Why engaged managers matter
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Why engaged managers matter

2 years ago · 3 min read

People often talk about their bosses. Good bosses foster positive work environments where employees thrive, while a bad boss can prompt talented employees to look for another job.

Management style affects everything from workplace morale, retention rates, and overall company productivity, according to Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA/CITP, CGMA, vice president of finance and human resources for the International Legal Technology Association, based in Chicago.

A November 2018 survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK found that 43% of respondents attribute work stress to their supervisor’s management style. Stress can be toxic, affecting a person’s overall health.

We spoke with Pittelkow Kittner, who was also recognized by the AICPA as 2019’s Outstanding Young CPA, and she shared her thoughts on how managers can engage employees so that everyone thrives.

Build personal relationships. It’s important for managers to build meaningful relationships with their team members to ensure each one feels appreciated.

“When people care about you as a person individually, you trust them, and you want to succeed collectively with them,” Pittelkow Kittner said.

She said the best boss she ever had checked in on her personally at the start of every workday. This manager even met her at a doctor’s office with cupcakes in hand after she received some tough news.

Tailor your management style. Pittelkow Kittner noted that autonomy is becoming more and more important to employees, particularly for some who work remotely. People don’t like to be told how to do their jobs, she said. It’s more effective to set goals and tell them what needs to get done.

“They want to be able to map out their own course toward that end goal, and people are going to have different approaches to meeting that end goal,” she said.

Good managers see their employees as individuals and customize their management style for each person. To do this, you have to know your employees and what they need from you.

“I have multiple people on my team, and I manage them differently because I know that their needs are different,” Pittelkow Kittner said. “Some of them work more independently, and others need a few more checkpoints just to make sure they feel more confident in the approach that they're taking to meet their goals.”

Start simple. Pittelkow Kittner listed some things managers can do to build connections with their employees and make sure everyone feels heard and appreciated.

  • Smile when people walk in the door in the morning, and ask about their evening.

  • Check in consistently with people, not just during performance reviews.

  • Celebrate life events. A birthday card goes a long way toward making someone feel

  • Recognize people publicly for a job well done. But save constructive criticism for
    private conversations.

  • Encourage people to talk about the positives in their lives. Pittelkow Kittner starts team meetings by going around the room and asking people to share a positive event from the past day.

“This small act of starting with positive puts people in a much better
mental place, especially on Monday mornings,” she said. “And we connect better
as a team since we talk about more than just work, and we celebrate each other’s
personal successes.”

Deliver and take honest feedback. Delivering constructive feedback to your employees is a crucial management skill but needs to be done in the proper environment with the right purpose in mind, Pittelkow Kittner said.

It’s not a good idea to criticize someone publicly, she said. It puts people on edge and builds distrust.

“When people believe that managers generally care about their advancement, feedback for improvement is much easier to hear and then implement,” Pittelkow Kittner said. “Creating a caring work environment also creates a safe environment emotionally, where people are comfortable and can focus more on the work and will get more done.”

Engaged managers also need feedback from people they trust, she said. Managers should ask for critiques and respect the opinions of their team.

Some people avoid conflict, and the same problems persist for years. While the conversation might be uncomfortable for a few minutes, it will prevent problems from festering and continuing, Pittelkow Kittner said. Conflict is an expected part of being a professional and is necessary for business.

It’s important to remember that being a “nice” manager and a “good” manager are not mutually exclusive, she said.

“Once you have that mindset of, ‘The nicest thing that I can do is just be honest and transparent and provide accountability for my people,’” she said, “you will improve your employee development, and you’ll elevate overall company performance.”

A supportive and honest manager will help employees thrive and the business succeed.

Taylor Knopf is a freelance journalist based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, a senior editor on the Magazines & Newsletters team at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.

Listen to the podcast
Interested in hearing more of the conversation with Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA/CITP, CGMA, then the head of finance for the International Legal Technology Association? Click here to listen to the full podcast.

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