For Managers


The Connector Manager: Becoming the Type of Leader Your People Need

Different management types can positively or negatively affect not only employee development, but company success as well. What type of manager are you?


On the surface, managers are often thought of as being responsible for leading—managing—the employees under their direct report, but managers often wear many different hats that encompass not only leading employees, but other responsibilities also.

These responsibilities often cast a wide net and may include any or all of the following:

  • Hiring and training
  • Employee development
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Employee performance evaluations
  • Setting and achieving company goals
  • Project management
  • Overall decision making for their team and/or department
  • Accountability to upper management for all responsibilities
  • And more...

Faced with so many responsibilities in so many different areas, it can be difficult for managers to find the time necessary to help their employees develop skills for their current role as well as any future roles they aspire to.

In a study performed by Gartner, they learned that 45% of managers don’t feel qualified to teach the skills needed for success to their employees and 70% of employees feel they don’t have all the skills to perform their current roles.

These stats are problematic on several levels. A lack of skills—in both employees and managers—results in lower job performance quality, which can lead to decreased profits, lower employee and manager satisfaction, increased turnover, wasted resources, and frustration on all sides.

In a world that is constantly evolving, and especially considering the ways COVID has changed the workplace, helping employees acquire and continually improve the skills they need for current and future roles is crucial. Employees who feel they possess above average proficiency in their job-related skills “perform up to 45 percent better, display up to 51 percent more discretionary effort, and are up to 45 percent more engaged”¹ than employees with average or lower proficiency in job-related skills. Those aren’t numbers we should be ignoring.

So what’s the key to bridging that gap for employees? Managers.

Successful managers in today’s work environment are those who help their people obtain the skills they need to do their jobs and progress in their careers. There are different ways of doing that, of course, with varying levels of effectiveness. Let’s take a look at four categories of managers (as it relates to employee development) identified by Gartner.

The Teacher Manager 🧑‍🏫

  • Coaches employees from their own knowledge, experience, and track record.
  • Tends to provide feedback in the form of advice, again based on personal experience and knowledge.
  • Directs employee development personally.
  • Leans towards being more of a “know it all” kind of coach.
  • Believes their coaching to be correct for their employees based on their own experience and knowledge, not taking into account the experiences and knowledge of others.

The Always-On Manager 🚁

  • Always provides feedback.
  • Goes above and beyond with employee development, sometimes to the employees’ detriment.
  • Lacks experience in some areas but coaches employees in these areas anyway.
  • Drives employee development instead of letting employees be more in the driver’s seat of the how, when, and what of their own development.
  • Might not recognize their own limitations skills-wise and knowledge-wise, limiting the positive impact they can have on their employees.
  • Offers less autonomy to employees.
  • Resembles the typical “helicopter parent” but in a manager/employee setting.

The Cheerleader Manager 📣

  • Can be very empowering, encouraging employees to lead their own development.
  • Is great at giving positive feedback, but not so great at offering constructive criticism that can help employees learn and grow.
  • Tends to be less proactive with employee development.
  • Follows more of a hands-off approach.

The Connector Manager 🤝

  • Offers appropriate and helpful feedback based on their own areas of experience and expertise.
  • Understands their own limitations and connects employees with others (both on the team and in other departments) who have more and/or better experience and expertise than they possess.
  • Focuses more on assessing and developing employees’ interests, skills, and needs than other types of managers through asking thought-provoking questions, actively listening to answers, and continuously fostering deep conversations.
  • Understands that building quality relationships is the priority for employee development.

Which of these types of manager should you aspire to? The Connector Manager. Why?

Gartner uncovered the following statistics about the success experienced by Connector Managers and their teams in another study. Teams with a connector manager saw:

  • 38% higher discretionary effort by employees
  • 40% higher employee engagement
  • 26% higher employee performance
  • 3 X potential for employees to be high performers

“Connectors expose employees to the best opportunities to acquire experience, skills and capabilities—at the time they are needed.”² (Sari Wilde, Managing Vice President, Research & Advisory, Gartner HR Practice)

How do you become a Connector Manager? and how can you establish a culture of connection with your whole team?

Connector Managers excel at connecting their employees with the best resources to help them grow and develop, whether within the team, outside the team, or with themselves. Their priority is to foster a team that prioritizes learning and development through connection to people and resources.

Employees who work with Connector Managers to further develop current talents and skills while exploring new ones flourish not only professionally, but personally, and become invaluable assets to managers, colleagues, and employers.


“Connection is an intuitive sense of belonging. Connection is the difference between I am and we are.” - Ari Kopoulos

Connector Managers seek to develop and continually hone the following skills, resulting in a strong team culture of connection:

  • Focus on quality over quantity, especially when it comes to feedback and conversations about development with employees.
  • Create an environment where employees get to know each other better and become more open to receiving knowledge and feedback from one another.
  • Spend time with employees, individually and as a team, to learn about their strengths so these can be continually developed and utilized to benefit the entire team.
  • Spend time with employees (again, individually and as a team) to learn what skills they’d like to develop or improve, the areas where they feel they are lacking, and their overall career aspirations. This involves those deep conversations mentioned above.
  • Create a referral network of others with varied skills, expertise, and knowledge who can work with employees for the further development of skills and overall career development.
  • Lead by example. If the manager is candid and honest about where others might have more experience and expertise than they can offer, employees will follow suit, creating an environment of vulnerability, openness, and shared knowledge.

Mastering the skills to become a Connector Manager is the keystone to creating a top-notch team and finding success in your other managerial responsibilities. It's also one of the first steps towards building a true Campfire Culture with your team.

Learn more about Campfire Culture and how it can benefit you and your team 👉

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