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Being a ‘Connector Manager’

Dee our Talent Officer based in the Isle of Man reflects on the concept of being a ‘Connector Manager’.

The concept of the connector manager came from research to help find a better way for managers to develop their people. Gartner research across different sectors showed, when it comes to employee development, typically four types of managers exist:

  • A Teacher Manager provides advice and teaching based on their own experience.
  • A Cheerleader Manager encourages employee self-development.
  • An Always on Manager is always available to provide feedback and coaching to the employee.
  • A Connector Manager connects employees to others for development, both within and outside the team.

The ‘teacher’ manager is sharing their knowledge with employees and personally directing their development, sharing their technical expertise.  The ‘cheerleader’ manager is more hands-off, giving the employee responsibility for his or her own learning.  They are not necessarily always proactive when it comes to team development.

The survey showed the ‘always on’ manager actually degrades employee performance for three main reasons. Firstly, the continual stream of feedback offered can feel overwhelming and can hamper development.  Secondly, as less time is spent assessing skills, coaching tends to be on topics that are less relevant to the employee. Thirdly, they themselves may not have the right skills and knowledge to be able to develop their employees and may fail to see their own limitations.

Is it reasonable to expect our managers to be the ‘teacher’ or ‘always on’ especially in the current remote working environment?  Do we think development should stop or pause until we are all back in the office?

The survey showed a clear winner when it comes to employee development ultimately improving performance, the ‘connector’ manager. Adopting ‘connector manager’ thinking requires a conscious shift in mind-set. Historically, being a manager is about being directive and telling people what to do.  Being a ‘connector manager’ is more about asking the right questions, providing tailored feedback and helping employees make a connection to a colleague who can help them. This could be within or outside the team. 

There are always things that we can do to support our ongoing learning. There is no reason why we should not connect, ask questions and find people who are best placed to help us.