The Essential Secret to Full Engagement
The reason your team isn’t fully engaged is you aren’t fully committed to them. They know, you’re dedicated to them only so long as their performance pleases you. They know organizational interests come first, theirs don’t. They know you’re playing hide-n-seek with opportunities, pay raises, and promotions to manipulate them.
Always place the best interests of employees first, always.
Let everyone on your team know their interests are your interest. Dedicate yourself to enhancing their career. Know where they want to go and help them get there. If their interests aren’t feasible, make it known. Playing games with people is dishonest and manipulative.
You can’t lead or manage people if you don’t know where they want to go. Managers who don’t know the personal goals of their team use carrots and sticks to motivate and manipulate. It’s the only option. They resort to things like, “I sign your paycheck so do what I say.”
You can manipulate but you can’t control. Successful managers don’t try to control people. They simply help people get where they want to go.
Unreservedly dedicate yourself to helping everyone on your team succeed. This means their success must align with organizational success. When it doesn’t align, help them find a place within your organization where it does or help them find a new organization.
Managers who aren’t fully dedicated to enhancing the people around them can’t be fully trusted. When push comes to shove, they’ll choose selfish interests; they’ll cut others down. The heart of trust is the conviction that you’ll always act in my best interests.
Channel the passion you feel for your mission, organization, or project toward the people you manage; serve them. Their success is your success. Convince them you’re fully on their team and they’ll give you all they’ve got.
Dan, great post and I really like, “Successful managers don’t try to control people. They simply help people get where they want to go.”
My own research and experience bears that out. Growth is one of the three keys to engagement (recognition and trust being the other two). The great thing is that managers don’t need time or money to succeed here. A one-on-one career pathing conversation with each direct report goes a long way. Identify career goals, current gaps, and help team members get the experience and knowledge necessary to get there.
Thanks for joining the conversation. Your publisher sent your book “We.” Your comment motivates me to take a look. I hope we can talk sometime soon.
PS… anyone interested in Kevin’s book you can check it out on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/047076743X?ie=UTF8&tag=elearninguru-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=047076743X
As always excellent post Dan. I agree that management like any relationship should not be based upon just reciprocity. You do good for me, only then will I do something good for you is shallow.
I would say a good manager has empathy. He feels the pain of his people and works on removing them(http://www.leaderexperiment.com/unhappy-people-why/)
I like what was stated in First break all the rules book
If you do not have a strongly agree from every member of your team, you have work to do.
The question is
“Do I know what is expected of me at work?”
The only way to get a strongly agree is to understand the person and his individual desires and dreams. Its as you put it “Know where they want to go and help them get there”
Thanks for adding the idea of clear expectations to the conversation. It makes perfect sense. Full engagement is only possible when I know what full engagement looks like.
Thanks also for mentioning “Break All the Rules” I haven’t read it yest but I’m going to look into it.
I like it. The first one (“interests”) helps generate and maintain engagement, while failure in ‘Alignment,” “Trust,” and ‘Channeling,” can threaten “engagement,’ and “Control” can murder it.
I like to keep in mind that engagement is wholly dependent on emotions. Alignment with our work, and emotional buy-in are absolutely key.
Best to you, Dan…
Always a pleasure hearing from you. I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with basing too much on emotion, it’s a New England thing.
But I think you share an important point. Leaving emotion out of the mix creates a stale, dead environment.
Best to you,
RE: Emotion—sorry I wasn’t more clear. What I meant by my statement is that engagement is about the employee having an emotional connection to the work. They need to WANT it for some reason of their own. In other words, they can only be engaged if they are like or love the work, or like or love something that the work makes possible, or like or love a manager who they work for, etc. (The best is if they simply love the work!)
