May 16, 2016

Engagement Goes a Long Way; it Starts with the Leader


Does your team seem engaged?

If you, as their leader, were to ask them to rate their engagement from 1 to 5, with 1 being Actively Disengaged (meaning they don’t care about what they are doing and are distracted from their work; they may even be sabotaging it!)) and 5 being Actively Engaged (meaning highly motivated to do their work and be productive), what would the consensus be? When considering their responses, realize their engagement may be directly linked to how engaged you, as their leader, are to them.

Engagement has been a real problem in the USA for some time. According to The Gallup Organization, it is reported that only about 1/3 of all employees are truly engaged at work. That leaves the majority not engaged or actively disengaged and wreaking havoc on the workforce. This disengagement causes organizations to lose immeasurable amounts of money and resources to lost productivity, high turnover, and high stress. A work life in this type of environment is not healthy and not sustainable for anyone.

One way to counter this disengagement is for the leader to proactively and intentionally engage with those they lead. The leader has tremendous influence in setting the tone for their team. The following are a few ways that this can happen.

First and foremost, build relationships.  Know your people, both in and outside the office. Disengagement starts to show its head when people feel they are alone and misunderstood. Take time to connect and reassure your team that you are there to help them in their pursuits. This requires the leader to know the current capacity of each of their members. This will fluctuate with time, but it is through relationships that one knows how to respond and adjust expectations.

Express optimism. Engagement is naturally positive while disengagement is characteristically negative. Both are contagious. Take the time to spread encouragement, hope, and confidence to your team. Make this a habit. Be sure to push solutions rather than dwell on problems and blame. This is not to say you should not have appropriate consequences to deal with problem situations; but as the leader, you feed your team. You get to choose what is fed to them – optimism or pessimism. The choice is yours, but only one will produce desired results.

Include others and delegate responsibilities. Engagement means involvement. No one wants to feel like just a cog in the wheel, being told what to do and how to do it. This strips team members of their strengths and diminishes their worth. If you, as a leader, feel that you are the only one on your team capable of thinking and doing, then you are not leading; you are being a roadblock. Involve your team and allow them to help create the plan, solve the problem, or take on the project. Then delegate responsibility to them, share clearly what the expectation is, check in regularly (to hear updates and offer support), and then get out of the way. You may be surprised how engaged they become when have a sense of ownership in the outcome.

This week take a step toward engaging your team. Pick a strategy from above and implement it.  Then step back and see how much more engaged they are, ready to perform at their highest level.

by Ricky Escobar

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