I recently read that 7 out of 10 employees would rather see their boss fired than be awarded a pay rise. That’s a sad and somewhat humorous statistic!
As a business owner, you rely on your leadership team to help you drive your organisation forward. If instead, they are one of the root causes of holding it back, a different approach to leadership may be required.
Which category does your leadership team fall into?
To start, which statement would you say most accurately reflects your leadership team today:
Leaders plan and operate with a few business goals. However, they too regularly focus on maintaining and improving their own status and rewards. They often operate with a scarcity, not an abundance mindset. They provide sporadic feedback to team members, but it is viewed as a necessary (but not rewarding) part of their role. They are only interested in employees performing their roles to satisfaction rather than motivating them to achieve more. As a result, their teams work to the level that’s required rather than to their full potential.
Leaders are passionate about their vision and the organisation’s purpose. They break down barriers, put people first by getting to know them, show appreciation, and encourage a culture of self-improvement. They feel connected to ownership and empowered to proactively translate purpose into action. Leaders engage in effective, regular communication and feedback with team members and conduct open, two-way reviews on at least a quarterly basis.
Based on our experience, the likelihood is that if you asked your employees to score how engaged their leaders are, the chances are they would put them somewhere between (a) and (b).
Having analysed, quite literally, tens of thousands of survey responses from clients using the Engagement Multiplier Program, there are common themes that come to the fore time and time again when it comes to the way leaders interact with their teams:
Approval and appreciation.
The first step in making sure that a team is as engaged as possible is to demonstrate that leadership approves of and appreciates their work for the company. This is one of the Engaged Leaders’ key roles. A successful Engaged Leader has to look beyond discontent and focus on the dedication of every team member to the company. When they do, they can find key ways to leverage those team members’ qualities to improve their own performances. Engaged Leaders are on the lookout for opportunities to acknowledge the contributions made by the people on their teams in a way that’s not false or fabricated but authentic.
Put the person ahead of the job.
The old saying goes that there’s no ‘I’ in team. (Although as Michael Jordan pointed out, there is an ‘I’ in win!) When everyone’s pulling together to polish off a project, yes, they have to work together to succeed. But ultimately, an engaged team is actually made up of individuals who want to be thought of as distinct personalities. Nobody wants to be considered just another part of the herd. This means that Engaged Leaders must spend time getting to know their team members as people and getting in touch with their talents, ambitions, and quirks. This personal touch is essential to engagement at this level.
Nothing sabotages engagement like the belief that ‘the game is rigged’. I’m talking about what should be a very dirty word to any Engaged Leader — politics. Leadership roles within a team should be assigned according to talent, interest, and results, and not for reasons that are unrelated to performance on the job. Complete fairness in organisational matters may sometimes be impossible, but it is a goal that Engaged Leaders should always pursue.
Whenever they can, Engaged Leaders should encourage workers to connect not only with those in their own departments but also with people in other departments. This kind of cross-pollination frequently eliminates tunnel vision and allows for some heady brainstorming. For example, someone in production might collaborate with someone in accounting to devise a new, cost-effective way to track supply expenses.
Be passionate about their job and about the company’s Purpose.
If leadership isn’t excited about what it’s doing, the company’s Purpose, or achieving important organisational goals, the team won’t be either. Team members take their cues from leadership. When an Engaged Leader takes care to convey the spirit of any endeavor, it adds energy and excitement to everybody’s effort. How are your leaders conveying their enthusiasm for your company’s goals? Are they communicating them clearly, effectively, and repeatedly, or are they keeping their cards too close to their chest?
Open up to their team.
Engaged Leaders need to be prepared to open up a bit to the people who work for them. If they’re entirely private, isolated, and clinical about the work they do — not showing their own humanity or what they find exciting in their own lives — they can’t expect their team members to share with them personally in return. If they’re closed off as leaders and purely focused on what’s going on in the business, they’ll never be Engaged Leaders because their people won’t open up to them.
I’m not for one minute suggesting your leaders should share intimate details of their private lives — that may be inappropriate. What I am suggesting is, there are things that excite them outside of their work. It’s good for them to give team members a glimpse of these things
— and they may even find some common ground in areas they didn’t realise.
What’s impressive about each of these themes is that employees are not unrealistic about what they seek their leaders to provide. There’s nothing particularly complicated or costly here, right?
Do your employees feel the same way about leadership in your organisation that research suggests?
You may think that you know how your employees feel about leadership, but how do you really know? There’s only one way to find out – ask them! But, you will need to provide them with a safe, confidential, and anonymous way of doing so – because unless you do, most employees will hold back their true feelings for fear of upsetting the boss.
Despite the shocking statistic I shared at the start of this blog, in our experience, employees very rarely abuse this privilege. Instead, they offer productive, well-thought suggestions on actions leadership can take to help improve engagement.
I mentioned earlier that we’ve reviewed tens of thousands of survey responses. I can genuinely count on the fingers of one hand the number of our client’s employees that have wasted their ‘vote’ with unhelpful comments, bitching, or moaning. Instead, they use the opportunity to provide honest feedback that will help improve their working environment – because, at the end of the day, that’s what they want.
If you’re a business owner reading this and thinking that opening up yourself and your leadership team to confidential feedback from your employees creates vulnerability then, to put it bluntly, you’re wrong. In fact, it does quite the opposite. It puts you in a position of strength. What better way to demonstrate true leadership than to say to your employees, we want to do better so tell us how – and then make it happen.
To learn more, contact Engagement Multiplier to get a free copy of our guide on Engaged Leadership.