How do you support employee engagement?
“Wow, you know my name!”
That was the response Jennifer* in the “home office” received from a front-line employee. All she did was respond to his request by saying, “Your name is Mark*, right?”
Why do think Mark gave such an emotional response?
“Wow, 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 concepts around engagement; not exhaustive just simple thoughts. The four words are: Connecting, Respect, Value, and Voice.
When it comes to employee engagement, we know it is not about the exchange of time for money. It is about connecting. A connecting flight allows you to arrive at your destination. A good connection with the people in your organization will help you arrive at your destination, as well.
Nature makes the performance value of connecting easy to understand. Consider the tomato plant and notice all the connections that allow it to create one of my favorite fruits.
In general, the plant uses its roots to extract water from the soil, its leaf absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, energy from the sun…the stem transports the water and nutrients producing both oxygen AND the delicious tomato.
Remove the connections and we can forget the desired 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 vitally important to results.
“You know my name!”
Beyond connecting, support of employee engagement can occur when we meet the human need for respect. In simplest terms, respect is showing consideration and thoughtfulness to another person.
For collaboration, a deeper appreciation, admiration, and deference toward others is required. To expect a team member to give their best while withholding respect is unrealistic and unnlikely. If a leader fails to earn the respect of others, loyalty and commitment will be absent.
This basic respect goes a long way in human relationships allowing us to get things done. When we re-direct our focus from self to others and truly care about them, performance will come, too.
A rigid bottom-line focus makes it is easy to lose sight of the person. Once a person begins to feel like an object, disengagement follows. 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.
From Gallup’s research, originally released in First, Break All the Rules and then, 12: The Elements of Great Managing, you probably know the concepts. Jennifer’s story prompts this friendly reminder.
Do you re-call the question associated with the Top 5 in 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 CEO’s are relearning the value of their front line people and the work they do. “You know my name!”
There is one more concept I want to suggest: giving voice to others.
4. Giving Voice
Our leadership influence is limited if our ability to connect, respect, and value others does include giving voice to others. To evaluate how well you give voice to others consider these questions:
- How open are you to other’s ideas and opinions?
- Do you finish other’s sentences for them?
- Do you take credit for work others accomplished?
- When you “delegate” do you also tell them how to do complete the assignment, beyond stating the desired outcome?
- How well do you listen?
Now, how do you know your answers are true…?
Stephen Covey, in answer to the question, “How can we help someone find his or her voice?” 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?”
What is the biggest problem a manager faces 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 facing managers today?”
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. Using these core skills to build relationships will encourage high performing teams.
For personal reflection:
Which of these four core skills do you use effectively?
What do you think?
Please add to the discussion by posting your comments.
*For privacy purposes, this is not the person’s name.