Improving engagement is a challenge many leaders face. Imagine working at a company with 200 employees, each working 40 hours a week. Out of 8,000 hours per week, only 1,200 of those hours are coming from employees who are fully engaged. A company is only as good as the people working in it. So, how are you bringing out the best in them?
Here’s a practical A to Z cheat-sheet for boosting team engagement.
Autonomy – Agree to clear targets and allow team members to choose the route to reach them. There are many ways to reach a destination. When you schedule check-ins ahead of time, the team is better prepared, the meetings are more productive, and you can offer support where needed. Whatever you do, avoid micromanaging.
Behavior – Lead by example. You’re the role model for your team, so be consistent in your words and actions. Also, hold people equally accountable. Showing favoritism negatively impacts employee morale.
Challenge – Provide opportunities for team members to stretch themselves. Even the top performer needs growth opportunities to avoid becoming bored in their role. Achieving something new provides tangible evidence of success.
Disengagement – You may send emails on the weekend without the expectation of team members responding. But, have you ever considered that someone may feel obliged to respond? It’s ok to write your emails over the weekend. Don’t hit the send button until Monday morning. Allowing people to disengage from work gives them a sense of work-life balance.
Empathy – Put yourself in other people’s shoes so you can gain a better understanding of what makes them tick. Then align your leadership style so that it best matches their personality. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone’s view. Just be open to listening because empathy increases trust and lets people know they are valued.
Flow – This is the mental state when we are fully absorbed in what we’re doing, and when enjoyment meets productivity. Don’t let workplace interruptions and fragmentations gain the upper hand. Provide extra space for silent work and reduce the number of meetings to those that are necessary.
Give – Thoughtful feedback helps the team learn and grow. A rule of thumb: for every negative, give two positives. Build on the positive first (what went well), then provide points for improvement (what can be done differently).
Hello! and How are you? – Don’t skimp on the chit-chat. Talk about non-work-related topics from time to time. Doing so shows you have an interest in people beyond hitting targets. Work should not feel like a boot camp. Humans are emotional beings that want to be seen and heard.
Inspire – Knowing your team members, their interests, and stressors both personally and professionally, can help you meet them where they are to remove barriers and encourage optimal performance.
Jackal language – Trust is lost when you blame, criticize, judge, and demand. Non-violent communication is the best way to overcome conflict and move forward together. Try the language of the giraffe (the language of the heart that includes observing, connecting, feeling, and requesting).
Keep it short and simple – If you are unable to explain what you mean in a simple way, then go back to the drawing board until you get it right. Being vague leads to unproductive employees and creates unnecessary frustration.
Leadership lessons – There are a plethora of books and articles available on leadership. Until you put the insights into action and achieve the desired outcomes, that you become a leader. The same goes for swimming. You don’t become a swimmer until you are in the water applying the techniques learned. If you are not achieving the results you want, consider hiring a coach to help you practice new skills or kick old habits for the benefit of your team.
Meaningful work – We now have five generations in the workplace who are motivated by something different. Meaningful work has become center stage for many – exceeding salary and year-end bonuses in many instances. As a leader, what can you do to create a company culture and workplace environment that supports meaningful work for a multi-generational workforce?
Nonverbal communication – Nonverbal cues (body language, tone of voice, and gestures) are an essential part of effective communication. Make sure your nonverbal communication matches your verbal message.
Opportunities – Both burn-out and bore-out kill employee engagement. Consider opportunities for people to get involved in areas they might otherwise not have the chance to (E.g., new assignments, cross-organizational projects, etc.).
Perfectionism – Do you try to show a positive image of yourself by disguising or concealing negative behaviors? If so, this can be disastrous. People appreciate authentic leaders even if they have a few rough edges. What’s hidden, eventually comes to light. When this happens, it not only leads to poor results but also team frustration.
Questions – Ask open-ended questions to get to the root cause of a problem. Then find a mutually agreed solution to solve it.
Respect – We tend to prefer people who are similar to us. Just because you love the opera and your team member is a fan of heavy metal, does not mean you cannot learn from one another. Appreciate people for their differences.
Storytelling – What better way to help people understand an idea than by engaging both their hearts and minds? Storytelling helps change the way teams think, which is a critical step in shifting the way they act.
Thumbs up – A compliment goes a long way. Unfortunately, giving praise does not come naturally to all leaders. People are more engaged when they know they are respected and valued. Tip: Be specific and authentic.
Understand – One size does not fit all. Appreciate the uniqueness of each of your team members. Communicate and reward in ways they are more receptive to understanding.
Values – Team members are more engaged when their values align with the company’s values, and both are working towards a common goal.
What do you propose? – Engage people by asking for their ideas and solutions.
X-factor – How are you helping your team become better? An X-factor in leadership is humility. In its broadest sense, humility is defined as self-awareness, appreciating the strengths and contributions of others, and having an openness to new ideas and feedback.
Yes, and – Instead of adopting a Yes, but approach (E.g., Yes, but how much will it cost?), try to react with a Yes, and attitude (Yes, and how much will it cost?). People tend to focus on the word that comes after Yes. “But” can sound like an objection. Whereas, “And” leaves room for opportunity.
Zig-zag: Ensure you and your team are ready to embrace change.