My posts this month all center around employee engagement as, like many of you, this has been on my mind.
I’ve developed/presented classes on engagement for years and have coached many leaders on how they can increase employee engagement, which we all know is directly related to discretionary performance. I’m confident the activities I have/will suggest to you increase engagement and I hope these posts inspire you to try something new!
My first post this month was a challenge to Leaders 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.
Last week, I offered three “activities” I believe leaders can do in order to increase employee engagement.
- Align employee’s activities and behavior with the vision, mission and values.
- Grant forgiveness and allow risk.
- Recognize appropriately.
This week, I’ll offer four more activities.
4. Push your employees outside their comfort zones.
We all know that learning, development and success rarely happen inside our comfort zones, and most of us know from first hand experience that complacency in thinking and doing often occurs inside our comfort zones!
Therefore, push ‘em!
I’m not an advocate for having unreasonable standards but I am an advocate for treating performance as the high jump, not as the game, limbo. This means you need to know where the bar is (what your standard is), identify if your employee is meeting it (even just slightly so) and raise it. Don’t go crazy high, but raise it and let him/her know why.
Tell your employees why the standard should increase, tell them why you trust they can handle it, tell them it’ll be ok if they stumble and fall, provided they get back up again (this goes to the forgiveness activity discussed in the last post).
Know that your employees want to succeed, but some of them may need a little push in that direction every now and then.
5. Hear what your employees have to say about their jobs.
Everyone’s got an opinion, but not everyone believes they should or can safely share it. Therefore, my challenge to you is to ensure your employees know you want to hear their thoughts and concerns about their jobs. It could be about their work activities, it could be about their schedules, it could be about an organizational process, etc. It doesn’t matter – let them know you want to hear their opinions about how the work is done, when the work is done, where the work is done, etc.
This exchange of information results in you knowing TONS more than you knew yesterday, which will make you a better supervisor or manager. In addition, it buys you a team of employees who believe they have a say in things, who feel empowered to think and act upon their ideas, etc.
6. Inquire about how your employee think about you.
This activity is different than #5 above. The latter activity is about what your employees think about their jobs. This activity is about understanding what they think about you. And notice it’s pro-active, suggesting you solicit the information!
Don’t want to hear their opinions? Don’t think you should go asking for them? Do everyone a favor and resign now!
As a leader, you have no right to block yourself off from scrutiny and judgment. Only when you allow yourself to be judged, only when you commit to your employees that they can share their opinions accordingly, only when you thank them for doing so can you truly call yourself a leader.
I’m not suggesting you fall on a sword every day and I’m certainly not suggesting you allow your staff to exchange information in a way that is unprofessional, disrespectful or otherwise. Instead, I’m suggesting that you commit to pro-actively checking in on what they think about you, your communication, your leadership style, your problem solving tactics, etc. And regardless of how much that feedback may sting from time to time, I challenge you to say thank you.
Your staff, when they realize you are working hard for them, you are open to your own development, you are committed to improving, etc., will respond in kind.
7. Care about your staff.
While this is #7 on my list, don’t think it’s because it is the lowest on my priorities…I may have saved the best for last.
I don’t think you have to love everyone, so don’t get all hot and bothered, but I do think you have to give a damn about them. Demonstrating that you care about their well being, their careers, their development, their concerns, etc., will go a long way in getting them engaged with you and your program.
Regardless of how tough we say we are, regardless of how “fine” we are with the forced organizational boundaries we find ourselves in, regardless of how “independently minded” we claim to be, we all have a basic need and desire to be cared about.
If your employees don’t have this basic foundation, everything else you try to stack onto the relationship will be a bit unstable.
So there you have it…seven activities. Can’t remember them? Remember this word: GRAPHIC
Align them to your vision, mission and values
Push them outside of their comfort zone
Hear what they think
Inquire how they feel
Care about them
Think that’s too much? It’s not…trust me! Try one or two – over the next few months, make them a consistent part of your day. Then, add another one, and then wait awhile and add another.
Before you know it, you’ll be consistently doing all seven activities; they’ll become a habit and you’ll be one of those leaders who says,
“Employee engagement problems? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”