A major part of my work is helping teams deliver great things on time and budget. The challenge is of course that teams are people, and people are complex. Engaged people deliver better. So what is “engagement” and how do we achieve it?
What does “ engaged” look like?
Having worked with engaged and disengaged people, I would like to say…you know it when you see it…but that’s not helpful, so here are some typical characteristics of engaged people:
They are committed; they want their team and company to succeed
They are on-purpose, focused on their goals, happy to go the extra mile if it helps
They are easy to work with, collaborative, not toxic
Some people are engaged by nature, others need some guidance. Here’s what helps…
1. Get the right people in the right role with the right know-how to succeed
It’s stating the obvious but set the team up for success. Know their current skills and broaden job roles that give people room to grow, even overlap with others. It’s frightening that 37% of the skills employees use today were learned in the past year so encourage them to add new skills that are aligned to team, project and corporate goals.. Smart leaders formally allocate time for learning to keep their people at the top of their game. When they succeed, the organisation does too. Check by asking:
Does my team have the skills and training to thrive in their role?
Does my team have the opportunity to do what they do best – every day?
2. Recognise aspirations and work with them
Some people will want a promotion, others stability, some like public recognition, others not so much. But everyone likes to feel like their work is worthwhile and recognised. Nobody just wants to be a number.
Help people map their skills, find their strengths, weaknesses and aspirations then work with them to work on themselves. Don’t make it a one-off HR exercise, but part of your regular 1:1 meeting where you work on developing them so they deliver better. And measure it, so you and they can see a clear path and results. Recognising people’s aspirations and planning their development can be hugely motivating and engaging. Check by asking:
Does my team have opportunities to learn and grow both personally and professionally?
Does my team clearly understand their goals and how they contribute to success?
3. Lead by example
Great leaders really do inspire engagement by example. Their own behaviours and activities empower people to bring out the best in them. They know their people and give them every chance to succeed. And they give feedback, which even if it’s not positive, is constructive. That’s sincerity and integrity. Check by asking:
Does your team trust your management and believe they have their best interests in mind?
Does your team frequently receive recognition, praise and constructive criticism?
Engagement is reciprocal. Give to get.
4. Awareness of consequences
Yes, I sneaked this one in because it’s unpopular! People need clarity. Just as they need positivity, they also need to understand the consequences of non-performance and failure. There’s a massive difference between blame culture, which drives bad behaviour and understanding consequences, which crystallises the need for high performance. After all, we are in the workplace where every action counts, so it’s important to make every action count.