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How a Leader Can Really Engage People

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How a Leader Can Really Engage People

Much has been written on how organizations can engage their employees more successfully and create a competitive advantage.

The advice offered tends to be of a program nature: company-wide initiatives promulgated from above that all functions “down below” are expected to participate in. 

My 33+ years of leadership experience suggests a different way of looking at how to “hook” every employee in the goals and strategy of the organization.

People relate more to other people, not “corporate programs” offered by human resources or business planning.

This requires that every team leader take personal responsibility to see that the employees who report to them are pumped up and engaged.

I didn’t wait for an “employee engagement program” to help. I chose to lead in a very specific way that led to turned-on employees and constantly improving performance.

Here are the simple things that worked for me.

The greater purpose

Ensure every employee clearly understands the strategic game plan of the organization. They can’t contribute if they are hazy about what results are expected. People can only be engaged if they understand the context for their actions — the greater purpose they serve.

Their specific role

Define the specific role of every person in delivering the strategy. This is where detail matters. Everyone needs to know EXACTLY what to do day-in and day-out to execute on the chosen company direction.

Tools for their job

Equip them with the tools to perform their responsibilities — training, systems and processes. People can’t support the organization without the wherewithal to deliver. A mundane point, perhaps (“everyone knows this is important!”) but one that is often forgotten. It’s a basic hygiene factor for engagement. They can’t engage if their toolbox is empty.

Constant feedback

Constantly – WEEKLY – let them know how they’re doing. Real honest feedback (and help to allow them to improve) is essential along with 3 key actions they can take to improve — any more than 3 things to do will overwhelm them and no progress will be achieved.

Rubbing shoulders

Be in their workplace WITH them. If they know you are there to help them succeed they will engage with you on an emotional level which is what you need to move the yardsticks forward.  People who intellectually understand and agree with what is required are motivated to DO something only if the are “all in” emotionally. People need to see the leader in their workplace sharing the messiness of execution. It shows caring and concern; vital elements of triggering emotion.

Related: How to Get in the Right Mindset for Success

Doing battle

Fight for them internally. Protect them from the internal politics and b.s. that gets in the way of them doing their job. If they know you have their back they will go the extra distance to perform. And take the initiative to eliminate the dumb rules, work barriers and grunge that get in the way of employees doing their job. They can’t engage productively if their feet are stuck in the mud of bureaucracy.

Achieving greater employee engagement requires people to emotionally connect with the goals of the organization and execute accordingly to achieve them.

Look to leaders, not corporate programs to create the energy necessary to make it happen.

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