Manager Effectiveness: 5 Metrics That Matter More than eSat Scores

Managers are the heart of your organization.

But a lot of us haven’t been doing regular heart-health checks.

It’s time to change that.

If you’re judging Manager Effectiveness based on eSat scores, you’re moving too slowly.

eSat scores are lagging indicators of how it’s going. And for many organizations, the underlying drivers of how individual contributors perceive their manager’s level of support are quite clear.

As a starting point, top-performing managers tend to: provide regular coaching, define & implement reasonable team norms, support their team (without micromanaging), elevate and unblock their team via connections to other parts of the company, and routinely engage with team members in-person.

If you’d like to see how managers are doing in each of these key areas, we recommend tracking the following metrics.

1. Great managers provide regular coaching

A lot of Manager Effectiveness work is focused on coaching. And, to be clear, the content of that coaching is certainly critical when you think about skill building across your org.

But the cadence (or frequency) of that coaching is often under-appreciated. We think that’s a mistake.

Consider measuring: Manager 1:1 frequency & cancelation rate

The number of scheduled touch points you have with your manager tends to be highly correlated with positive survey outcomes (as an aside: ad hoc touch points don’t matter all that much). But oftentimes, managers don’t consistently meet with all of their direct reports.

Additionally, how your manager treats your calendar communicates something important about how they value your time.

No doubt, managers often have jam-packed calendars. And they frequently get pulled into last minute fire drills.

But managers who frequently reschedule 1:1s, join them late, or skip altogether (even after accepting the calendar invite) are subtly communicating to their direct reports that they’re not valued. This erodes employee connectedness to the company and increases attrition risk.

2. Great managers define & implement reasonable team norms

We all know that burning the candle at both ends is not sustainable.

If your managers are sending Slack DMs, Teams pings, or emails after-hours, it creates a pressure to respond. Those manager-initiated after-hours messages elongate the workday, which negatively impacts eSat scores and makes it harder for direct reports to get work done.

If I had to pick one metric that’s not getting enough attention, it would be this one.

Consider measuring: Manager-driven disruptions

When a direct report receives a Slack ping from their boss, most will feel pressure to respond immediately – pulling their focus away from whatever they were working on at the time. In fact, response time to manager messages is often 2-3x faster than to peers, and you are much more likely to work after-hours if your manager sends this kind of message with any regularity.

Measuring Manager-Driven Disruption – or the number of times a manager initiates a DM over Slack or Teams – will help raise awareness about what managers can do to protect individual focus time.

3. Great managers support their teams (without micromanaging)

When we speak with new managers, one of their biggest fears is being one of the dreaded micromanagers. And, admittedly, it can feel like there’s a fine line between being an over-involved manager and an absent one.

But that’s why our organizations owe it to managers to arm them with some hard data on how much involvement in day-to-day tasks correlates with the best employee outcomes.

So how involved is your management team in your day-to-day work?

This may feel hard to know. But we’ve got some signals.

Consider measuring: Manager co-attendance & time spent on direct reports’ tickets and docs

Organizations can measure how frequently managers are commenting on JIRA tickets, contributing to code in GitHub, or editing shared gDocs.

All of those signals help us understand a manager’s level of involvement (or detachment) from her team’s day-to-day tasks.

How often your manager joins your meetings is also important.

Depending on your role, your tenure, and your team, the sweet spot for manager co-attendance will vary. But across your organization, you’ll want to note the extremes:

If manager co-attendance is very high, that suggests micromanagement.

If manager co-attendance is very low, there may be disconnection or neglect.

A good rule of thumb for most knowledge workers is for managers to be involved in 20-30% of team member meetings where possible.

4. Great managers elevate and unblock their team via connections to other parts of the company

One of the main things we need from our manager is help getting things done. And in most companies, getting things done means understanding how an org works & having the relationships to move things forward.

Consider measuring: Managers’ cross-team connectivity

Isolated Managers are less effective than those with larger networks. They have fewer connections outside their immediate team and, as a result, often struggle when projects require stakeholders outside their immediate domain.

To truly elevate and unblock team members, managers must also have cross-functional influence. One way you can measure this is by looking at the time managers spend with leaders in other functions and business units. This is a decent proxy for level of visibility and the ease with which a manager could corral cross-functional stakeholders to help their team.

5. Great managers routinely engage with team members in-person

Effective leaders are effective communicators. And while everyone has their own communication style, the data shows that employees prefer some styles over others.

When we were all shoulder-to-shoulder in the office, there was no need to worry about getting face time with the boss. But now that some employees are remote and others hybrid, the number of days since you last saw your manager in-person can vary widely across the team.

And this tends to show up in perceptions of manager support.

Consider measuring: Days since last facetime

For some employees, face-to-face interaction with your manager is less important. For example, long-tenured team members who’ve been working with the same boss for quite a while may feel differently than new hires or new managers about face-to-face frequency.

But even in cases where teams are remote/distributed, we’d recommend getting together in-person at least a few times per year.

Bonus: How organizations can structure teams to optimize for manager effectiveness

Sure, there’s a lot managers themselves can do to better support their teams. But part of manager effectiveness also requires good organizational design.

Moving from onsite to distributed teams has fundamentally changed manager capacity. A lot of spans & layers analyses are built on the assumption that managers are co-located with their direct reports. But, for most of us, that assumption no longer holds true.

Consider measuring: Manager span

Organizations can help by understanding what range of direct reports allows your company’s managers to provide the ideal level of support for their teams (more on how ONA can help you do this here).

Thanks for reading! For more on Manager Effectiveness, check out our full sample report here.

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