Managing Teams

Managing in the Great Recession: Connector Managers Boost Team Success

Managing in the Great Recession: Connector Managers Boost Team Success

It’s no surprise that the business world is anything but usual these days. In September 2021, 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs, the sixth month in a row this figure exceeded pre-pandemic levels and leading experts to call this period “The Great Resignation.” 

There are many reasons for these mass resignations, but how is traditional leadership contributing to workers’ impulses to quit? According to a panel at the Gartner ReimagineHR conference, “Employees no longer want the traditional employment value proposition, instead they want a more human deal with their employers where they are recognized as people, not just workers.”

What type of leader is faring the best with employees, then? The “Connector manager,” a leadership style Gartner defines as someone who coaches and develops their employees, rather than only considering what they can offer the company. 

“The Connector manager approach inherently puts employees’ needs at the center. It creates an environment where team members empower one another for success, and individual employees can access the right development opportunities and coaches for their career needs,” said Sari Wilde, Managing Vice President, Gartner HR Practice. 

In practice, employees managed by Connectors feel empowered to grow, not just in their current roles but as people and professionals. So, in this period of mass resignations, Connector managers may suggest employees simplify their childcare by working at home twice a week, for instance. 

Curious about this leadership style? Here are the key characteristics of Connector managers. 

Connector managers trust their employees

Some managers think they need to use time-tracking devices or to monitor precisely when their employees arrive and leave the office. These tactics don’t convey a sense of trust, however. Rather, they make employees feel like they are being over-scrutinized, and that their managers, as representatives of the company as a whole, don’t think they’ll be productive without oversight. 

“Trust and empowerment are the foundation for growth and innovation, and for building a company people want to work for,” Josh Cyphers of Nvoicepay argued

They build a collective

When individuals feel trusted by their managers, they are more likely to want to commit to the company’s mission. These empowered individuals can then value and work together as teams committed to a shared objective. 

At the same time, connector managers identify and use all of their team members’ strengths. They don’t expect – or want – everyone to think like they do. Instead, they recognize how a diversity of opinions leads to growth. 

“They build productive learning relationships in which employees not only hold one another accountable for development, but also motivate and encourage team members to succeed. Teams led by Connector managers are significantly more likely to have team members recognize each other’s successes and contributions,” Jackie Wiles for Gartner notes. 

Connector manager-led teams feel connected to one another, and if one person is not successful in their contributions, they are helped and supported, rather than ostracized and judged. 

What’s more, Connectors create more Connectors. When employees are empowered by their managers, they are more likely to adopt this managerial style themselves. In this way, organizations can develop a culture of Connector managers where this style is the norm, not an outlier. 

They value their teams’ success

Some managers may be too worried about their personal contributions and successes. This individual overinvolvement can lead them to miss out on ways they can guide their employees’ wins by offering them guidance, resources, and advice. 

In turn, Connector managers recognize that their team’s success is their success.

“Connectors deeply value team success and enjoy celebrating it publicly. They enjoy talking about their teams’ achievements almost three times as much as they enjoy talking about their own,” Jackie notes. 

They listen to feedback from their teams

Some managers may not want feedback from their teams, especially if they promote a hierarchical leadership structure where they are absolute authorities. In this kind of power structure, team members may also feel uncomfortable offering advice to their managers, even if they do request it. 

Connector managers, on the other hand, demonstrate how valuable team feedback is to them by making time for it and integrating what they learn into their operations. On average, this type of manager spends at least an hour more learning from colleagues than other types of leaders do.

Becoming a Connector

Not every manager is innately a Connector leader. Gartner notes four managerial styles most people adopt. However, Connector leaders are objectively more effective; they have a unique ability to boost their team’s performance by up to 26 percent in studies from the organization. 

Even if you are not a Connector manager based on disposition or preferences, that doesn’t mean you can’t adopt some of these qualities to make your team feel more empowered. 

“While some people gravitate naturally toward the Connector approach, anyone can adjust their management style to become a Connector — if they know what it takes,” said Jackie.


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