Employee engagement isn’t controlled by an on-off switch. Instead, you’ll find that most people will thrive in certain environments, and will flounder or become frustrated in others. While much of this fit is personal, there is a lot you can do as a leader to build and encourage the right kind of environment for your team.
Note, as I said before, that there are always going to be factors that are outside of your control. You may have two or more employees who have a personality conflict that you wouldn’t have been able to predict. Or, one of your staff members might have a situation in their personal lives that causes them to be distracted.
Because there’s so many moving parts involved at any given time, the point of this isn’t to have you thinking you can necessarily direct or account for every variable that’s going to come up. Instead, it’s to make you mindful of what’s going on around you so you can both get the pulse of your team and encourage top-level performance from them.
In other words, you have to set the tone for everyone else. Let’s look at how you do that…
#1 – Make Work More Enjoyable (While Still Being Work)
Does hard work have to feel like hard work? That’s a pretty philosophical question, and one that would probably garner lots of different answers from various business owners, executives, and managers. Some of us feel like hard work should be gritty and determined, while others insist that we are more creative and driven when we’re in a carefree state.
I tend to side more with the second group, and the feeling that work should be fun, within reason. In some jobs and situations, there just aren’t going to be a lot of laughs to go around. And certainly, some leaders are more comfortable than others with an environment where people are having a good time (remember, this is about you being the best leader you can be, not a clone of someone else).
But, when work feels joyless, you get lower engagement, higher turnover, and lots of other things that come from having grown men and women spending most of their time in a place they would rather not be. So, my advice would be to make work enjoyable, when you can, or at least try to foster an atmosphere of comfort.
#2 – Lead by Example
There is nothing in the world that inspires others like a good example. Actions always speak louder than words, and we instinctively gravitate towards leaders who won’t ask others to do what they wouldn’t do themselves. And conversely, we instinctively distrust those who don’t lead from the front by setting the right example.
As a leader, you have to exhibit and reflect the qualities you want from your group. Otherwise, you’re a figurehead – or worse, a hypocrite – who they feel is simply using them to get what you want. When that happens, you cease being a leader, regardless of whatever it might say on your door or your business card.
People follow leaders, but to become one you have to lead. And that means setting a consistent example your team can see and follow on a daily basis.
#3 – Encourage Teamwork and Cooperation
I’m a big believer that we are almost always stronger when we work together. Most of us are more energized and efficient when functioning within a team. This is even true in jobs or departments, like sales, that are based on individual performance. A strong group can encourage one another, share tips, and inspire more commitment.
There’s a big difference between a group that is working together for common goals, and a collection of individuals – no matter how talented – who refused to cooperate. Do everything you can to push your team in the right direction towards productive collaboration.
#4 – Give it to Them Straight
If you want to be effective in supervising and motivating others, you have to develop the habit of giving it to them straight. That’s not always easy, and some conversations are going to be tough. But, over the long run, it’s the only way to make yourself authentic and earn the confidence of those who are around you.
A side effect of being straightforward and genuine is that it will inspire others in your group to do the same, with you and each other. Better communication is always a good thing, because it means more efficiency and fewer nasty surprises.
#5 – Honesty Leads to Loyalty
Honesty and authenticity are also the cornerstones of loyalty, which is often thought to be nonexistent in the business world. While many of the employer’s I have worked with fret and complain about the fact that employees will supposedly jump ship with little or no warning, many of the same managers don’t stop to think about the role they play in the process. Because they aren’t honest with their staff, the team senses it and stops being transparent in return. When you are honest with your employees, and have good ongoing relationships with them, it benefits everyone.