Crouch, touch, pause, engage is a series of instructions that used to be given to rugby union scrums by the referee. I hope most leaders don’t want their staff to crouch these days and touch is something we hope stays outside the workplace. But I want you to pause and think about the final word – engage.
Engagement is seen as the holy grail of staff development. If you can get people committed to the business and their role within it, then productivity goes up, customers are happy and all your problems are over – or that’s the thinking. In any organisation that has remote teams or home working staff, engagement is seen as the essential component that will stop them idling their time away in front of Jeremy Kyle or pruning the roses.
But what does it mean to engage your staff? Webster’s dictionary defines being engaged as ‘emotional involvement or commitment’. Which is fine as far as it goes – but it does seem to leave the responsibility for that commitment entirely with the employee.
What is it that we as leaders or managers can do to promote this state? The short answer is think about the needs of those who report to us. And the best way to think that through is to consider what makes our own role worth doing. What gets us motivated to do our best?
There are actually only three major dynamics that go towards that feeling of commitment. Trust, growth and reward. It gets slightly more complicated when you realise they can mean different things to different people. There’s no one answer that will allow you to press the engagement button with your whole team. Sorry.
But what these three dynamics do is to give you a positive basis for a conversation with each of those you work with in order to find out what their individual expectations are. (A small word of caution. Peoples’ ambitions change over time. This is not a one off exercise)
For one person growth will mean getting more complicated tasks or more responsibility. To be stretched. For another it may be achieving a higher proportion of success in a regular task such as making sales calls. For a third it will mean having targets that increase as their ability grows.
The idea of reward varies just as widely. It does include pay and increments, but growing responsibility or more complicated work mentioned above will be a reward to some people. In can even be provided in the simplest way possible. Say thank you.
Trust can be hardest to offer, because we have to work against our own fears and insecurities. ‘If my team don’t perform it’s my neck on the line, so I’m going to set tight targets and monitor them closely.’ Given space people are certainly going to make mistakes and our traditional approach is to correct that poor performance.
In their book ‘The One Minute Manager’ Blanchard and Johnson recommend a radically different approach. They suggest the manager watches carefully until they find something they can praise – and do it immediately. The result is increased confidence and self worth. That increases the desire and ability to do things well. In short, trustworthiness!
I must stress that these are only examples. The time taken to find what floats each person’s individual boat will in itself increase their feeling of being valued and being part of team. And the result of that? Before you know it everyone will be pushing in the same direction.
If you would like to know more about how engaged your staff are currently and what you need to do to go here