If the employee doesn’t like or love something about the work; if they don’t find some excitement or growth or experience that they value, then they are not engaged. And to Doug’s point, below, it is in the best interest of a leader not to hold on to an employee one second longer than the point where they don’t have that kind of interest in the work. It is in the best interest of all involved (at that point) to help such an employee find work that they ARE interested in; that they CAN engage in. 🙂
It’s important to remember that usually our team differs from us only to a minor degree. Some things are pretty universal: the desire for fair treatment, the desire to provide value for the money they receive (few people actually like knowing they took advantage), understanding of what’s going on, the opportunity to build a good life for themselves and family . . . Employees understand that the reason they get paid is because they probably wouldn’t do it otherwise. They don’t expect Nirvana, just fair treatment and, as Dan points out, honesty.
This point doesn’t have to be a counter to what’s already been said, although some will percieve it to be, but I don’t believe you have to get enthusiastic buy-in from everyone on the team. There are some who just want to come in, do their work, and leave it all in the plant when they go back home. There are some who don’t want to have to figure out the right and wrong, good and bad of things, they just want to know what to do. But the influencers, the ones who think things through, develop opinions, and are listened to by others, are the ones you need to ensure alignment with. Everyone gets fair treatment, honesty and consideration, but not everyone needs to be convinced.
Good post, Dan, as usual. The issue is that we must be able to manage expectations.
If people’s goals don’t line up with the vision or the project, they will likely never be happy. If we can figure out where they are going (or want to go), and align that as much as possible with the bigger picture, they will follow you anywhere.
We frequently forget that even the “little cogs” in the wheel have hopes, dreams and aspirations. As dedicated leaders it is our job to help them realize them.
Martina, you’re exactly right that everyone has hopes and dreams. As leaders we have to be careful not to get frustrated if those dreams aren’t centered around their jobs. Sometimes the job is simply an activity that funds their real dreams. In those cases success will be defined differently than the ones who dream in terms of their careers.
I remember reading a study once—I wish that I could remember the source and the company involved—but the finding was that by helping employees with their OUTSIDE OF WORK aspirations, this company actually INCREASED engagement INSIDE the company. How about that for paradox? Again, it’s all about emotion. Right here in CT, there is a company (United Technologies) that, at least at one time, would pay for ANY kind of college courses its employees wanted to take—job-related or not.
This approach works best on folks who are fairly self-aware, and are within striking distance of hopeful/optimistic as a demeanor. For the most part, employees like these are grateful for the help, use the experience to feel GREAT about working for the company that supports them, and… well… folks who feel great from the inside out, work great from the inside out…
Mark, that would be an interesting study but I already buy the point. We talk a lot here about making the job a good fit for peoples’ lives. In addition to fitting work into their larger picture, we’ve found that most like to go home feeling good about their day in terms of accomplishment and self-fulfillment. So even the ones who don’t dream of big things at work still want a good, meaningful workday.
Indeed “little cogs” DO have hopes, dreams and aspirations—or at least they ought to. I so agree! And if their dreams are very modest—or if they are in survival/security mode, so that their main idea is getting by—well, then the keys to engagement need to begin at that level, right? So a nod to Greg’s point here regarding fair treatment and understanding that inspiration and motivation may differ (widely) in scope among those in the employee pool.
Agreed, guys. But, e must remember that if we are trying to fuel and feed their dream, it IS their dream and not my version of what they should be dreaming or aspiring to do or become. We have some discernment for the directions they move in, but they have to buy into the dream for it to move forward.
We each dream a little differently, so it can never be one size fits all.
Matthew Kelly’s book “The Dream Manager” is built around mpetruzzi’s point above that people’s OUTSIDE OF WORK aspirations fuel their INSIDE the company efforts. The fable is based on a real-life company, a janitorial service, that increased employee engagement and revenue when the manager began to find out what dreams the employees had and then consciously helped them to fulfill them. This involved pointing them toward — or providing — such resources as financial planning services, mortgage lenders, etc. No matter the resources provided, though, the key is the sincere caring and interest from the manager into the whole person, not just the “worker bee” aspect of the individual.
Thanks for the post and the reminder that everyone in an organization is a full human being and that human connection goes a long way toward building good will and a desire to help each other achieve both individually and mutually desired goals.
