Who’s Your Favorite ‘Teacher’?

My teenage children can’t help but compare their teachers.  At least several times a year I hear, “Who’s your favorite teacher?” They talk about which ones they like or don’t like, which ones are encouraging or indifferent, and which ones are nice or sometimes not nice.

Employees of organizations where there are multiple supervisors do the same thing.  If someone is working for one of the bad managers, but one of their coworkers from a different department talks about their great manager, they can’t help but wish their fortunes would be different, and that they too had a great manager.

As I reflect back on the last several months of meeting people who have attended my speaking events for the release of my book The Ordinary Leader, one key theme has emerged. And that is that one of most important aspects impacting a person feeling good about their workplace is their direct supervisor.

The CEO of an organization may be amazing, colleagues may be great to work with, and the purpose of the work may be meaningful. But if someone’s direct manager isn’t easy to work for, happiness at work is rarely possible.   By “easy to work for”, I mean a variety of attributes: respectful, good listener, caring, effective communicator, etc.  In the absence of these traits from one’s supervisor, feeling good about work is hard to do.

The often used saying “People don’t quit their organization, they quit their direct supervision” is well known for a reason. Because it’s true.  And while employees may not literally quit an organization, if their direct supervisor is not someone they respect and find likeable, they will quit being motivated and engaged, and thus likely quit being productive.

I believe that if senior leadership wants to do one thing to ensure that their organization is a great place to work, they should make leadership development at all levels a priority.  While all supervisors within the organization will have different personalities and strengths, all supervisors should minimally be viewed as caring and likeable.

If you want to be a great place to work where employees feel valued, and therefore are engaged, be a leader that people hope they have.  Be the favorite teacher!

Randy Grieser, CEO, Author, Speaker
ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance and the Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

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