A-Z Cheat Sheet for Boosting Team Engagement

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.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Your greatest strength is your weakness.

💡 Arguing, debating, and pressuring, rarely produces desired outcomes.

💡 Who does what by when = progress.

💡 Being a leader of people requires a mindset shift.

💡 Sometimes dramatic change requires connections with new people.

💡 Every leader does not have a title. Every person with a title is not a leader.

💡 Angry people are transparent people.

💡 Business always throws us curveballs.

💡 Learn when to say no and let go.

💡 Waiting never gets the job done.

The Story I’m Telling Myself

There is a magic sentence resilient people have in common: “It’s the story I’m telling myself.” 

When something challenging happens to us, our brain, which is wired to protect us above all else, wants a story.

It understands story and narrative pattern and it says, “Give me a story so I can understand how to protect you.” And so….we make up these stories in our minds.

How can we be loved if we can’t let ourselves be seen (vulnerability).

We want it so bad, but we are so afraid to let ourselves be seen, and we’re so afraid to see people.

Vulnerability brings love, belonging, and joy.

The opposite of belonging is fitting in (acclimating). True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are.

Joy is the most vulnerable of all human emotions. We are so afraid that if we feel joy, something will come along and rip it away from us, and we will get sucker punched by pain, trauma, and loss. So in the midst of great things, we dress rehearse great tragedy.

Some people use vulnerability as a warning to start dress-rehearsing for bad things. Some of us use it as a reminder to be grateful.

Gratitude is the differentiator for joy. Which one will you choose?

Adapted from Brene Brown.
Graphic: raminnazer

Five Generation Workplace

With five generations in the workplace, management models that worked for one generation will have to be adapted to support the motivations and drivers of newer generations.

Challenging the statusquo can be scary because it often requires courage and a willingness to go against the grain. There’s also the possibility of receiving backlash from those who are less open to new ideas.

Rather than wondering if a challenge should be made, think about the person receiving the information and present it in a way that can be heard, understood, and valued. Here are some ideas:

1. Use the receiver’s language and tactics. If they like data, metaphors, etc., use them.

2. Think about the counter-response. Given what you know, how do you think they’ll react? Prepare for it.

3. Toughen up. Don’t let raised voices or criticism deter you. Acknowledge the person and reflect at a later time.

4. Talk to your colleagues. They can play devil’s advocate and provide alternative ideas based on their experience.

5. Play the odds. Timing is not always perfect. Think of when you can revisit the topic.

6. Accept your position. You may not be the most powerful person in the room, which is more reason to speak up.

7. Have a backup plan. Speaking up is a risk. Have a Plan B.

Adapted: jonidaniels

Habit Change

Our brains are hardwired to resist change because change can be difficult. Habits, routines, and learned behaviors make adjusting difficult at the individual level, and hard, if not impossible, at the organizational level.

Many organizations are bogged down by complacency and a lack of awareness of how to change. While change starts with individuals, the companies they work for also need to change to survive. People want to be aligned with purposeful organizations that are collaborative and inclusive, as well as socially and environmentally responsible.

Whether change takes the shape of a new system or process, or a complete overhaul of the way things function at the core level, driving lasting change is easier said than done.

Nearly half of our daily activities are habitual. We don’t think about them, yet we subconsciously do them. For example, waking up and instinctively grabbing our phone to check our email or social media. Think back across the last hour. What have you been doing? What part is habitual?

Understanding the components of habits (trigger, action, reward) helps us understand why behaviors emerge, what reinforces them, and how we can unlearn or replace them.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 If you want to find out what someone thinks, stop telling them what you think first.

💡 Values aren’t negotiable.

💡 Acknowledge good points made by the other side.

💡 Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication.

💡 Tell the truth, tell it yourself, and tell it fast.

💡 Be mindful of your digital footprint.

💡 Owning your mistakes strengthens relationships and builds confidence.

💡 What have you done recently to initiate change?

💡 Bad moods produce self-defeating behaviors.

💡 Know the way, go the way, show the way.

