Mind Reading for Managers: It’s possible to create a culture that promotes engagement and productivity

Written by Jamie Boelens on Monday, November 27th, 2017

In today’s blog, MPD Ventures Intern Katherine Wilkes shares key takeaways from Pearson Partners International’s HR Roundtable event featuring Ignite Global.

Mind Reading for Managers

I recently attended a DFW HR Roundtable event hosted by our client Pearson Partners International. Our clients constantly create learning events for their respective industries – and find fascinating speakers and topics along the way. The topic of this event was how to improve employee engagement and productivity with an interactive presentation by Kim Seeling Smith, author, speaker and CEO of Ignite Global.

Smith’s approach is actually simple works in every industry as well as from blue-collar to white-collar workers. Her “Mind Reading for Managers” framework and companion book offers five FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity. Based on conducting some 5,000 exit interviews, Smith outlines the five steps as:

    1. Feedback
      • Company updates
      • Praise
      • Give them a voice
    2. Objectives
      • Specific, measurable metrics / KPIs
      • Set and review every quarter
      • Hold them accountable every month
    3. Career Development
      • Don’t be afraid to bring it up
      • Talk to all generations
      • The smallest things make the biggest difference
    4. Underlying Motives
      • What do they need to go the extra mile and how do they like to be recognized for it?
      • Autonomy, Master, Purpose
      • Internal challenge vs. External praise
    5. Strengths
      • What are they good at?
      • What do they love to do?
      • How can you help them free up 2 hours / week?

Mind Reading for Managers chart

We all know inherently that employee turnover is costly but many of us don’t realize the cost impact of our “disengaged” team members. Per Smith:

  • The cost to replace one staff member can range from 50-200% of their annual salary
  • 80% of your staff is only mildly engaged to actively disengaged
  • The cost of a disengaged staff member is 1/3 of their annual salary

To avoid the costly issue of losing employees, either literally or mentally, Smith offers the following tips:

  • Re-examine your management style. What do you expect from your employees? Most jobs are phasing out of “industrial age” expectations where work was routine, tactical, and predictable. Today, 70% of job growth is coming from “social age” occupations which require a different skillset. Employees must be innovative, strategic, and solution oriented. The old command and control management style hinders employees’ ability to perform “social age” expectations. Instead, management should give direction but maintain a heuristic, equal relationship with employees.
  • Focus on your team’s strengths. Assign projects that play to a collective set of strengths. Say one employee is an excellent writer, but not great at graphic design. Concentrate on strengths, not improving weaknesses. Studies conducted on strength-weakness potential for improvement support Smith’s assertions. In one University of Nebraska study, students were tested on their reading speed. Although the slow readers showed improvement, increasing their speed by 66% after taking courses on speed reading, the fast readers’ performance spiked exponentially higher to 825%.
Readers Pre-Test Speed Post-Test Speed Percentage Improved
Slow 90 150 66%
Fast 350 2,900 825%


  • Give & receive feedback. Plan on having one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports. Give praise where praise is due. There’s a difference between something that is praiseworthy, like going above and beyond job tasks, versus meeting the expectations of the position. Give your employees a chance to voice what is and isn’t working for them. If they share personal details, listen. Connecting over non-work related topics helps teams develop respect and mutually beneficial relationships.
  • Don’t deliver criticism in a “feedback sandwich” hiding the criticism between two compliments. The human brain can’t process two emotions at the same time, and your staff member will have to choose what they wish to hear. When a tough conversation arises, if the relationship is strong enough staff will understand that the negative feedback will help them and not take it as a personal offense.

Feedback, focusing on objectives, prioritizing the career development of employees, and understanding their underlying motivators and strengths will increase staff engagement, which directly corresponds with productivity. When you have happy employees who feel like their work is making a difference, management can expect to see upticks in productivity and eventually revenue. Equipped with these tactics, companies can create positive culture and make work more enjoyable.

All businesses and managers have areas of improvement. We’re planning to implement a few of these ideas with our MPD team.

Thanks to our friends at Pearson Partners International for hosting an engaging topic and increasing our skills as managers and communicators. Certainly if your organization could use help in these areas, please reach out directly to Pearson Partners or Ignite Global to learn more.

About Jamie Boelens

Jamie Boelens is a Marketing Coordinator with MPD Ventures Company. She supports clients with social media management, content writing, and website management.