As I completed my graduate school degree, I was interviewing for a position with a college. While meeting with college student leaders, I was asked an interview question that remains my strangest one to date — “If the team was a bicycle, what part of the bike would you be?”

Uhh…my knowledge of bicycle anatomy isn’t incredibly deep. “Well, all parts of a bicycle are necessary and important, otherwise they wouldn’t be there,” I started, filling the silence before it became too awkward while also stalling so I could continue to mentally scan a bike. “I’d be the hub of the wheel. My team would be the wheel. I am the connector. My job is to make sure the momentum of the organization is translated into movement for the team. It is my responsibility to make sure the team feels connected to the organization, knows we’re moving forward, and in which direction we’re headed.”

While the question was strange and my answer a quick response, I often think about this analogy and how unexpectedly true it really is.

In the hustle and bustle of work, where goals are set, deadlines met, and business objectives are achieved, there is one linchpin that holds it all together…managers. They are the wheel hubs of the bicycle — the central connectors who keep the various spokes of employee wellbeing, employee engagement, and business results functioning smoothly.

The Connector of Business Strategy

Just as the hub of a bicycle forms the central point that all spokes converge upon, managers are the hubs that tie together different elements of an organization. They bridge the gap between company objectives and employee aspirations, ensuring alignment that propels the business forward. Just as a bicycle’s movement depends on a sturdy hub, business success relies on managers who channel their expertise to connect various functions, departments, and team members.

Alignment and Direction

A bicycle hub keeps the wheels aligned and moving in the right direction. Similarly, managers provide the necessary guidance to ensure that the employee experience and efforts are in sync with business goals.

By setting clear expectations, communicating effectively, and fostering a sense of purpose, managers help navigate teams toward success. Per Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023, managers are the linchpin of employee engagement.

If the hub isn’t working effectively or correctly, the biker can have issues with alignment. The wheels can become wobbly if the wheel hubs are not correct, and too much friction is placed on the wheel itself. Alignment of the hub helps ensure team members are not feeling too much friction or like the weight of the whole organization is on them.

Smooth Communication

The spokes of a bicycle need a hub to transmit force and motion effectively. Similarly, when managers are the conduits of communication within an organization, they can ensure ideas, feedback, and information flow seamlessly.

Managers improve the employee experience by fostering collaboration and innovation. A study by Harvard Business Review highlights that transparent communication from managers creates a positive ripple effect throughout the company culture, leading to improved employee engagement and performance.

A person riding a bicycle on a sidewalk.

Balance and Support

Managers balance the demands of work with the wellbeing of their team members. By fostering a culture of work-life balance, providing support, and addressing challenges, managers create an environment where team members can thrive.

Forbes underscores the impact of employee wellbeing on business performance, showcasing how managers who prioritize wellbeing contribute to a healthier, more productive workforce.

Driving Performance

Managers drive performance within the organization similarly to how a bicycle’s hub facilitates motion. They provide guidance, offer feedback, and create opportunities for growth, steering team members towards higher levels of achievement.

A McKinsey & Company report underscores the significance of individual purpose, indicating that managers who help team members connect their roles to the bigger picture inspire greater commitment and innovation.

Managers may sometimes feel like they are overlooked, or an organization may not spend much time focused on the role of managers (how often do you think about your bike’s hubs?).

However, with them playing such an important role in the organization and with employee wellbeing and engagement, it’s important to take steps to make sure managers are meeting their team’s needs. Here are two suggestions:

One Meaningful Conversation Improves Employee Engagement

Gallup considers weekly, meaningful conversations to be a manager’s most important habit. These conversations consist of five characteristics.

  1. Recognition or appreciation for recent work. Start by asking how the team member likes to be recognized or appreciated. Recognizing them leads to them being 4x more likely to be engaged.
  2. Collaboration and relationships. People are relational beings. Making sure managers know their team members and they know each other — especially in a hybrid or distributed team — has a significant effect on retention.
  3. Current goals and priorities at work. Our brains crave knowing expectations, having consistent opportunities to connect, and knowing we are making progress. Discussing goals and priorities ensures alignment between the work the individual team member is doing with the team’s work and the organization’s goals.
  4. The length of the conversation. Just 15 – 30 minutes will do; however, it may take longer if the conversations are not happening weekly.
  5. Employee strengths and/or things they do well. People feel better when someone recognizes the knowledge, skills, and strengths they bring to the team.

Asking Questions Is a Superpower

The best managers ask about 10 questions in 15 minutes. The average manager will ask about two questions.

Rather than assuming team members are seeking solutions, consider having them walk through their thought processes and possible solutions before advice is given.

Ask questions related to topics that comprise the meaningful conversations:

Simply asking questions allows the employee to take ownership of their work and the solutions. Ownership = engagement. Engagement = retention.

Keep Up with Bike Maintenance with Our Employee Engagement Tools

In the grand scheme of business, managers are indeed the wheel hubs that keep the organization rolling towards success. Just as a well-maintained hub ensures a smooth ride, managers ensure teams function cohesively. In doing so, employee wellbeing, employee engagement, and business goals improve and employee attraction and retention increase.

Because their movement and placement are not as eye catching as other parts of the organization, they can be taken for granted, but their role is vital for the individual team members’ wellbeing and success and a positive client experience.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to ensure employee engagement and wellbeing are top priorities for managers, reach out to ethOs. We’d be happy to talk with you.

Here’s to the managers who assume the role of wheel hubs!