4 Neglected Essentials of Engagement they didn’t Teach you in School
Engagement is freely given. Forced engagement is coercion or intimidation.
Four neglected essentials of engagement:
#1. Model the way.
Pull with others, if you expect them to pull with you.
Practice engagement if you expect engagement. Disengaged leaders produce disengaged organizations. Never make exceptions for yourself. Define the extra mile and go there.
Self-leadership precedes leading others. Expect more from yourself than you expect from others.
#2. Generate power.
It’s not engagement if you control all the options.
Engagement requires power. People feel powerful when they make choices.
Four simple steps to give power to others:
- Identify and agree on the goal.
- Ask, “How might we move toward the goal?”
- After they provide an option, ask, “And what else?” Generate three or four options.
- Ask, “Which options would you like to choose?”
People feel powerful when they make choices.
#3. Challenge – don’t coddle.
When you coddle someone you imply they are incompetent. Respect talent. Don’t pamper it.
Coddling is a subtle form of arrogance that rejects the competence of others.
#4. Agree with negative self-assessments.
People may expect you to comfort them when they complain that they’re incompetent. Treat them like full grown adults instead. Don’t tell them it’s not that bad. Avoid the tendency to bolster their ego.
When someone says they aren’t good at something, take them seriously. Agree with them. Avoid the temptation to minimize their concerns.
Engagement is a form of responsibility. You short-circuit engagement when you help people shirk responsibility.
When someone says they aren’t good at something, it may be an attempt to lower expectations. If they aren’t competent, they can’t be expected to fully engage.
The issue is what they would like to do, even if they feel insecure or incompetent.
Which of these ideas seems most important to engagement from your point of view?
How might leaders ignite engagement, even if they don’t have authority to coerce it?
Thanks Dan. One of the subtleties of your post that I applaud is the use of the word “people” and the lack of the word “employee.”
For too long this topic has been called “employee engagement.” It’s resulted in limited success because it (by definition) attempts to treat workers only as valued employees.
The underlying issue, as you point out, is that before anything else, employees are human … irrespective of what they are employed to do.
Thanks again for your insights.
Thanks Mark. I agree, “employee” feels a little degrading. Honoring people as human beings takes leaders in the direction they want to go. Thanks for your insights.
Dan, this is one of the great paradoxes of business/ management/ leadership…. having an attitude/ system that respects people as humans before a system that values them as employees would actually make management/ leadership easier…. and more enjoyable and more productive.
I really am at a loss to understand why this shift in perspective is so hard to make. Conventional wisdom? Too risky?
Maybe it’s fear. Maybe the shift is hard because we feel like we’re losing control.
Mark, I think this arises from a fear that if you consider employees to be human you would have to accept human weaknesses are the price of doing business and “shock, horror” accept that these “people” are not 110% committed to your organisation with 110% of their being. And then where would we be?
But seriously, I think it arises because a lot of managers actually aren’t very good at dealing with people under any circumstances…
Great post as always. Unfortunately, I’ve found a lot of leaders seem to fail at #1 when they don’t roll up their sleeves, too, or at #2 when they dictate the options and the path. They definitely didn’t learn about engagement in school!
How do we get leaders to step back and pay more than lip service to people engagement when we’re the people working for them? That’s what I’ve always found challenging.
Thanks David. Your comment reminds me that we are responsible for the environement we create. When we complain about lack of engagement, it’s likely we’re saying something about ourselves.
By the way, Top Down engagement programs crack me up. They are symptomatic of the problem.
Oh My. I am a college prof, teaching strategy and management. We complain constantly about the lack of student engagement, but we are responsible for the classroom environment. Hmmm
Thanks Don. That stings. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your insight “When someone says they aren’t good at something, it may be an attempt to lower expectations.” That is when I will ask “How can we change that?” And I am thinking about myself (saying I am not good at something) as well as others.
Thanks Jackie. The greatest leadership challenge is applying these ideas to ourselves. Way to go!
Don, I’ve just submitted my grades for the semester and the last question is how can I communicate, teach, lead students better to love what I’m teaching. A friend of mine was honored at the University of Richmond as an outstanding educator and he spent Saturday mornings coaching, teaching, tutoring, and mentoring students. That’s what I call engagement with students.
Dan – Giving other power and setting expectations goes a long way toward engagement.
Thanks McSteve. Love the illustration and the insight. Your use of ‘setting expectations’ is important. Perhaps it fits under the idea of don’t coddle.
“How might leaders ignite engagement, even if they don’t have authority to coerce it?”
As a new manager I had an interest in the wellbeing of all employees that I worked with. Showing an interest is the first step in helping employees see that they are valued.
A year after I left my employer a former coworker asked me, “How many people do you think care about my career?” I was taken aback, I asked, “How many?” He said, “Two, my wife and you.” That was sad since there was no one left who cared about his future. That’s the bad news, the good news was that no one cared about any employee’s future.
We get who we hire and who we promote. If we are not happy with who we hire or promote we need to ask outsiders for help.
I currently teach at a school where principle coddles rather than challenges her team. She micro-manages everything. What advice would you give to me? Should I confront her about it or just learn from her style and lead differently in the future.
I agree wholeheartedly with agreeing with negative self-assessments. We live in a culture that is so afraid to offend people that we have become soft. When someone fails, they need to experience the consequences and learn from them. When leaders baby their team, they rob them of growth.