But, I Know How-to Engage My Team
Engaging and mobilizing employees can be a huge challenge. Over the years, we have found a few simple behaviors make a huge impact on improving engagement of large and small teams. For me and many like me in leadership, it is frustrating to attempt to read minds. Most of the time, when we ‘go there’ we get it wrong anyway. For instance, many employees are frustrated because they feel like they have to read their manager’s mind. What began as a cordial, happy relationship during the interview process has now become a strained relationship 6- or 12-months later. We see this pattern year-after-year-after year.
Employees, managers and some executives don’t know how they are doing and how they can do better. Why? Because no one says anything or if they do it’s a shit sandwich or some passive-aggressive play. The annual performance review is sometimes their only chance to find out, and that event is so stressful the environment is not conducive for improvements.
There are many reasons why an organization’s structure promotes such disconnects – from spans of control and layers of bureaucracy to dimishing resources and a ‘do more with less’ mentality as contributors to an even larger problem. This situation is not completely the fault of management. In some organizations, spans of control have become so large that managers have to complete performance reviews every week on countless directs and indirects ‘because the system is set up this way.’
The solutions are simpler than you might think when you dig into the root cause. There are simple strategies to engage and mobilize employees, cost virtually nothing to implement, can be put into place immediately, and have huge impact over the entire population. Here’s a for instance – one opportunity many leaders have, even in the C-suite, is to give more frequent, informal feedback about how each employee is doing. This method creates a climate and influences a culture for everyone in an organization so they know what is expected of them and how they can get better.
On a recent Culture Influencing project with a midwestern manufacturer of 400 employees, we institued a streamlined approach of biweekly informal conversations involving 7 questions. These 7 questions are simple, powerful and practical in everyday life for this organization. The 7 simple questions ask every leader to answer and communicate to their employees. No different than with digital advertising and social media, frequency counts.
On average over the initial 6-month period, the conversation duration was 42 minutes. Engagement numbers of employees highly engaged rose from 12% to 33% and actively disengaged declined from 54% to 29%. Nearly half of the employee population is seeing positive improvements to communication, behaviors and attitudes. This is one example of how we rejuvenate the climate to influence your culture. Small, informal conversations about performance go a long way – especially when they include teachable moments about different situations and details. The questions include:
1. What do I expect from you?
2. What are you doing well?
3. What, if anything, can you be doing better?
4. What, if anything, do I want you to do better?
5. (If appropriate): What will happen if you improve (e.g., more responsibility, more time with leadership, more desirable assignments)?
6. (If appropriate): What will happen if you don’t improve?
7. How can I help?
While all of these questions are important, the last question shows every employee that the leader cares, and is not merely abdicating responsibility or shifting blame. We personalize these conversations to move your organization forward as a group. There are 8 messages we coach executives and business professionals to encourage engagement with their employees with great success. You can learn how to apply all 8 messages in my book 7-Steps to Become an Elegant Leader with Voltage. Perhaps you’d like to know more. Take our complementary self-assessment about how well you are engaging and mobilizing your team here.
Something to think about or even ask yourself about engaging and moving your employees forward are:
Why are you worried or frustrated about employee engagement?
How is it hurting quality and/or productivity?
What is the impact on how you spend your time vs. how you want to spend your time?
There are some simple ways to improve engagement when you decide to do something about it. Perhaps you have, but ‘it’ didn’t stick or there have been changes at various levels of leadership that have led to a decline in results somehow. You don’t need a massive, invasive consulting project or expensive benefits package. It all starts by recognizing employees leave managers, not companies, and working with managers to improve their engagement skills is what’s needed.
What becomes possible when engagement is significantly increased?
How will productivity improvements change your top and bottom lines?
What is the value of having a pipeline of engaged leaders?
What is the total possible value of having a more engaged workforce?
When fewer than 30% of employees feel engaged at work, and almost an equal number report that they are actively disengaged, it’s no longer acceptable to stick your head in the sand and wish the problem away. This issue is costing companies billions of dollars annually in lower productivity, errors, and employee turnover costs. How much is it costing you directly? indirectly?
We have been bringing simple, practical, and proven strategies to US-based leaders to engage their teams for over two-and-a-half decades. Our methodology has been proven in $15M companies and $12B global enterprises and is ever evolving for improving employee engagement using simple and powerful strategies like these:
Coach leaders to clearly set expectations and communicate performance on a regular, informal basis.
Guide leaders to understand each employee and help them achieve their professional aspirations.
Demonstrate how-to adapt their style and leadership strategy depending on each employee’s performance, talents, and unique potential.
Communicate with a full set of messages employees want and need to hear.
Increase empathy and perspective as a source of support to assure employee success.