Employee Engagement Depends on Leaders Modeling the Way

Start With these 4 Steps To Lead By Example and Build Engagement

Leaders Model the Way

As a kid I used to LOVE watching Kung-Fu movies. You know, the ones with the cartoony stunt work, hilariously bad translations and horrible voice-overs? Somehow in these movies the video track always failed to match the audio.

Makes me wonder…is that how we sound to our employees when we make proclamations and then act in ways that run counter to what we just said? What message are we sending to our people?

That’s why I propose that the first rule of (employee) engagement should be this: above all else, be clear. And the best way to be clear is to make sure your video matches your audio. In other words, make sure that what you say is backed up 100% by what you do, at work.

Call it leading by example or modeling the way.

Here are 4 steps you can take to make that happen.

Managers Must Develop and Grow Their People

4 Ways to Increase Engagement through Growth & Learning

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I’ll be honest, I seriously dislike hearing managers or executives talk about people in terms of “human resources” or “human capital”.

I don’t think they understand that hitherto, in the course of human endeavors, “resources” and “capital” have been things that tend to be “used up” or “depleted”. And that’s a horrible way to think about the people in an organization—like machines that you operate, break, repair (and repeat) until they arrive at the final cycle of their operational life. Is it any wonder that for more than a century many managers were focused on what they could get out of people instead of what they could put in?

Some are still playing that game today, how else can we explain Gallup’s figure of 70% non-engagement at work?

That simply won’t do.

Today, your job is to develop your “human talent” so that you can grow together.

And how will we measure your success on this front?

How to Practice Sawubona to Increase Employee Engagement at Work

Smart Managers Recognize, Praise, Care for and Consult their People

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A few years back Chris Brogan taught me a fabulous new word: “Sawubona”. It’s the Zulu way of saying “Hi!” and its literal translation is, “I see you”. Now tell me, is there a more beautiful way of communicating one of the central yearnings of every human being on this planet—to be acknowledged, to be appreciated, to be taken into consideration?

To be seen?

And is this not at the core of what we want from the higher-ups at work? Would truly “seeing” people at work not help in defusing much of the unnecessary conflict, negative feelings and lack of engagement that we encounter in so many workplaces?

After all, the conventional wisdom says that people don’t leave their job—they leave their manager.

We can fix this and to help, here are 3 ways that leaders, or anyone on any team, can practice Sawubona at work, everyday:

How To Increase Employee Engagement Part I

3 Core Strategies For Creating a culture of engagement and performance

So according to Gallup, about 70% of all U.S. workers (regardless of job type) are NOT engaged at work, a statistic that has remained pretty constant for decades now.

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I don’t know about you but for me this is nothing short of scandalous.

It seems like an awful waste of time, money and human talent to continue to tolerate this state of affairs in any workplace. I’m left wondering how any organization can be effective (or long endure) when more than two-thirds of its people are practically counting down the minutes until the 5:30 whistle blows.

The responsibility for remedying this situation falls squarely on the shoulders of an organization’s managers, and I’d like to propose 3 strategies to fix this, based on Gallup’s Q12 study of the drivers of employee engagement at work.

However, before we can get started addressing these 3 strategies there is some preliminary work that should be completed. Managers must first ask themselves whether their people have the materials and equipment necessary to do their work correctly.

Crucial Conversation Skills: Don’t Leave Home Without Them

Mastering the art of crucial conversations puts you in an elite group of Pros

Crucial Conversations photo

Throughout human history the presence of conflict and the need for crucial conversations has been a constant. And yet, when faced with irate customers, an angry boss or an irksome co-worker, some of us cringe at the thought of conflict and freeze; others seem to relish it; most of us simply try to avoid it.

Because crucial conversations can become messy and uncomfortable, we tend do handle them clumsily, sometimes even incompetently.

Only a select minority of skilled people understand how to manage potential conflict and harness its power. These great communicators are like alchemists who turn even the most difficult of differences into opportunities. These leaders are highly valued because of their expert ability to remove unproductive friction from human interactions.

One of the best books on the subject of how to master this alchemy is, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High, published in 2002 by the team at Vital Smarts.

I encourage you to read the book and apply its lessons so you can learn how to talk when it matters most.

Here are some key insights from the book that I’ve found tremendously useful:

The best leadership book ever written?

The Leadership Challenge spells out exactly what it means to be a leader while dispelling many leadership myths

The Leadership Challenge

Leadership is a slippery word. By that I mean that it’s often bandied about without a clear understanding of what it means and what it implies. The term is badly misunderstood, too often mythologized and frequently abused. We are not quite sure what leadership entails and if you disagree, try this experiment: ask ten people in your organization to define exactly what leadership is and see what their responses are.

My guess is that you’ll get a wide variance of assertions and only general agreement on what the term signifies.

Some debates about leadership seem to go on forever:

Here’s the stack of books I’ll be reading in the coming weeks

What’s on your reading stack, and why?

stack of books to read

Warning! Reading books is a mind-altering experience! Ralph Waldo Emerson knew as much when he wrote, “The Mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

Indeed. That’s why leaders, who are responsible for solving difficult problems and challenging the status quo, would do well to become voracious consumers of books, for books, as Seth Godin brilliantly put it, are “souvenirs of ideas.”

And leaders need all the souvenirs they can get!

So, I thought I’d share my big fat stack of books to read.

Maybe some of the books on my list are of interest to you. I hope they are.

I’d also love it if you could share your insights on great books you’ve recently read and/or books you can’t wait to read.

Let’s get started…

How to put together a team of genius

Managers, ignore these insights at your own peril

Here’s a question for you: What are the ingredients necessary to create a winning team?

Team Genius cover

Think about it for a moment…really.

We all have notions about what’s needed to create a winning team, or what a winning team looks like, but a lot of those notions are being dispelled by a deluge of scientific evidence that is giving us a new understanding about how to get it right.

In their new book, Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations, Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone, delve into the science of teams and what they report back is provocative and a potential game-changer for you and your organization.