Do You Have the Connector Manager Gene?

HR leaders can build their Connector ranks by encouraging managers to emulate eight behaviors that drive employee performance.

Do you know if you are a Connector manager? Would you know a Connector manager if you saw one? If not, it’s time to find out. Connector managers show an outsized ability to create star performers, boosting employee performance by up to 26%. But while some people gravitate naturally toward the Connector approach, anyone can adjust their management style to become a Connector — if they know what it takes.

The Connector manager approach inherently puts employees’ needs at the center

“Our initial research discovered that all managers fall into one of four manager types, but among those, Connector managers are the standout performance coaches. We then went on to study the behaviors and experiences that shape each manager type. We’ve identified traits that Connector managers tend to share,” says Jaime Roca, Senior Vice President, Gartner HR Practice.

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Connectors elevate employee needs

“The Connector manager approach inherently puts employees’ needs at the center,” says Sari Wilde, Managing Vice President, Gartner HR Practice. “It creates an environment where team members empower one another for success, and individual employees can access the right development opportunities and coaches for their career needs.” 

Connector managers’ traits drive behaviors that help employees develop and thrive. For maximum impact, HR leaders can familiarize managers with the Connector approach and foster environments in which managers are encouraged to behave like Connectors. 

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8 Connector manager behaviors

1. Connectors are open and honest with people they coach

Connectors are truthful and candid with the people they coach, and are more likely than other types of managers to give tough feedback. They are also more likely to pursue the truth, no matter the situation. But while they’re prepared to be tough when needed, Connectors focus their feedback on future success — not past failures — and prioritize employees’ strengths and personal development goals when giving feedback.

2. Connectors welcome feedback from others

Most employees find it challenging to provide feedback to their managers. Many sugarcoat their feedback or hold back from offering input at all. Connector managers, however, seek out feedback from colleagues and apply what they learn to improve their performance. Connectors spend 15% more time (nearly an hour every month) learning informally from peers and other managers. They are also the most likely to have been mentored by a peer.

3. Connectors embrace individual differences on their teams

Connectors encourage their teams to be open about their individual differences, viewpoints, experiences and backgrounds. They embrace such differences and use them to foster an inclusive environment that bolsters teamwork, team performance and decision making. This, in turn, allows them to better resolve differences of opinion while making sure everyone feels respected. Managers who lead global, multicultural, hybrid or large teams are more likely to be Connector managers. 

4. Connectors help employees motivate one another

Many managers lack the time to constantly motivate every one of their employees, especially when they have multiple direct reports. What Connectors do differently from other managers is empower their team members to motivate each other. They build productive learning relationships in which employees not only hold one another accountable for development, but also motivate and encourage team members to succeed. Teams led by Connector managers are significantly more likely to have team members recognize each other’s successes and contributions.

5. Connectors value their teams’ success as much as their own

When managers focus too heavily on their own contributions and success, they can lose sight of what their team members need to be successful. Connector managers are the most likely provide help where they can — to the teams they lead and to their peers — whether this means directly offering coaching expertise or connecting people to best-fit development connections outside their immediate teams. Connectors deeply value team success and enjoy celebrating it publicly. They enjoy talking about their teams’ achievements almost three times as much as they enjoy talking about their own.

6. Connectors don’t shy from new responsibilities

Managers may stick to what they know they’re good at, but it won’t bring any benefit to their personal growth. Connectors are more likely to take on increasing and varied responsibility across their careers. They are also more likely to have worked on high-impact, high-visibility projects. 

7. Connectors build relationships inside and outside their organizations

The highest-performing teams tend to spend about half their time communicating outside of formal meeting settings. Connector managers act as relationship brokers between new and future employees and the rest of the organization by sharing their knowledge of and networking experience within the organization to help employees develop effectively. Connectors also build purposeful relationships with people outside their organization. 

8. Connectors create more Connectors

Connector managers are more likely to have been managed by a Connector manager themselves. As people often emulate the behaviors of their former managers, Connector managers can help organizations develop managers who learn from what they do, especially in areas of the business where the Connector approach is not already a norm.

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This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients.

Gartner for HR clients can read more about The Connector Manager Genome: 9 Data-Driven Findings on the Connector Manager Approach. They can also can view the Meet the Connector Manager infographic and read more about How Connector Managers Coach to Drive Performance.

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