An utterly depressing stat has circulated for years says that only about 30% of people are engaged in their work. That’s 70% of people who don’t enjoy the activity that they commit 30% of their life to. This is the stat that keeps us up at night. It’s our company’s mission to fix it.
As a leader in your company, it’s your duty to make sure this is not the case. I’ll repeat, it’s your duty to make sure your team is engaged.
No, you don’t have to always be happy and buddy-buddy singing kumbaya, but you do have to make sure your team is engaged.
“Employee engagement” has become a tired phrase. Overuse has taken away some of its significance. It helps to instead focus on the perils of ignoring engagement and identify the risks to your team posed by disengaged employees. Disengaged employees bring productivity down, they bring morale down, and they personally bring you down.
Simply put, they are toxic.
The solution to high employee engagement is rooted in the core needs of your team. You can find the first principles of employee engagement and happiness in Edward Deci’s work on Self-Determination Theory. They are defined as,
Start here to address employee engagement. Using these principles, here is a simple 3 step process to help you get your team engaged.
Autonomy Baby Steps
If you’re not used to it, then giving your employees autonomy is hard. Autonomy is rooted in trust (difficulty with it might be rooted in lack of trust).
Reflect on your management style. Do you tend to air on the side of micromanaging? Do you find yourself jumping into projects often and unnecessarily taking control of decisions and tasks? Maybe you used to do certain tasks and have had to learn to delegate as you grow. Delegation is one of the hardest lessons leaders have to learn. We have to learn to trust our team to get the work done and how to be happy with an alternative path to our desired outcome. It is as simple as asking your team if they feel like they are being micromanaged. If they are, ask them what changes would help with that.
From there, give them a project that they can independently handle. Pay attention to the process, give them appropriate feedback, but also observe the results of their approach.
Once they’ve completed the project, ask them how they feel it went. If the outcome was not on point, then talk with your team about it. Your team will be more intrinsically motivated and engaged as they take ownership of solutions and outcomes. You will only grow as a team and as a company to the level you are willing to let go and delegate.
Competence Through Strengths
Everyone feels better and more engaged when they are competent in their work. Winning and doing great work generates a positive cycle. You do great work, you feel great about that work, and it motivates you and gives you the confidence to do more great work.
When it comes to competence, it’s all about getting the right people doing the right tasks. Do some basic personality tests with the team (StrengthFinder has worked great for us. It’s low cost and a small time investment).
Odds are good you might know your team (or think that you do) but having results gives you a solid starting point. Once you have the strengths of your team, think about the alignment of these strengths to the work that you need doing.
Publish the strengths results publicly.
Talk about them as a team.
Get feedback from others on how best to arrange teams to align with strengths. The feedback will surprise you. You can make simple changes to achieve significant results.
Perspective Leads To Relatedness
Most leaders have a hard time with “relatedness.” It’s easy to gravitate to one end of the spectrum or the other. Either you become too buddy-buddy with your team and you seem more like a friend than a leader, or you become too overbearing in your management role and stifle team’s motivation and engagement.
Leadership is about stewardship and taking care of your team—caring for them and their success. Tactics without this will fall flat; people see through you in a minute. Once you shift your own desire toward wanting them to succeed, you begin to identify things that are important to them. The simple truth is that you are only as good as your team; if you don’t care about your teammates, then they won’t care about you or the work you’re asking them to do.
You’re all in this together and all the same big goal but each person plays their part in getting there.
- Discover baby steps to autonomy for your team. Maybe you are the problem or maybe the process is causing unnecessary dependence.
- Find out your team’s strengths, then align their work to those strengths. Do this in the open and you’ll be surprised by the results.
- Change your perspective on management from task-master to steward. You’re only as good as your team so you need to invest in them.
In closing, the wise words of management thought leader Peter Drucker:
“Accept the fact that we have to treat almost anybody as a volunteer.”
Please share your thoughts/tips in the comments.