Perspective

I was listening to a podcast by John C. Maxwell where he explained how our perspective of things could change the events of our day. He gave an example of people with road rage. 

If you’ve ever experienced road rage, it is not uncommon to see someone give the middle finger as an expression of their anger. John said he views it as people showing him that they are his number one fan.

We have a choice of how we respond to the events of our day. E.g., I stopped at a grocery store one morning to buy some coffee creamer. The creamer was on a high shelf that I had to tiptoe to reach. When I pulled the creamer off the shelf, white liquid spilled all over my clothes and purse. I guess this was someone’s idea of a practical joke, but there were no TV cameras involved.

At that precise moment, I had to determine if I was going to rant and rave to anyone within earshot, or calmly wipe myself off before alerting a store clerk as to what happened. As challenging as it was, I went with option two because I’ve learned that reacting in anger, only manifests something else to be angry about, which can show up in the form of road rage as I’m leaving the store.

The point of the story is that we can’t control why people do what they do, but we can control our response to it.

Procrastination

We often hear the phrase work harder, but what’s wrong with working smarter and faster? There’s a perception that the longer something takes to complete, the better it will inherently be. 

Think about the last hour-long meeting you were in that could have taken 30 minutes. Losing 30 minutes of your time with filler conversation didn’t make it better, and you probably didn’t walk away feeling much smarter. Imagine how painstaking an additional 30 minutes is on a virtual call.

Parkinson’s Law is the adage that work expands to fill the time allotted. In other words, the amount of work required increases to the time available for its completion. And, what does that often invite? Procrastination.

Naturally, we don’t want to look like were lazy so, if we have a 2-week project deadline, we may fill that time with other trivial tasks. Even if we didn’t fill the extra time with more work, we could stress over getting it done. Further, beating deadlines isn’t always appreciated.

That’s like the service department telling you it will take 4 hours to repair your car at $150/hr, and the mechanic only takes 2hrs, but want to charge you for 4. The solution is to focus on how much time a task should take rather than how much time is available, without compromising performance.

Multipliers and Diminishers

Talent problems are not solved by swapping in “better” talent at higher salaries. Many top performers are often sitting on a stockpile of ideas, skills, and interests. Part of being a leader is to help people identify and tap into their purpose and value. 

There are two extremes of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers.

Multipliers believe that everyone is brilliant at something. When they step into a room, ideas flow and problems get solved. They also:

  • Create engaged workforces and unleash collective intelligence.
  • Pay little attention to org charts and see themselves as coaches and teachers.
  • Acknowledge people’s “native genius”.
  • Assume that people are smart and will figure it out, given resources and space.

    Diminishers can be tyrants, know-it-alls, or micromanagers. They believe that high levels of brainpower cannot be found everywhere and in everyone. They often:
  • Create cultural and behavioral barriers.
  • Roll out initiatives revolving around what the leader knows rather than what the group might learn.
  • Make decisions alone or with input from a small group of advisers.
  • Need to be the smartest, most capable person in the room.

Adapted: Harvard Business Review | Managing Yourself: Bringing Out the Best in Your People

Effective Management

Studies show that for every 0.1% improvement in effective management, productivity goes up by 10%. So, how can new managers lead their teams effectively? 

1. People Skills. Emotionally intelligent leaders practice self-awareness and excel at relationship management. This enables them to build a foundation of trust, respect, and positive attitudes among their team.

2. Listen First, Talk Later. On average, it takes new managers 4 to 6 weeks to get acclimated to their new role. Focus outward – paying attention to the team and process before coming up with ideas and changes you’d like implemented.

3. Communicate. Take the lead with introductions during the first few days, speaking to each team member individually and then everyone as a group. Find out what they do, what processes they say work well, and what they’d like to see improved.

4. Delegate. Solve the people, not the problem. Working together to come up with a way forward allows the team to become self-directed and much more engaged in their work.

5. What to Avoid. Being a manager isn’t a popularity contest. New managers tend to lower their standards to make friends with the staff. Manage results and relationships for both short-term and long-term success – keeping respect at the forefront.

Adapted: Kenosha News

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Focus on making it part of the culture.

