With all eyes on the bottom line, many leaders simply don’t see the value of truly engaging team members. For organizations like these, clear goals and strong accountability are the keys to success. While I’m a big fan of clear goals and strong accountability, to me, these are just two small pieces of a much larger puzzle.
Engaged team members have a way of lifting an organization up. They set their sights higher, push harder to overcome obstacles, challenge each other and succeed more often.
For the highest level of engagement, you need to engage both heart and mind. It’s not always easy…but it is always worth the effort. Let’s take a look at what it takes to build engagement…of both the heart and the mind.
Engage The Mind
First, learn what they have to offer. I spend a little time with all new team members during their first month with the organization. It gives me an opportunity to learn more about them – their background, their interests, their goals. It also gives them a chance to know me a little better. Encourage new team members to not hold back when they see an opportunity to improve the way things are done. I still remember one team member sharing how pleasantly surprised he was to know that we were interested in all that he had to offer…not just his ability to complete assigned tasks.
Bring your vision and mission to life. We all give a little more of ourselves when we feel a strong connection with the outcome. Once you have a compelling vision and clear mission, make sure they become more than just words on a poster. Bring your vision and mission to life by helping team members understand their individual impact on the organization’s success. Incorporate vision and mission into company updates. Give concrete examples of things that have brought the organization closer to your vision…and things that have taken you in the wrong direction. Ask team members how well they feel the organization is carrying out the mission..you might be surprised by what you hear.
Create a sense of purpose. Help team members understand the importance of succeeding. Sure, everyone knows it’s better to succeed…but I find that quite often team members don’t really understand how significantly success or failure can impact customers, stakeholders, and the team. Give concrete examples of how success (and failure) impacts your customers and the organization. It also helps when you can share customer input or feedback that reinforces your message.
Collaborate. It makes a huge difference when you collaborate in setting goals and establishing priorities. This approach has helped me to end up with better goals and priorities than I would have set on my own and always creates much greater buy-in. Start with vision and mission, drill down to the most important company goals and then to strategies, priorities and departmental goals. Ensure you maintain alignment and stay focused. It’s easy to get too far down in the weeds or to set too many priorities. Encourage team members to focus on what will have the biggest impact on the organization’s success and help them see how that approach is shaping up around the company.
Tap into their full potential. Create an environment that encourages team members to think and act beyond their defined roles. Team members often have much more to offer than what their assigned duties reflect. Make them feel valued for all that they have to offer by asking for more than just assigned deliverables. Ask for their opinions and ideas about ways to improve, new directions to take, things that may be holding the organization back.
Demonstrate genuine interest. Team members who feel valued for their contributions often put more of themselves into ensuring success. Invest time with team members focused on their world…not trying to focus them on yours. Ask what they are working on, how it’s going, what’s getting in the way and what they know about the organization’s plans for the end product.
Shine a light on success. Make a big deal about accomplishments, milestones, and breakthroughs. Stop by in person to recognize a team or team member’s success. Send handwritten notes. Mention accomplishments in organizational updates. Take it to another level by setting up a platform for peer recognition. At one company, team members awarded Angry Bird stuffed toys to peers who they felt had broken through a significant barrier to success. It was fun…and impactful.
Encourage risk taking. People who fear the negative impact of taking a risk and failing will often hold back. And what they are holding back may just be the breakthrough you need to move the organization forward. Help team members see that you value the attempt…even when it doesn’t deliver the desired results.
Engage The Heart
First, find out what they care about. I enjoy learning what makes team members tick. Whether in small group discussions or 1-1 meetings, I set aside time to ask about special interests, goals, and dreams. It gives me the opportunity to know more about the people I work with and often helps to expand my horizons. It also helps team members to feel like more than just a company asset.
Give them a reason to believe that you care. Make time to share a little about your own interests. Share information (articles, links, contacts) that relates to their interests. Make a point of mentioning interests (anonymously if appropriate) that you’ve learned about during team meetings. The net effect is that team members will begin to feel valued as individuals…not just as resources.
Tap into the desire to make a difference…together. Look for opportunities to work together to give back in some way. You can adopt a local charity, coordinate group participation in a fundraising effort or engage the team in a skills-based project that benefits a group in need. There are a number of organizations who can help you organize a skills-based volunteering initiative. Try this link for more information.
Give them a platform. In addition to company-sponsored initiatives to give back or to participate in outside-the-office activities, consider giving team members a platform for inviting others to join them in their own areas of interest. This can be everything from groups taking walks during lunch breaks to organizing a bowling, softball or frisbee golf team. What matters is that team members feel like they have a way to connect with each other beyond the workplace.
Play an active role. Actions speak louder than words…so make it a priority to get personally involved in special events. And no…it’s not enough to just show up for a volunteer project. You need to “get your hands dirty” right alongside the rest of the team. Leaders who show up with their hands in their pockets for a hands-on event send a message that they really don’t care enough about what the team is doing to give of themselves. And if the leader doesn’t care…why should others.
Shine a light on those making a difference. Set aside time in your team meetings and space in your written updates to highlight accomplishments of team members who are making a difference. By shining a light on these efforts you reinforce the importance of giving back and working together to make a difference.
With both the hearts and minds of your team fully engaged you are in a much stronger position to move the organization forward. Don’t be surprised when you start to see heightened levels of creativity, commitment, collaboration and drive within your highly engaged team.
Do you have other ideas about effectively engaging team members? Please share them below!