Leading to Engage
Next week, I’ll be keynoting at HCI’s Employee Engagement Conference in Chicago. Among the other speakers joining me on the agenda include Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman and Managing Principal at Deloitte LLP; Ellie Gates, Director of Management Effectiveness & Performance at Adobe; Janice Weiss, Director of Recognition and Engagement Marketing at Macy’s; Ginger Gregory, Chief Human Resources Officer at Dunkin’ Brands, Inc.; and Lisa Lewis, Manager of Organizational Change Management at Mercedes-Benz Financial Services.
Given the focus on employee engagement these days, as well as its impact on bottom-line results, I thought I would take the opportunity in this blog post to preview some of the concepts that I plan to share during my keynote.
If you’re in a leadership role, you need to make employee engagement a top priority. Why? Because when the workforce is full of fully engaged employees, the organization will perform better. An engaged employee is one who gives a hoot about doing a great job. They are not only competent, but conscientious. In short, engaged employees care.
The statistics about the benefits of employee engagement are overwhelming and conclusive. Google the term if you doubt me. Or just use simple logic. Who would you rather have working for you? An employee who takes an interest in doing a great job, who comes to you with solutions and not just problems, who volunteers to take on challenges, and who acts with the organization’s best interests in mind … or an unengaged employee who doesn’t do any of these things?
So what’s a leader to do? I’m a strong advocate for simplicity (my twitter hashtag is @leadsimple). Don’t overthink it. What follows are some simple concepts that will engage your employees.
- Learn About Their Goals: Take the time to get to know the career goals and aspirations of the people you lead. Once you know what they want, you can start shaping tasks and rewards in a way that simultaneously serves the organization and furthers their own career goals.
- Be Engaging: It’s hard to engage others if you’re a bore. So be a role model of engagement. This has nothing to do with charisma, and everything to do with you being engaged the way you want others to be engaged. Lead the way by writing down your own career goals, developing new skills, trying new things and taking risks. Here’s a great question: When was the last time you did something for the first time?
- Create Momentum with Opportunity: Benjamin Disraeli, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, once said, “Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets.” People will move mountains for you as long as they get something in return. The best opportunities are those that activate people’s courage. Again, think simply. Engaging opportunities might include letting someone lead a meeting in your absence, be involved in a consequential decision, take on a pressing task, etc.
- Leverage Discomfort: People don’t learn in a zone of comfort. People learn, grow, and progress in a zone of discomfort. Ginny Rommetty, the CEO of IBM, said “Growth and comfort don’t coexist.” Engage employees by giving assignments that stretch their skills, develop new relationships, and make their palms sweat.
- Involve, Involve, Involve: Leadership doesn’t mean making all the decisions yourself. Dictators do that, not leaders. People will be way more engaged to the extent that you involve them in decisions that impact their work. Asking them for their perspective, their solutions, and their ideas will show them that you truly value them. When they know that, they’ll develop more confidence, and be more loyal to you and the organization.
Leadership is all about getting results. But results are an end. People are the means. When you treat people like intelligent human beings worthy of respect, when you provide them with opportunities to grow and develop, and when you involve them in decisions that affect their own work-lives, they will get great results. They’ll also be very, very engaged.
Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage. Bill’s first book, Right Risk, draws on his experiences as a professional high diver. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.