One of the best lessons I learned about being an engaging leader happened 15 years ago when my son was 5 years old. Shortly after signing him up for a local soccer program, I learned there was a shortage of coaches, so I volunteered. Having played myself growing up it was a great opportunity to share my experience, give back to the community, and share some quality time with my son.
If you’ve ever watched young children play soccer you know the challenge of trying to cobble anything together that resembles a real soccer team, but that wasn’t my primary goal. I wanted the kids to learn about a being on a team, to have fun, and hopefully learn a little about the sport. To better my skills as their coach I participated in a coaching clinic that was focused on the fundamentals of youth soccer.
I did not recognize it at the time, but looking back, the principles and lessons I learned were remarkably like what most organizations need today to create a workplace that fosters trust, effective communication, and a sense of belonging – all key ingredients for a culture of engagement.
When carefully applied, these four principles can make the difference for any team.
1. Create an environment that every player wants to be part of.
Feeling a sense of belonging goes without saying, but I have found that this principle is often overlooked. Don’t assume your players can read your mind. Be upfront about what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. Share your beliefs, values, and the type of team you hope to create. Outline the parameters for success that people can understand and work toward.
2. Work diligently on communication.
Effective two-way communication is an absolute necessity for building trust, and trust is the cure for most organizational challenges. It allows team members to interact fluidly, with passion, and breaks down the barriers to allow for personal and team growth. But remember, it starts with the team leader (or leaders) – they set the tone through the examples they set.
3. Identify strengths and weakness of each player.
Every player is wired differently, and the unique combination of their strengths provides the building blocks for a successful team. Study each player for their natural talents, the skills that they can learn, and are characteristics that will hold them back. Assess the inventory of what you have and what you need, then build your game plan for success.
4. Spend time on individualized coaching.
Investing time into each of your players based on their unique needs is the quickest way to propel their growth and to elevate team performance. This individualized focus creates an important bond that can’t be substituted easily. Create a development plan for each player and be deliberate in finding the time for one-on-one instruction.
In my work with leaders in all industries, I am frequently asked how to improve employee engagement. The answer is fundamental, invest in your most valuable asset – your people – and see the greatest return. Set expectations, communicate clearly, identify strengths, and create an environment of trust.
I had an interesting experience a couple years ago while I was teaching an Employee Engagement class at a local university. It was a full class with a good mix of people from different companies and a broad spectrum of titles. I was extremely pleased with the group interaction (you never know how people will get along), and the progress we were making.
I wrapped up the day-long session with one question…” What was your #1 takeaway from the session that you can implement when you go back to work?” As the class participants shared their thoughts some very common themes emerged, until I got to the last person (ironically, an HR Director). Her reply was… “I got nothing from the class today.”
+ Relationships.. Foster productive relationships with coworkers and management.
+ Techniques.. Educate supervisors and managers in techniques that are most likely to make employees feel engaged.
+ Growth Opportunities.. Consider professional development and continuing education an integral part of employee training.
+ Ongoing Training.. Require engagement competencies as a crucial part of management training.
+ Measure Success.. Develop meaningful ways to measure employee engagement.
+ Company Culture.. Build employee engagement practices into the organization’s core values.
Based on the expressions from the others in the room, I was not the only one confused by her answer and on further questioning I learned she was looking for something that just doesn’t exist – the key, the magic pill, the one thing that would fix everything.
Employee Engagement is not about what you do to your employees, but rather it is about the culture you (mostly leaders) create. Employee Engagement is a result of an employee’s perception of belonging, contribution to the business, and (especially for millennials) ability to make a difference.
One of the most important factors that drives Employee Engagement is the employee/manager relationship. A good relationship leads to a positive feeling of connection to the organization. A less than satisfying relationship with a manager often leads to less than satisfied employees.
Employers that encourage managers to develop engaging relationships with their employees more often than not see a higher level of Employee Engagement. Mutually satisfying relationships generate a culture where employees feel invested in the success of the organization, management, their coworkers, and, ultimately, themselves.
The most successful organizations have well-thought-out programs that present employees with the opportunity to make a difference. Whether it is within the organization =or the surrounding community, providing opportunities for employees to connect each segment to form a cohesive-whole fosters an environment of Employee Engagement. Even during times of organizational or personal turmoil, engaged employees are the most likely to remain productive, responsible, active, passionate, enthusiastic, involved, and motivated; all adjectives that signify retention and success.
SKYE Business Solutions helps leaders discover their purpose: the driving force behind your organization’s ability to achieve. Purpose empowers leaders to recognize value; creating a culture of engagement, contribution, and trust. SKYE propels your leadership to the next level: pushing through the ordinary to unlock the full potential throughout all levels of your organization.