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4 Key Strategies to Engage Your Employees


{#/pub/images/4KeyStrategiestoEngageYourEmployees.jpg}Many managers and supervisors tell me that they wish their employees would be more engaged. They want to see higher degrees of enthusiasm, ownership, commitment and accountability throughout the ranks on a daily basis. Maybe you have felt this way. But as a manager, you have more influence over employee engagement than you might think. Read on to learn 4 ways that you can positively influence employee engagement. 


As managers, we dream of having employees that “step-up-to-the-plate” and bring their “A-game” to work. Our lives would be so easy if they would invest themselves fully in their jobs, take charge of their own learning, and then be fully accountable for their actions. These are some of the telltale signs of engagement, and we can easily fall into the trap of believing that these behaviors are simply things that our employees either do, or don’t do


I have to admit– I’ve fallen into the trap myself. Sometimes, it’s just easier to complain about them, rather than look in the mirror and change our own actions. 


But as a leader, you know very well that you don’t get the luxury of complaining and sitting idly by while things go south. You need to keep bringing a fresh perspective to the game and think of new and positive ways to get the results you seek. So remember these important tips when you are faced with disengaged employees. 


4 Key Strategies to Engage Your Employees


1) Look For the Right Fit


If your employee appears disengaged, it may be because her job duties are not well aligned with her natural talents, work-style preferences and goals. We probably all have a leader we can remember who identified talents and skills in us that we didn’t even know we had! These are the people we work hardest for and we don’t want to let them down! Conversely, we can probably also remember the leader who didn’t tap into our talents at all. In my case, I remember that leader well. I couldn’t wait to find a new job where someone would appreciate what I had to offer. 


In either case, the leader has a golden opportunity to “bring forth” the best in an employee by paying attention to the ways that the employee shines. Is she a visionary with great ideas who struggles with follow-through? Is he a people-person who provides comic relief but doesn’t discuss the tough issues? Is she attentive to the fine details but at a loss for the big picture? In addition to simply paying attention, using a tool administered by a licensed assessor such as the DiSC® profile or the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, can provide unique insight into the habits and preferences of your employees. Collaborating with your employee and investigating the fit between the assessment results and the employee’s job description can illuminate places where the fit is right, and opportunities for change. 


2) Beware Your Attitude!


It’s far too easy to develop a sour attitude with others at work if we negatively judge their behaviors. For example, if I observe my employee turning in incomplete work, and I then negatively attribute the behavior to some character flaw on his part (a.k.a. the fundamental attribution error), then I am likely to bring that negativity into our future interactions. This negativity may then be perceived as hostility, and the relationship can deteriorate from there. What started as a few mis-steps can erode into a hostile work environment. The good news is that this dynamic can be completely avoided if we are aware of how we interpret the behaviors of others and we choose to stay positive. Even better, if we assume that each person has positive intent and is doing the best they can, we are far more likely to instigate a supportive conversation about the incomplete work, and thereby strengthen the relationship and the employee’s ability to perform as an end result. 


3) Inspire a Shared Vision


As the leader, it behooves you to inspire others toward a shared vision, rather than simply tell people what needs to be done and by when. Kouzes and Posner, in their bestselling book, “The Leadership Challenge,” (Jossey-Bass, 2012), describe this as one of five practices of exemplary leaders. The vision must be ennobling, and it must also enlist others. It is not enough to simply say, “this is my vision…” a leader who truly paves the path toward high engagement understands what drives their employees and they develop their vision in such a way that it enlists the values, hearts and minds of all involved. 


4) Ask People to Develop the Work Plans


Beyond being engaged in the vision for the future, you need your employees to take ownership of the everyday work. This is where true engagement is expressed. But far too often, I hear leaders tell me that, “it’s just easier for me to lay out the work for them.” Or, “I don’t have time to plan. We are busy, we need to get things done quickly.” To this, I always say, “I understand. But you will either pay now, or pay later. Which would you prefer?” When I say this, I mean that if you spend the time upfront and do your planning- asking your team to map out the milestones, deliverables and the action plans, complete with “who-will-do-what-by-when,” it will take more time up front, but you will save time down the road because the team has already grappled with the issues of responsibility and ownership. They have already invested. It has become their vision, supported by their goals and milestones. Their creative minds are hooked! 


When this process is led with integrity, it results in creative ideas supported by robust work plans where the work is distributed according to ability and interest. 


Employing these 4 practices with consistency will help you to connect the right person with the right job, be a coach with a positive attitude rather than a judge wielding negativity, engage others in the vision of success, and inspire them to be an active part of reaching shared goals on a daily basis. 



{#/pub/images/ClaireLaughlin.jpg}Written by Claire Laughlin, Consultant & Trainer, Leadership 4 Design- As an independent consultant and trainer with 20 years of diverse experience, Claire Laughlin brings a passion for improving relationships, experience in management, and a relentless dedication to transformation to all of her work. She is fully committed to working with individuals, teams, and organizations as they learn and cultivate the habits and practices that make their organizational dynamics healthy and highly productive. Claire's experience spans Leadership to Communication Essentials to Project Management & Customer Service and has designed and taught over one hundred courses at over 60 organizations and seven different colleges and universities. In addition to her consultancy work, Claire directs Cabrillo College's Corporate Training Program.


Do you have a question for Claire?  Please visit our Workplace Communication Skills Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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