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I read a cynical article in Forbes this week with the title "The Employee Engagement Hoax". I have provided the hyperlink to the article if you'd like to read it. The focus of the article is the notion of employee "engagement with the mission" and makes the point that rather than conducting annual engagement surveys, leaders at every level of the organization should be focused on actually engaging with their direct reports.

Global research published in 2009 by Towers Watson, which analyzed 40 companies over three years, showed that organizations with a highly engaged workforce had a superior financial performance (a 5.75 percent difference in operating margins and a 3.44 percent difference in net profit margins) than did low-engagement workplaces. It's clear that engagement is good for the bottom line and yet far too many organizations fail to put in the appropriate time, effort and energy into improving engagement on a daily basis.


 
 
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In most organizations the front line leader (aka the "hiring manager") are the main point of contact for 75 to 80 percent of the people that make up the organization. The individual contributors within an organization look to their direct supervisor as the link between them and the organization's strategic plan. The problem is that once they're in this front line leadership role many are left to their own devices. They either sink or swim but the impact on the people that report to them can have serious implications to the performance of the organization. Just check out the employee engagement results in most organizations.

Here are 5 reasons that you should be investing more time, effort and money into developing the leadership capabilities of your organization:


 
 
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I read an article last week that was titled "You Can't Learn To Swim By Reading About It" that got me thinking about how little time organizations and individual leaders invest in practicing the skills associated with coaching for performance. Perhaps as Amanda Knight suggested in her comment to the blog I published last week "the challenge many face is committing to the time and discipline that is needed, especially in 'now' focused, 'get 'er done' environments". 

I think most are familiar with the 10,000 hour theory that has been applied to world class athletes. Maybe it's the thought that committing that much time becoming great at coaching is too daunting a task that's holding back leaders and organizations from developing the requisite skills to coach effectively. The good news is that after I read that article last week I did a little research on learning how to swim. I now understand that I can make significant improvements in my swimming stroke in just 6 practice sessions. The key is deliberate practice.


 
 
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There's a definite link between behavior and the ability to take a strategic approach. That being said, individuals and organizations can develop the capacity to think strategically. A recent large scale, global study evaluated the leadership practices and effectiveness of 60,000 managers and executives in 162 countries and 28 industries. 

The study found that found that a strategic approach to leadership was, on average, 10 times more important to the perception of effectiveness than other behaviors studied. It was twice as important as communication (the second most important behavior) and almost 50 times more important than hands-on tactical behaviors. (This doesn't mean that tactical behaviors aren't important, but they don't differentiate the highly effective leaders from everyone else.)