7 Steps for Promoting Employee Engagement

It takes deliberate effort to keep even the best team committed and enthusiastic

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“They’re here, but they’re not here. My staff isn’t committed, and it’s obvious to me and to our customers. We’re in trouble.”

“To say that initiative is lacking is an understatement. My staff doesn’t think beyond the basics. If they hit a wall, they stop. The idea of looking for a window never crosses their minds.”

“Maybe it’s them. Maybe it’s me. Our team just goes through the motions. I wish there were a magic formula to get people focused and motivated.”

While there isn’t an instant solution for increasing enthusiasm, focus and initiative, there are steps any leader can take to orchestrate success.

Step 1: Communicate the direction

It’s hard for people to reach a destination if they don’t know what it is. Whether you call it mission, purpose or something else, employees need to have a solid understanding of the organization’s why, the team’s why, and their why. Leaders who promote engagement regularly connect day-to-day tasks and expectations with the bigger picture.

Work on creating clear lines of sight, and lay out goals and expectations for your team.

Step 2: Delegate responsibility and authority

Once people know the direction, good leaders give them responsibility and the tools they need to execute the plan. Will everything be done exactly as the leader would do it if he or she were to take on the task? Doubtful. However, great leaders know when to step in and when to stand back and let others own their work.

Step 3: Recognize good work and the importance of others

No matter their role or level in an organization, people like to be appreciated and recognized. Whether someone is a vice president or a temporary worker, leaders who engage their teams communicate the idea that everyone has an important role. Take the time to articulate how others contribute. “Eric, you are the first person to have contact with our customers. When people call us for service, you are the person who sets the tone. Thank you for always being professional. You’re nailing it.”

Step 4: Support stumbles

Slips, trips and mistakes will happen when people try to solve problems, and leaders who engage their teams to the full capacity have the good sense to support the stumbles employees will inevitably encounter. In other words, it’s about having the maturity to get beyond blame and focus on what to do differently in the future.

Do you assume the best? Do you steer clear of throwing others under the bus? Do you treat errors as learning opportunities? If not, you’ve got some room to improve. “Eric, that job did not go as you had hoped, but we can learn from the experience. In hindsight, what could have been done differently?”

Step 5: Instill a sense of calm and certainty

Without a clear course, employees spend a lot of time worrying and focusing on what-ifs that may never happen. But with a sense of certainty, people’s shock absorbers function at maximum capacity. A leader with a plan reduces fear, uncertainty and stress.

The plan can be short term and it can change, as long as it’s there and communicated. Do you do all you should do to keep people in the loop?

Step 6: Promote a level playing field

Fairness trumps favoritism every time, and people will stick with a leader through some horrible circumstances when that person is a straight shooter and doesn’t favor some over others. Stay mindful of what’s fair, and think about how your team will perceive your actions.

Step 7: Address problems

Engaged teams eschew mediocrity, and the people at the top have high standards for everyone. When problems occur, leaders who engage confront them head on. If you have conversations you’ve put off, now is the time to reset and communicate what’s expected.

Leaders who engage don’t do so by accident or without work. If you want to jumpstart or refocus your team, start with these seven steps. With some deliberate effort on your part, you should start seeing results. 


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