Study explores how amount of time spent with direct leader impacts engagement levels
By Claudine Kapel
How many hours a week do your leaders and managers spend interacting with their staff?
A new study by Leadership IQ suggests there’s a sweet spot when it comes to spending sufficient time with employees — but most leaders are falling short.
The survey of 32,410 Canadian and U.S. executives, managers, and employees found nearly one-half of the respondents spend three hours per week or less interacting with their direct leader. In fact, 20 per cent indicated they spend just one hour per week interacting with their direct leader.
In contrast, less than 30 per cent of respondents indicated they spend six hours per week or more interacting with their direct leader, with the median time being three hours.
But three hours per week isn’t enough, says Leadership IQ. According to its research, the optimal amount of time to spend interacting with one’s leader each week is six hours.
The research findings indicated that, when compared to people who spend only one hour per week interacting with their direct leader, those who spend six hours per week in such interactions were:
• 29 per cent more inspired – based on responses to the statement: “Working here inspires me to give my best effort”
• 30 per cent more engaged – based on responses to the statement: “I recommend this company as a great organization to work for”
• 16 per cent more innovative – based on responses to the statement: “I keep generating great ideas every week to help the organization improve”
• 15 per cent more intrinsically motivated – based on responses to the statement: “I find something interesting in every task I do”
The research also suggested managers and executives need even more time interacting with their leaders than front-line employees.
Executives indicated they experience their highest levels of inspiration when they spend seven to eight hours per week interacting with their leader. Meanwhile, middle managers indicated they feel their highest levels of inspiration when they spend nine to 10 hours per week interacting with their leader.
Interestingly, there were diminishing returns in all areas when the hours per week spent with a direct leader exceeded six. Leadership IQ notes there may be other benefits to interacting with a leader for more than six hours a week, but the dimensions examined in the study (inspiration, engagement, innovation, intrinsic motivation) all remained the same or declined beyond six hours of interaction.
One may quibble with how the survey dimensions have been defined. For example, recommending a company as a good place to work is just one facet of engagement. And finding something interesting in every task is just one facet of intrinsic motivation.
Nevertheless, the overall findings reinforce some key messages for managers and leaders. Regular contact with employees is vital and shapes how people feel about and approach their work. And it’s especially pivotal for individuals in management roles.
Respondents indicated they interacted with their direct leader in a variety of ways, including face-to-face and via email. Those who interacted with their direct leader for six hours a week were most positive and also spent a higher percentage of time in face-to-face interactions.
Interestingly, the survey found more time with leaders yielded more positive results, even among respondents who felt their direct leader didn’t value their work. Among those with the most negative perceptions of their direct leader, those who spent six hours per week with their leader were 26 per cent more inspired than those who spent one hour a week with their leader.
While it may seem intuitively obvious individuals in people management roles should be connecting regularly with their staff, that isn’t necessarily happening. There are probably many reasons for this, including because managers and leaders feel they have too many other critical things to do.
But organizations that really want to optimize performance and results may need to take a hard look at what gets in the way of leaders spending time with their staff. Because the foundation for solid organizational performance is strong and sustained individual performance. And that is achieved one conversation at a time.