“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.”
The definition of “engaged” is to be busy with some activity. Occupied, committed, involved. So disengaged would be just the opposite. Not busy, occupied, committed, or involved. Unfortunately, many managers who consider themselves to be very engaged in their employees’ activities are actually not so engaged after all.
What am I basing this on? One simple word that identifies whether a manager is actually engaged with their employees — GOALS!
If you want to know how engaged managers are, then take a look at the goals they have created for their direct reports. Better yet, look at the goals that they have had their direct reports create for themselves! The very act of having your direct reports create their own goals shows a certain degree of disengagement. Think about it. Individual goals are supposed to be linked to group goals which are supposed to be linked to division goals which are supposed to be linked to corporate goals. Who knows, or is supposed to know, the goals above them and the linkage, the manager or the employee? Some will say that they are delegating by having their direct reports create their own goals. Unless you give them the guidelines for the goals they are creating, I call it being lazy and thus not engaged.
The definition of “goal” is something that you are trying to do or achieve, an area or object into which a ball or puck must be hit, kicked, etc., to score points. Both of those definitions apply to a work situation. Goals are put in place to help employees achieve something. But, they also identify a mark to be hit to score points, whether those points will help the individual, group, division, or company.
So the first part of the goal process for managers is to be engaged in the setting of the individual goals and ensuring that they link to the goals above them. Not only is the linkage important, but the goals themselves must follow the SMART rules in order for them to be useful. Goals need to be specific. If they are ambiguous or have too many parts, it will leave room for misunderstanding. Goals need to be measurable. How do you know if the goal was accomplished if it’s not measurable? Goals need to be attainable. Having a goal that can’t be completed will just lead to frustration. Goals need to be realistic or relevant. Goals that have no meaning are useless to the employee and to the company. Finally, goals need to be time bound. They need have an expected completion date associated with them. Goals that have no end date serve no purpose and moving that goal to the next goal period because it wasn’t completed shows that the goal wasn’t all that important to begin with.
The second part of being engaged is ensuring that the employee can actually complete the goals you are setting for them. It’s important to know and to remember that your employees are not all the same when it comes to experience, knowledge, capability, competence, and commitment. These things must be taken into account when creating goals. Some of your employees will need more direction. Some will need more support. Some will need more collaboration. Some will need little else other than you just getting out of their way. The point is, you want them all to succeed and in order to do that you need to know the information stated above and write the goals accordingly.