“You know my name!”
That was the response Jennifer, in accounting, received from a frontline employee. What did she do? All she did was respond to his request with the words, “Your name is Mark, right?”
Why did Mark give such an emotional response?
“You know my name!” reveals a lot to the discerning leader of people. What do you see or hear in his words?
Here are a few key words around engagement; not exhaustive, just a few simple thoughts about Connecting, Respect, Value, and Giving Voice.
When it comes to employee engagement, we know it is not about the exchange of time for money. It is about connecting. Just as a connecting flight allows you to arrive at your destination, so does a good connection with the people in your organization.
Nature makes the performance value of connecting easy to understand. Consider the tomato plant and notice all the connections that allow it to create my favorite fruits.
In general, the plant uses its roots to extract water from the soil; its leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air and energy from the sun. The stem transports the water and nutrients, producing both oxygen AND the delicious tomato.
Remove any one of those connections and we can forget the desired and delicious outcome.
The ability to connect or join people together in a common cause—too often called a “soft” skill—is actually a core leadership skill. Your capacity to get along with people and connect them to one another as a “team” is more important than ever.
Beyond connecting, support of employee engagement can occur as we meet the human need for respect. In simplest terms, respect is showing consideration and thoughtfulness to another person.
A deep appreciation associated with admiration and deference toward someone is required for collaboration. To free an employee to give their best while withholding respect is unproductive. When a leader fails to earn the respect of others, loyalty and commitment will be missing.
This basic respect goes a long way in human relationships and allows us to get things done. When we redirect our focus from self to others and care about them, the performance will come.
A rigid, bottom-line focus makes it is easy to lose sight of the person. Once a person begins to feel viewed like an object, disengagement is sure to follow. We value a person when we care enough to acknowledge their worth and importance as a human person more than their usefulness as a human being.
Quite often, part of my service to leaders is that of reminding. Jennifer’s story prompts this friendly reminder, which comes from
Gallup’s research, originally released in First, Break All the Rules and then, 12: The Elements of Great Managing. You may know about the concepts. It comes in the form of a question, which made the top 5 out of the list of 12 great managing elements:
“Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?”
Yes, the intent of Question 5 goes beyond just knowing an employees’ name. People want to know: Do you care about me…are you interested in my story…do you have concern beyond the job I do…do you care about my working conditions?
Whether the new reality show Undercover Boss is all that it appears to be or not, I see one consistent message: these CEOs are relearning the value of their frontline people and the work they do.
Our leadership influence is limited if our ability to connect, respect, and value others doesn’t include giving voice to others. To evaluate how well you give voice to others consider how often you:
- Remain open to the ideas and opinions of others
- Finish other people’s sentences
- Take credit for work others accomplished
- “Tell” others how to complete an assignment upon delegating it to them, beyond stating the desired outcome
- Listen to others
In answer to the question “How can we help someone find his or her voice?”, Stephen Covey responds: “I think if you care about people genuinely, you listen to them and observe them; because this is more than just hearing them speak, it is observing them – observing where their excitement is, where their enthusiasm is; observing where you sense they have potential.
Sometimes it is very powerful just to say to them in sincerity, “I believe you have great potential in this area. I see real strengths in you that you may not see in yourself, and I would like to create an opportunity for you to use those strengths and to develop this potential. Would you be interested in that?””
These core concepts are really about how you, as a leader, engage your people
What is the biggest problem managers face today?
During a Gallup Management Journal interview, Rodd Wagner, a principal at Gallup, and James K. Harter, Ph.D., chief scientist for Gallup’s international workplace management practice, were asked, “What is the biggest problem manager’s face today?” Here’s what they had to say:
There are actually two primary problems facing managers.
First is the idea that almost anyone can be a manager, when in fact, it requires certain talents and really ought to be viewed as a specialty. This view often puts the wrong people in management jobs and creates too little focus on improving the quality of managing.
Second is the contempt for what are sometimes dismissively called the “soft skills” of working with people compared with the “hard skills” of understanding numbers and processes. Great managers are incredibly perceptive about human nature. It’s a rare and typically undervalued ability.
There is more to employee engagement than these four core people skills—connecting, respect, value, and giving voice. However, using these core skills to build relationships encourages high-performing teams.
Create Space for Reflection
- How well do you engage your people?
- How well do you connect, respect, value, and give voice to your employees? How effectively do your leaders engage employees at all levels?
- What core people skill have you identified as one to give attention to? How will you sharpen this skill?
*Previously published as “You Know My Name” in THE PEOPLE PROJECT: Your Guide to Changing Behavior and Growing Your Influence as a Leader.
Image by Jonathan Velasquez via Upsplash