The Best Managers Have This One Thing

There is a tiny, tiny percent of exceptional managers out there, but every one of them have the same thing in common. Some of us have been lucky to work for them, and know that this one thing can change the course of our careers. It is very similar to teachers. No one will ever forget their favorite teacher and how they shaped us to the people we are today.

This common trait can be summed up in one word: Care. They care about their employees’ professional and even personal development. They actually take a genuine interest in their employee’s well being.

This is why this trait belongs at the very tippy-top of the Millennials’ Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. Only the very best managers do it. Those who do it end up not only getting the best performance out of their employees, but they’re more likely to retain that employee in the long-term.

In the book Second Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth, I lay out the Millennials’ Hierarchy of Needs – a framework (or a pyramid) that helps managers prioritizes how they can understand and manage Millennials so they can become the next generation of leaders.   

In earlier blog posts, we talked about the other elements of the pyramid: STRUCTURE at the base — a need for clarity about role and expectations in an organization; FEEDBACK — the need for frequent communication about their progress and how they are performing; then PURPOSE — a need to know why they are doing certain tasks; and then DIRECTION — the need for instructions on how to efficiently and effective perform their job duties.

At the very top of the pyramid is CARE.

Millennials were raised by an entire village of people who cared about them – not just their parents, but their coaches, neighbors, friends’ parents, and teachers. This generation gravitates towards authority figures that can develop them into effective leaders. 

As a manager of Millennials, you shouldn’t look at their career like they’re a cog in a machine. What you really should do is dig deep and develop relationships with your team members. This plays directly into the idea that Millennial employees want to be coached more than managed.

I was having a conversation with a manufacturing company in Houston, and the guy I was talking to was managing a group of Millennials. He was telling me about one employee who always came into meetings on time, but within about forty minutes he would always fall asleep. “How could he possibly do that?” the manager asked me.

“Instead of saying, ‘You can’t do that,’ find out why the heck it’s happening,” I said. “Ask him.”

It turned out that a couple of months earlier, the Millennial’s mom had been diagnosed with cancer. He and his sister were taking turns staying up late helping her and doing hospital visits. Every behavior has a root cause, and simple care can get at that root cause.

A manager simply saying, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through,” provides the employee with confidence and trust in that manager and allows them to perform at higher levels. It makes them more motivated to work because they have what they believe to be a positive, trusting relationship with their manager. That’s care.

A happy employee is a productive employee. You don’t make your employees happy with ping-pong tables and latte machines, you make them happy with care. It’s easy to buy a ping-pong table, but the fact is that your employees need more than that.


Warren Wright