One of the biggest challenges in leadership is engagement of people who follow you. It’s because, as a leader, you have so many things tugging at you for your time. There are so many resources seemingly raising their hands for your attention.
What does engagement mean for your people? Here’s a quick list:
Belief in the organization
A desire to work to make things better
Understanding of the business context and “big picture”
Having respect for colleagues
A strong willingness to go the extra mile
Keeping up to date with what is happening at ground level
Underpinning these desired outcomes are basically three big things people in your organization are asking themselves.
Am I listened to?
Am I being told what is going on?
Am I being treated fairly?
What can leaders do on a regular basis to keep people engaged and loving what they do?
1. Talk daily with the people who report to you
A daily interaction gives you lots of opportunity to know your people AS PEOPLE. Ask lots of questions about their thoughts and feelings. Many leaders find out what lies beneath the surface during adverse conditions and many times that is way too late for discovery, especially if you don’t like what you find. Always ask them about their opinions regarding how things are going and what they would do differently. Establishing deeper relationships with your direct reports really affects their performance in a positive way.
2. Be sure they know they fit into the organization and its mission
Everyone wants to know they are valued. They want to know the organization is on a mission and they are contributing to it. Find ways to reinforce that to them regularly.
3. Make sure you tell them in advance what NOT to do, as well as giving instructions on what TO do
If there is a way to communicate ways to stay out of potholes which will hinder their performance or the organization’s progress, be sure to mention them. The brain does not process negatives. If you don’t believe me, try not to think of a green hippopotamus.
4. Give plenty of THANK YOUs for jobs well done
This lets them know you notice when they are moving in the right direction, even when the execution may not be perfect or up to your highest standards. Acknowledging progress in the right direction is key to continued effort. Some of your reports may never have had an encouraging leader before, so don’t be surprised if you encounter some defensive humility such as “Oh, it was not that big a deal”.
Showing you care and demonstrating respect over time with your reports, regularly and clearly, will drive better personal and team engagement. People who know they are cared for and are engaged care more strongly about performing at their best. The lesser cost to you is in taking time to choose your words well and investing the time in them.