The 6 Keys To Engaging & Energizing Your Employees

940 views

Published on

It is a sad tale one hears repeatedly from executives about how they seem unable to motivate and mobilize their employees. It is a sadder tale to hear it often rationalized that this must be due to some other factors, such as the way different cultures view work. It is not common that executives train their sights inward and look to themselves as holding the keys to inspiring their employees. Many would rather look outward and place the responsibility – or blame – on others. But the reality is that executives do hold the keys to engaging and energizing their employees, and in this article, the Author discusses 6 of these keys.

Published in: Travel, Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

The 6 Keys To Engaging & Energizing Your Employees

  1. 1. 6 KEYS TO ENGAGING & ENERGIZING YOUR EMPLOYEES It is a sad tale one hears repeatedly from executives about how they seem unable to motivate and mobilize their employees. It is a sadder tale to hear it often rationalized that this must be due to some other factors, such as the way different cultures view work. It is not common that executives train their sights inward and look to themselves as holding the keys to inspiring their employees. Many would rather look outward and place the responsibility – or blame – on others. But the reality is that executives do hold the keys to engaging and energizing their employees, and in this article, the Author discusses 6 of these keys. TRISTAN B DE LA ROSA Founder & Principal Coach www.thebanyanway.com Banyan Way © 2007 Page 1
  2. 2. This is a true story. I was a brand assistant 9 months fresh out of college. One morning my Associate Advertising Manager called me to his office. Being several layers down the marketing ladder, I thought this a bit unusual. I was not overly perturbed though since I thought I was doing a swell job (this was just my opinion of course since my Brand Manager never gave me any indications to the contrary). Once I got to his office, my AAM briefly looked up from whatever he was doing, handed me a small piece of paper, winked and then motioned with his hands that I can go. On the piece of paper, scrawled in his microscopic handwriting was a dollar amount. Perplexed, I approached another brand assistant a few months my senior to ask what this was all about. “Well buddy, you just got a raise.” So much for my first ever performance evaluation. Whenever I look back to this and other events in my corporate career I think about all the significant opportunities that marketing managers and other executives miss in terms of engaging and energizing their employees. It is a sad tale one hears repeatedly from executives about how they seem unable to motivate and mobilize their employees; and it is a sadder tale to hear it often rationalized that this must be due to some factors in the way different cultures view work, as if the phrase “strong work ethic” were the monopoly of one organization or even of an entire race of people. It is not common that executives train their sights inward and look to themselves as holding the keys to inspiring their employees. Many would rather look outward and place the responsibility – or blame – on others. But the reality is that executives do hold the keys. And here are some of them… The 6 Keys to Engaging & Energizing Your Employees 1. Earn the right to lead. This is perhaps the single most important key. Your position or title does not automatically entitle you to leadership. You may enforce compliance, but you may not get commitment. You can order soldiers to charge, but you cannot expect them to hold their ranks when the tide of battle reverses. You earn your stripes as a leader with every sentence you utter, every decision you make, and every action you take. Competence and character are the foundations of leadership. Competence assures your employees that you know what you’re doing; character assures them that you can be trusted to use that knowledge to lead them toward a common Banyan Way © 2007 Page 2
  3. 3. goal. A Chinese proverb goes: “Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.” An executive may rant about vision and goals and performance incentives, but if he neither has the competence to show the way, nor the character to be credible and trustworthy, his employees will not follow. 2. Know your employees (and let them know you as well). Executives most likely spend more hours each day with people at work than they do with their families. Yet beyond what’s written on resumes, many of them only have a superficial knowledge of their employees. Without stepping into more sensitive areas in their employees’ private lives, executives should know more about their people outside of what is seen and learnt at work, for instance: their families, their personal aspirations, sports, hobbies. And your employees should know the same things about you as well. This humanizes work relationships and provides common ground for conversation other than shop talk. This sharing of knowledge creates an invisible bond between you and your employees as they come to realize that you’re not someone who is untouchable and distant. You are another human being with the same concerns about family, perhaps with aspirations other than what you’re doing now, and who enjoys the same sport, the same shows on tv as anybody else. It is easier for people to follow leaders who they feel are in touch with and understand them than someone who is cold and aloof. As one executive puts it: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 3. Tailor your management style to each employee’s specific needs. Knowing your employees importantly includes understanding where each one is on two vital performance indicators: competence and commitment. Competence rests on a person’s technical ability to perform an assigned function. Commitment is the attitude towards and sense of purpose a person brings to the job. An executive cannot have a “one size fits all” management style but must customize this depending on an employee’s competence and commitment. Broadly, this would be as follows:  High Competence + High Commitment: This is an exemplary employee and the executive must give as much leeway to the person to grow with little guidance. Delegate whenever possible and challenge your employee with higher level responsibilities. Banyan Way © 2007 Page 3