💡 If you put forth the effort, help always appears.

💡 Is coaching an integral part of your leadership style?

💡 Schedule time on your calendar weekly to understand what’s on your plate and where your focus should be.

💡 What do your actions speak?

💡 Observe the number of “I’s” and “We’s” in team conversations.

💡 Look for people who love what they do.

💡 Think “people” first, always.

💡 Get comfortable making decisions.

💡 Focus the team on the outcome, not just the activities.

Good To Great

When you think that “good” is good enough, you never become great. The companies that thought they were good enough did not survive the COVID-19 pandemic. So, how do organizations go from good to great? 

1. Find the right people. Get the right people on board and focus them on actions that lead to greatness. Start with “who,” not “where,” since the right people will decide the strategic direction of the enterprise, and when a change in direction is needed, they will decide what that change should be.

2. A mindset of a level 5 leader. These leaders are determined to make the company succeed. They don’t seek success for their glory; rather, success is necessary so that the team and organization can thrive.

3. Face reality. Great organizations do not shy away from facing and accepting brutal truths and the realities of data, numbers, and situations. At the same time, they do not lose hope of a better future.

4. Strive for greatness. Achieving greatness is a lifelong journey built on consistent actions taken daily.

5. Recognize employees. Showing employees that they are valued is imperative. In times of disruption like we’re experiencing today, they are instrumental in helping companies reinvent themselves.

Source: Philadelphia Business Journal

Six Leadership Mindsets

There are six key components, or mindsets, that leaders must have for organizational success. Asking questions from these viewpoints uncovers what has happened, what is happening, and what is likely to happen, arming leaders with a comprehensive assessment.

1. Inventing Mindset: What new products or services can we develop? What better methods or approaches can we find?

2. Catalyzing Mindset: What will grow and retain our customer base? How can we beat the competition and seize opportunities to grow rapidly?

3. Developing Mindset: What will deliver seamless infrastructure and operations? How will we manage risks? What systems would be effective in producing consistent high-performance levels?

4. Performing Mindset: What can we do to improve quality, productivity, and ROI? How can we increase results and improve our processes and procedures and fine-tune resource allocations?

5. Protecting Mindset: What will develop and retain our talent and support our culture, engagement, and collaboration? How will we improve competency? What is our succession plan?

6. Challenging Mindset: What needs and opportunities are emerging? Can we discover new niches to ensure our future success?

Source: Training Magazine

Food For Thought Friday


💡 How much have you helped your team members this week?

💡 What have you learned about yourself that you are committed to improving?

💡 Thank You – two words with magical power.

💡 Selective ignoring is the key to productivity.

💡 How do you practice whatever it is that you do?

💡 Choose opportunities that you will learn the most from.

💡 You are constantly starting at zero.

💡 When you help others, you also help yourself.

💡 Have the attitude that others would want to catch.

💡 Imagine what you would do and accomplish if there was only “Today”.

Photo: workiq

Influential or Dysfunctional

The difference between influential leaders and dysfunctional leaders is rooted in their mindset. Our mindset consists of general attitudes that shape the way we think about things and how we make sense of the world. Here are some damaging mindsets to have as a leader.

1. They need to change. I am just fine (fixed mindset).

2. I am going to ignore this feedback because they just don’t understand me (closed mindset).

3. I am not going to change because that’s just the way I am (victim mindset).

4. I want and need everyone to like me (people pleaser mindset).

5. I am going to wait for an opportunity to come to me (fear-driven mindset).

Reference: Moberly Monitor – Tony Richards

Resistance to Change

Change requires an open mindset. Our thought process is directly related to how we feel and influences how we act. We cannot maintain the same thought process and expect a different outcome.

We make a mess of our lives when we refuse to change the things we can or pretend to change without meaning.

Being resistant to change is a natural reaction. We even find ourselves cringing when we hear the word change. Change is not a bad omen or meant to be feared. It is through change that you grow and move forward.

Instead of asking others to change, identify areas where you may need improvement. A changed life speaks volumes and is often the most effective way to influence others.