First of all a leader can’t bond with a crowd. You can influence the crowd and you can get them collecting leaning your way as supporters.
But it’s virtually impossible to bond with individuals who are in a crowd; they share a common denominator which is exercised along with everyone around them.
This is why I have difficulty with company employee engagement programs created by human resource professionals.
These programs generally are designed to address the employee population at large with little regard for the unique engagement needs of specific individuals. Analysts conclude what the “average” employee (no such thing though) needs to be thoroughly engaged around the organization’s goals and strategies; they build a program around their conclusions and lay it on the masses.
These general programs do positively impact some people, but miss the mark with others.
Employee engagement nirvana is much more than simply engaging people; it’s more about bonding with them in a way that not only gets their support for corporate goals, it does so by arousing their passion.
Rather than more passive support, the bonded employee looks for ways to implement the organization’s strategy and, with “fire in their belly”, advocates the same level of commitment to other employees.
Bonding is engagement on steroids
My experience shows that bonding is a personal act that takes place between two people one-on-one. It’s the only way to unleash the passion and emotional energy in people.
I learned these 5 ways to do it.
Find influencers in the workplace
You need to be strategic in how you launch your bonding effort. Wandering into the workplace and randomly starting the process with anyone you bump in to has its limitations in terms of the final result; it means you will most likely have to touch each person in order to make a difference.
The process that worked for me was to begin by targeting the influencers in specific teams; people who were listened to and viewed as thought leaders by their peers. Influencers are respected and followed by others when they support a new “cause”, and if you can bond with them, they will likely be able to convince their colleagues to join them in your journey.
Be with them where they work
Bonding doesn’t happen when you beckon people to come to you for a conversation; you must show up where they do their thing everyday. The leader’s presence has a number of benefits: it shows they care enough to learn what is going on throughout the organization, it provides the opportunity for them to listen to what needs to be improved, and it empowers employees to voice their views.
The old mantra was “managing by wandering around”; the new school is “leading by serving around” where the key question leaders ask is “How can I help?”. A one-on-one conversation on what can be done to make someone’s job easier and more rewarding is the magic bonding agent.
Explain in detail their role in implementing the organization’s strategy
Bonding isn’t about making a BFF. The leader’s job is to engage employees to fulfill their organization’s destiny. And the only way it can happen is if each person clearly understands what they need to do to deliver the declared strategic goals — the things they need to continue to do and the things they need to do differently.
If they don’t have a clear line of sight to the objectives the organization is trying to achieve, typically inconsistency and dysfunction set in (as individuals decide themselves the action that needs to be taken), and little progress is made.
Treat them as individuals
It’s a trite expression: no two individuals are the same, but it’s amazing how often company programs are developed with the “average” employee in mind. The most common employee need is used to create a program rather than customizing it to reflect the special wants of the individual. A good example is employee recognition programs where recognition events and rewards are standardized for everyone. Everyone attends a common event where their efforts are applauded and they are all provided with the standard token of appreciation.
Bonding with a person means that first you have to accept them as unique and special in some way and THEN discover what specific motivation and incentive will influence them to support company goals. It’s much more difficult to personalize your bonding pitch for each person, but the success rate, compared to a “one-size-fits-all” approach, is far higher.
Provide the tools they need
This is the most basic need of every employee; if they don’t have the tools to do their job, they are constantly fighting an uphill battle to deliver the results expected of them. And yet, many organizations are unwilling to make the investment required to make it easier for people to do their jobs.
“They don’t need a tablet”, “We can’t afford to give everyone that high end calibration tool” are the kind of statements that extract bonding value in an organization. People see leadership’s desire to increase employee engagement and the unwillingness to help them do their job as conflicting and disingenuous. Don’t micro analyze the payback on investing in your employees basic job needs; provide what they say they need and watch the bonding magic.
Bonding is an emotional connection that produces a incredibly powerful motivation to serve the organization.
Expunge the term “employee engagement” from your lexicon and replace it with “personal bonding” (only if you want folks to follow you to the Ends of the Earth).
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