  4. 4.  High Competence + Low Commitment: While this person is very capable technically, his/ her heart is not in the job and is not performing to full potential. Understand the reason for this employee’s poor commitment – perhaps he/ she has career expectations that are not being met or that his/ her current assignment is not challenging enough. Coach your employee to unearth the basic issue behind the lack of commitment, and move to address and resolve this issue.  Low Competence + High Commitment: This employee is energized and highly motivated but does not have adequate technical competence. Fortunately, because of his very positive attitude he/ she is highly trainable. Adjust your management style to allow for training this person. Assign tasks of gradually increasing complexity and follow up regularly based on agreed milestones.  Low Competence + Low Commitment: This employee is a serious drag to your group. His low level of commitment can be poison to the team’s spirit and acceptance of his low level of competence would be interpreted as tolerance for sub-par performance. This person is a candidate for exit coaching. Explore with the HR Manager whether there are positions available within the organization where his/ her skills could be a better fit Your objective as a leader must be to move all your employees to the “High Competence/ High Commitment” quadrant. 4. Set clear expectations and provide regular feedback. Let’s go back to that story I told at the start. Throughout my first 9 months in the company my immediate manager and I never talked about what was expected of me; neither did we talk about how I was doing. As I said, I just assumed that I must have been doing well as I never heard anything to the contrary. Now, let us suppose that my manager did in fact think that I was not performing to his expectations (whatever these were), and that instead of a dollar amount on the paper I read something that said “you’ve got 3 months to strut your stuff or you’re out”. Would you think I’d be engaged and inspired? Heck no… I’d use the 3 months to look for another job and then I’m out of there. The essence of motivating employees is in providing a sense of purpose, a goal to which they must aspire – in other words, sharing with them your expectations as to how they can contribute to your team’s success. These must be communicated and discussed from the time a person joins your team. And then at every opportunity thereafter, you must review instances where these expectations are being met, as well as instances where they are not. Positive feedback is not only a great motivator; equally important it serves to reinforce Banyan Way © 2007 Page 4
  5. 5. correct behavior. On the other hand, a candid discussion of instances where an employee falls short of expectations represents a perfect coaching opportunity. This helps ensure that mistakes are not repeated, and underscores your commitment that you are interested in your employee’s career success. 5. Deliver messages that engage, inspire, and teach; and do so in story form. An effective way of engaging employees is by telling stories. It should not be surprising that Christ’s most compelling lessons were delivered in story form – “The Prodigal Son”, “The Good Samaritan” – to mention just two. Stories have drama: people are drawn by the conflict and they are interested in how it is eventually resolved. They employ themes that can one can relate directly to work situations. Because employees are not personally involved in these stories, these can be used to deliver painful messages without being hurtful or confrontational. For instance, to coach an employee who frequently misses deadlines one can use a story to make a telling point. “You know early in my career I was so concerned about submitting a perfect report that, like you, I would frequently miss deadlines. When a senior member of the staff resigned, another member of the team was promoted to fill the position instead of me even though I felt I was the stronger candidate. My boss explained that even though I did write good reports, he needed somebody whom he could rely on, somebody who knew the importance of meeting deadlines and the meaning of commitment. This experience set my career back by at least a year. I do not want the same thing to happen to you.” This particular story is memorable and effective for a number of reasons. First, it allows a peek into the executive’s vulnerability immediately creating empathy. Second, it specifically points out the subordinate’s weakness without being sharply confrontational. Third, it frankly lays out the possible consequence to the employee if he does not modify his behavior, but does so without coming across as threatening. 6. Create leaders out of your followers. A point that we have repeatedly made is that employees follow a leader who they perceive as being interested in their career success. As an executive, there is no more effective way of showing your commitment to this than to provide training not just to meet immediate challenges but to develop followers into future leaders. The noted poet and essayist W.H. Auden put it in another way: quot;No person can be a great leader unless he takes genuine joy in the successes of those under him.” Banyan Way © 2007 Page 5
  6. 6. Obviously, not everyone in your team will become future leaders but everyone should be made aware that they have the opportunity to aspire for leadership. The basis for such an opportunity should be clear and must form part of the expectations discussion that the executive has with his subordinate. In ending, I can think of no better way to summarize the essence of the 6 Keys to Engaging & Inspiring Your Employees, than to quote the eminent management theorist, Robert Greenleaf: quot;The best leaders are clear. They continually light the way, and in the process, let each person know that what they do makes a difference. The best test as a leader is: do those served grow as persons; do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become leaders?” Banyan Way © 2007 Page 6
  7. 7. About the Author: Driven by a personal mission to “take executives to the edge and push them to fly – as leaders”, Tristan B de la Rosa is the Founder & Principal Coach of Banyan Way, an executive coaching and development company. He is also in the Coaching Advisory Board & Faculty of Northwestern University. Tristan brings an uncommon blend of masterful real-world experience and rich multi-national & multi-cultural insight to the Executive Coaching field. He has decades of leadership experience working at the world’s most respected CPG companies, among them P&G, J&J, General Foods, and the Wrigley Co. As country head or senior marketing executive, he has been posted in some of the world’s most important and fastest growing markets – including China, India, the tiger economies of South East Asia – and in the United States. Tristan is based in Chicago where he shares a home with his wife, Marilyn. Tristan can be contacted at tristan.delarosa@thebanyanway.com. Banyan Way © 2007 Page 7

×