I recently read an outstanding article titled ‘The Why (and How) of Employee Engagement‘. It incorporates an interview with Kevin Kruse, entrepreneur and CEO of Kru Research and co-author, along with Rudy Karsan, of We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement.
I am particularly interested in this topic as it is often one of the key differences between those in charge who are managing and those who are leading. Employee engagement is a large topic with many inputs. On a one-to-one level or team level the connections made form part of the engagement story.
There are many interesting points made in the article, notably the need to apply the same rigor and analysis to engagement as we would any other area of management by measuring its success, holding leaders accountable and examining employees’ motivation at work. (1) The leader who is effective in their role recognises that connection between people occurs through more than just the words used. A bond is formed that can be difficult to explain, but has many benefits, both for the people involved and the employer. I believe that we have an obligation as leaders to provide the best opportunity to develop others and the ability to align with depth in your team is a platform to work from in this process.
I found the end statement in the article most compelling: The real why of engagement is not just about company profits. It’s about what you do on a day-to-day basis to impact the health of those who report to you. It’s impacting the relationships and the families of those who report to you. I never hear this in the talk about engagement. People talk about getting a five-times-higher stock price, [and] you want to engage your people so they don’t go to the competition. Those are good reasons, but I forget those reasons when I show up at work and I have a full calendar and 100 emails and reports to do.
What’s going to touch me, what’s going to motivate me, is when I look at that direct report. I see Jane there and I see her husband and I see her kids. What I do and say on a day-to-day basis is impacting Jane and her family. That’s going to help me be engagement-oriented on a day-to-day basis. (1)
The ability to connect with others, both in and out of work is so important. This is about understanding the person as a person, not an employee. In the workplace these are often seen as the soft-skills or ‘nice to have’ attributes, but are underestimated in terms of the benefits. The process of ticking boxes so that it appears the manager is doing their job by pretending to build strong and meaningful relationships offers little value. Most people, even those who cannot define or articulate the reasons why, will usually know when a manager is genuinely connecting or is doing it to play a part.
Connecting with people provides a platform for influence, delegation, trust-building and other positive outcomes. An effective leader knows this intuitively and works hard to make sure relationships exist with meaning, even when there may not be an initial strong affiliation. A few key thoughts:
- The connection will be different with different employees or relationships. Like any relationship, it requires work to make it effective, but a natural connection will occur between people and more readily with some more than others. This is OK – don’t overwork it – this is a natural part of being human.
- Forcing a connection is not recommended however working through the early stages of a relationship to make sure both parties are giving it their best shot may bear fruit.
- Work beyond first impressions – they are not always as accurate as we would like to think.
- Learn the skill. Work from your strengths and understand the power of connecting because you have felt it. It can be quite intoxicating and like other areas of leadership, when discovered, it is something that many of us actively seek in our roles in and out of work.
Let me know what you think.
(1) The Why and How Of Employee Engagement (talentmgmt.com)
- 9 Benefits and Advantages of the Pyramid of Employee Engagement (myventurepad.com)
- Small Companies Have More Engaged Employees (experiencematters.wordpress.com)
- Engaging Employees to Increase Engagement (raisingthehrbar.wordpress.com)
- When Employees aren’t Happy, then the Company Isn’t Happy (thesocialworkplace.com)