people; mapping information; innovating processes; focusing on outcomes; identifying and implementing best practice; cultivating culture; and seeing and sharing the ‘big picture'. It's a tall order. Part science and part art, too. Maybe slightly more art - because success as a manager depends largely on motivated employees rather than on business tactics - and simply cannot be produced without the fundamental ingredient of communication. Good, quality communication.
It may sound obvious, but it's by no means simple. Doing it well rests on integrity, practice and consistency. A little like the barrister seeking to perfect the brew.
It's also dynamic. To communicate managers need to connect and understand who they are talking to; inform their audience by crafting messages with the right content and the right context; engage them through the appropriate channel of delivery; and seek feedback. This takes skill and conscious effort. But doing it successfully will ensure employees at all levels understand and buy into business goals. Accomplishment and effectiveness in the workplace depend on how people share, interpret and exchange information. The communication process inculcates this connectedness. And employees need to feel connected before they will deliver excellence.
Creating this sense of connection assumes managers know who their people are, really; what they need; and what matters to them. Like producing an espresso - the focus is on people.
This is important for managers who seek to instill an organisational culture where people trust them, where they are committed to working towards achieving company goals, where they feel understood, and where they know how they fit in. Essentially, where they are engaged.
This is not merely in the merit of creating a warm fuzzy, group hug kind of vibe. Engagement, or lack thereof, impinges on the bottom line, because the single largest driver of desired behavioural outcomes is the strength of the communication link between managers and their people.
Research shows employees are nine times out of ten more likely to support a change if they hear it from their manager. In one study, companies with high levels of employee commitment increased operating margins by 3.74% and profit margins by 2.06% over three years. Those with low levels saw their margins decline by 2.01% and 1.38% respectively (Source: International Survey Research).
According to a Watson Wyatt survey, the return to shareholders in organisations with highly committed employees is 36% higher than companies with low commitment. Those organisations with optimised engagement have 2.6 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organisations in the same industry with lower engagement (Source: Gallup).
Equally significant is the loss incurred due to a lack of engagement: according to Gallup, within the US workforce, the cost of disengagement amounts to more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.
As communicators and the key medium in employee engagement, managers wield great power and influence. Their clout constitutes a formidable springboard for action. They just need to know how to tap into it to achieve business objectives.
If only creating an engaged environment was as simple as ordering a cuppa on the go.
Most organisations face the challenge of making their managers better communicators. Managers need to master the art of crafting content, forming the context, fostering conversation and seeking feedback. A process that is inherently fluid and infinite.
And as with the seemingly effortless practice of ordering a specific coffee drink, managers should never underestimate the power of speech. Meaningful conversation between managers and employees allows probing, fosters understanding and facilitates reflection. This is intrinsic to generating shared understanding about business goals and the activity needed to reach them.
Information in itself is insufficient. It is the interaction that generates the momentum for change. Fortunately there is an abundance of tools managers can utilise to stimulate conversation. In a hi-tech world, more and more managers need to harness hi-touch techniques. They need to develop and access a range of low-tech resources. They need to ensure their cups are full. And at all times they need to demystify the lingo.
They may even see their reflection in a tall, double, espresso with wings.