A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you


Employee Engagement, Part One

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup


Last week, I wrote about employee engagement – and I suggested that “engagement” had become a hot potato that neither Human Resources or Leadership was willing to grab.

I offered easy ways to grab the potato…

Build the relationship, define what engagement looks like, measure it and recognize the efforts made by your staff when they step up, lean in or otherwise get involved.


This week, I offer a few activities that leaders can do to help increase employee engagement.  (I have seven things…but you’d be bored to tears if I shared all of them in one post so I’ll share three today and I’ll share the rest next week.)


1) Align employee’s activities and behavior with the vision, mission and values.

As leaders, we should be connecting with the vision and mission and, as leaders, we should be consistently demonstrating the values of the organization.

Yet so many of us underestimate the power of this alignment with our own staff.

Why?  If it works for us, why would it not work for them?

I suggest that leaders change the way they communicate to their staff to ensure the “connection” is made – to ensure alignment.

alignmentIt is fairly easy to overlay the vision/mission/values onto current communication.

Instead of saying, “the client has made another change order,” he could say, “our goal is to be the most referred contractor and that’s dependent upon client satisfaction…and this client has requested a change to our contract.”

Instead of saying, “thanks for providing a creative solution to problem X,” she could say “your creative solution to problem X was exactly what this company had in mind when it identified innovativeness as one of our values.”

Seem cheesy?  Perhaps…but trust me on this one…communicating in this way helps articulate the vision, mission and values, which helps the employees understand how they are aligned.


2) Grant Forgiveness

I suppose many leaders think they already do this…but I am willing to bet my dear friend’s pretzel rolls that they don’t do it well or consistently.

  • Do they hold a grudge?
  • Do they ever chastise or otherwise tease someone when they screw up?
  • Do they hold themselves and others to an unreasonably high standard?
  • Do they tolerate mistakes?
  • Do they allow for risk taking?

This is about the culture they are maintaining.its ok

  • Can someone put his neck out without fear of getting his head chopped off?
  • Can someone make mistakes and still feel good because there is learning and development that ensures a better output next time?
  • Can someone make a mistake or blunder that won’t be held over her head for her entire career?
  • Are employees comfortable with vulnerability?  Do they see it as a weakness or do they know it sits on the cusp of creativity, innovation and brilliance?

I challenge leaders to look in the mirror and honestly evaluate if they are cultivating a culture that grants forgiveness.

If not, they should expect to struggle with employee engagement.


3) Recognize Appropriately

Many think recognition is a fancy program that costs money.  Others think recognition is something they need lots of time for.

I call BS on those excuses.

Recognition is free.  

I’m not asking anyone to buy or procure anything.  This is not about certificates, logo gear, movie tickets, gift cards, etc.  This is about the leader getting up, speaking up, sending an email, taking a walk to a different work area, etc.

Recognition takes time.

Indeed, it does!  However, it doesn’t take a lot of time.  And here’s a harsh truth, if a leader doesn’t believe he has time to recognize his staff, he should do his company a favor and resign.  In my opinion, one doesn’t deserve a leadership position if he/she can’t invest some time in this activity.


This is about recognizing “appropriately.”   recognition

Timely recognition is needed.

A dog wouldn’t know his owner was happy he did his business outside if she (the owner) withheld praise until after the dog came inside.  Likewise, the dog wouldn’t know he wasn’t supposed to do his business on the owner’s cowboy boots if she (the owner) only scolded him when she noticed the mess hours later.

Employees won’t know what performance/behavior to repeat if the leader doesn’t recognize their efforts/performance at the time.  Nor will the employees learn much if the leader tells them they didn’t meet the standard in May during their employee evaluation meeting in October.


Clear recognition is needed.

The “genius” who, decades ago, convinced supervisors to “sandwich” a negative between two positives confused an entire generation of supervisors.

Why bury the reality of the situation?  If the leader needs to give positive recognition or feedback, he should give it!  If constructive or negative recognition is needed, he should give it!

The feedback can be turned into a learning moment if the leader offers “conditional recognition.” Conditional recognition works like an “if, then” statement:

“if you would have done X, ABC would have happened.”

“because your work was A, XYZ is the likely result.”

 (Two other posts on recognition may be of value to you:
All You Need is Love, Part One
and Part Two offer some interesting insight.)


Alignment, forgiveness and recognition.

It’s not rocket science…they are just three easy tips on employee engagement.


Try one…I’ll offer four more next week.



AppreciationCommunicationsEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEncouragementEngagementForgivenessHuman ResourcesLeadershipRecognitionValueWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • April 8, 2013

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