Eliciting Excellence

The Art of Engagement

Employee engagement is an interesting topic. Engagement is not something you do to people. In fact, if you’ve hired the right people to begin with, they’re already engaged when they come on board. They’re enthused, excited to be there, and imagining how they’ll make a difference. There’s no need to get them engaged – they already are. The issues arise after they’ve begun working for you.

The art of keeping employees engaged encompasses two things. It’s about avoiding the disengagement that occurs when bosses interact poorly and it’s about developing initiatives that create passion and commitment.

Avoid Disengagement

Employees don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. How do bosses cause people to become disillusioned and disengaged? It can happen in a number of ways. When a boss doesn’t respect someone’s efforts and ideas, it demonstrates that the boss doesn’t value them. A boss communicates (either intentionally or unintentionally) he or she doesn’t respect a person’s efforts when no appreciation is shown for those efforts. It’s demoralizing to have one’s efforts taken for granted. A boss also shows they don’t respect a person’s efforts, judgment, or intelligence when they micromanage. This lack of autonomy shows that the boss doesn’t trust people to do what needs to get done. When creativity and personal expression are removed, disengagement occurs. There is a significant difference between commitment and compliance.

When employees aren’t respected by their leader, they lose respect for that leader. When a leader demonstrates they don’t trust the people they lead, those people stop trusting their leader. And when people don’t respect and trust a leader, they begin to disengage.

If a boss says one thing but does another, he or she demonstrates a lack of integrity. People learn they can’t rely on the leader. Additionally, if a leader claims certain behaviors and values are important to them but then acts in a manner which is at odds with those values and behaviors, it also demonstrate a lack of integrity. When a boss lacks integrity, people become disillusioned and they disengage.

If a boss doesn’t ask for opinions and/or ideas from their team, it shows they don’t value them. People see right through a leader who makes a show of asking for people’s opinions and ideas, but always does what they were going to do in the first place. Not only does that leader demonstrate they don’t value people, but it reflects a lack of integrity. When it becomes clear that a boss doesn’t value the people around him or her, those people become disillusioned and they disengage.

Develop Meaningful Initiatives
Companies and bosses frequently develop initiatives that are uninspiring and arbitrary. They’ll announce an initiative which amounts to nothing more than a simple goal; something like “increasing sales by 20%” or “increasing calls by 50%”. These initiatives lack a compelling reason for achievement. An initiative that lacks an emotional component leads to apathy and disengagement.

In contrast, an initiative that inspires people to be better than they are sparks self-motivation and enhances engagement. An initiative that aspires to something noteworthy and instills pride causes people to do their best work.

By showing respect for people, earning their trust, demonstrating integrity, valuing their ideas, and developing compelling initiatives, engagement can be retained, sustained, and enhanced.