Thank you, Tony!
This is another great post, and timely for me since the Tallahassee Leadership Book Club just read and discussed “Take the Lead” by Betsy Myers. This book prodded the discussion group into a discussion that was primarily about engagement.
Earlier this week on LF, I cited my favorite expression from the book, which had to do with the feeling of “freaking out with joy” when you are fully engaged with your work. Today, I’ll cite an incident discussed in the book, where a new-to-the-organization individual who was fairly young and just starting out had begun to work at the development office of the university where she had graduated from. She had an opportunity ride in the car service with the University president (or some other higher level official) and was so excited to share her thrill at being able to give back to the univ. The senior individual spent the ride focused on his blackberry and virtually not interacting with her. She was disillusioned after that – and the leader had missed a golden opportunity to weave another thread into the fabric of one individual’s “engagement story.” [and my apologies to Betsy Myers if I completely mucked up the details of the story!].
If you are senior to me and engage me in conversation that leads me to believe you want me to be your teammate in a mutual cause, just sit back and watch how much I want to give to that team.
Across the board we have a tendency to complicate the hell out of providing a healthy environment that allows all the participants with the ability to be successful pursuing their goals whatever they may be (career, company, personal, etc.). The ultimate goal is to gain their endorsement of whatever tribe they are participants in because without that endorsement any notion of a “client endorsement” will be lost. So for clarity sake let me suggest that an “individual’s endorsement” is driven by providing them a PURPOSE; allowing them to utilize and enhance their SKILL; providing them with enough autonomy to take ACTION; and when successful provide RECOGNITION. Not complex at all.
Hey Dan would you agree/disagree with this variation…
Always place the best interests of your best employees first, always.
I fell a bit uncomfy with the qualifier. I think I see where you are coming from.
I’m thinking if I can’t put your best interests first, which might be developing their skills, then maybe it’s time for a change.
I wonder if the allocation of both resources and time might be part of the “best” idea. In other words, dedicate more of your resources toward your best people….
I’m still mulling this over.
Come on back,
Where I was headed was recognizing/reenforcing those who are stepping up as it reflects the high level of trust you have in their work and their willingness to risk to be the early adopters. Those trailblazers can feel out in the cold sans regular support. Would agree with your modifier of dedicate more resources (and probably time) toward your best folks. Obviously not saying, ignore others, just recognize first those who are working hardest.
I think I’m hearing you on recognition… in that regard, I’ve recently come to the conclusion it’s impossible to give too much recognition as long as the recipient has earned it and the giver is sincere (not manipulating)
As always, the conversation on LF is the best part of blogging…
The best interests of every employee is paramount. If someone is not a good fit then it’s in their best interest to know it, even if it means them being let go. They’ll then have the opportunity to seek a situation or place that is a good match. I’ve seen it time and again, really ‘great’ people showing up as really ‘not so great’ people in the wrong circumstances. It’s amazing to witness these same people thrive in the right place.
Dan and All: Between Dan’s post and the comments you have all posted you have pretty much nailed it on the head. The carrot and stick no longer works, evidence of that is a growing movement in social justice and people opting to make less for a higher cause. Without trust, there will never be full engagement by manager or staff, and without recognition you might as well toss any idea out of full engagement. This is where having strong Emotional Intelligence comes into play, a must for leaders and all in my opinion.
Successful managers do not manipulate their employees especially in a negative manner. I’ve never seen negative manipulation work and I’ve worked since I was 16. Successful leaders encourage their team to do great things. They do not manipulate and they do not negatively manipulate their staff.
When Columbus Regional Medical Center in Indiana was shut down for 5 months by a freak flash flood, the executive team and board committed to keeping the entire staff on the payroll for the duration, even though they had no income to offset the expense. They got the money by depleting their building fund – believing that investing in people was more important than investing in bricks and mortar. It is no coincidence that CRMC has some of the most highly dedicated, committed, and engaged workers I have ever seen in a hospital.