Engagement Takes Being Engaged.

engageOver the last several weeks on social media the trend of leadership discussions has been centered around employee engagement. Many great ideas are posted daily by very smart people. As someone whose experience has been primarily in middle management I hold the role of both leader and follower, therefore creating a view which may be somewhat different. Having engaged employees comes from the basic human need to feel important. In other words, to have engaged employees engage with them.

What does that mean?

First, you must be available. You must be involved with your team by having an open line of communications. Having an “open door policy” is good. Having an ” out from behind the door with your team policy” is great. When I first became a District Manager for a large retailer the first thing I would do with a new team was spend part of truck day putting up freight with them. Why? because it made the team comfortable in communicating with me. They realized that the title was not going to give me the attitude that I was above them. It allowed for open dialogue not only that day but during every visit. Of course not every visit involved putting up product. It did however involve one on one conversation with each employee. I was available to everyone no matter their position.

Second, to have an engaged employee or a team of them you must take an interest in their success. Not only set expectations or goals for each team member, give them guidance on how to meet and exceed those expectations. Talk with them and actively listen to be sure they understand the goals and have a mental picture of what it will take to reach them. Here is an example; During my first meeting with my General Manager team I posted on the wall a map of the United States. The map illustrated a set goals on our trip to an established sales growth target. For each goal the team discussed and agreed upon the top three keys for reaching that destination. Notes were taken and a final set of directions was forwarded to each store. The map was to keep us on course. The directions gave a clear focus not only for the Managers but for their teams. Each monthly meeting we reviewed our progress and adjusted if needed. There are many tools to engage your team. For example; personalize an outline of learning materials, and schedule and hold one on one meetings to check what they have read and answer questions they may have. In other words be involved.

Third be interested in their future. Helping an employee succeed in reaching a department or company goal is great. Helping them define and map out a direction for their personal growth is even better. Take the time to write an Individual Development Plan for anyone interested in growing with the company. Include hands on experiences building on their strengths and new uncomfortable roles to help gain experience. For employees happy and in their current roles create an Individual Improvement Plan to help build a stronger team. The key is a positive and individualized plan which engages the employee in their own personal growth. This may include off site business programs, paid for by the company. Or attending and presenting at a next level meeting or conference. Any involvement in programs that will build a new experience, help them learn and support a feeling of self-worth.

Fourth, celebrate success at every opportunity. I have been part of many visits from Regional and Corporate Leadership in my career. And the one thing that always seemed to be missing was talk about success. There was always plenty of discussion about how we could do better, or changes we needed to make. There is certainly a place for those discussions. At the same time there is also a need to make a big deal about success. People want to be recognized for what they do well. They want to see and feel that their contributions matter. Not only in financial terms but in real face to face recognition. “Thank You great job on this program,” is more meaningful than most people ever know.

Fifth but not least in importance, say “Thank You.” Even if there is no celebration to be done that particular day, recognize the efforts of each person every day. If you are in an office, one day stand by the door as your people leave and just say Thank You. See how they react the next day at work. Then do it again each day until it is habit. It will make a difference.

None of what I have written is new or a stroke of genius. In reality it is just basic leadership. Unfortunately many of these basics are not executed. As Leaders or Managers we certainly have a set of expectations of how our employees do their job. We need to realize that our employees have expectations of us and how we do our job as well. If you forget the basics of Leadership and do not have engaged employees they will look for better opportunities. Remember, people don’t leave companies they leave Managers. If you want to be seen as a great manager or leader then build a team of engaged employees by engaging with them.

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