Every manager would like to engage their team and have employees who are excited and enthusiastic about their work, feel connected to the company’s purpose and feel like they are making a difference. The question is how can managers achieve this simple but not easy goal? The trouble is that most managers are not given the training to develop and engage their team.
Employees can either be engaged as noted above, not engaged (people who work for a paycheck rather than because they love what they do and lack any emotional connection to the company) or actively disengaged (people who don’t like what they do, dislike their manager and company and make this opinion known causing a negative impact). It’s not that managers don’t want to be amazing in their role, but they often don’t have the tools to do this.
Gallup has studied engagement levels at work for many years and the current figure stands at 37.8 per cent as of February 2017. This means that on a team of 10 people, only three or four people are engaged and actually like their job. The other six or seven people are either not engaged or highly disengaged. Managers account for 70 per cent of team engagement and play a critical part in the overall success of the team. Managers are like the quarterback of a football team. They call the plays, set the tone and influence the entire team with their confidence, energy, fears and mindset. So managers need to be aware of the energy and belief system they are contributing to the team. Here are four things managers can do to engage and develop their team.
1. Know the strengths of each person on your team
It’s essential to know what each person on your team does well and how they uniquely contribute. When people use their strengths they are six times more likely to be engaged in their work, according to Gallup. When managers focus on employees’ strengths, active disengagement with employees falls to just one per cent and the level of engaged employees rises to 61 per cent (as opposed to 45 per cent if the manager focuses on weaknesses), according to statistics from Gallup. A strengths approach is empowering and helps employees naturally focus on ways to manage conflict, share their voice, communicate, build relationships, execute, influence, think strategically and build trust using what they do well (aka their strengths). You can learn more about your strengths via this assessment.
2. Ask better questions
Tony Robbins says the quality of your questions determines the quality of your relationships. Every manager needs to ask more effective questions that focus on the key issues and let their team know he/she cares. A few great questions to ask each person on the team include: are you clear on what success looks like in your role (only 50 per cent answer yes to this question), what are you excited about in your role and what gives you the greatest satisfaction, what would you like to do more of this year and what one action step can I take to help you be more successful? Managers also need to ask better questions to understand issues from all perspectives and resolve conflicts in a timely manner to reduce any team drama.
Most of my clients think they listen but their direct reports often have a different opinion. Listening means more than being present for a conversation. It means listening to what someone is saying and having them feel heard. This includes not interrupting or finishing a sentence even if you think you know the answer. It also includes putting your phone down and looking up from the computer and just focusing on your employee. It can be helpful to paraphrase back the key takeaways so the person knows you understand and hear their concerns. Listening is challenging and takes effort but this simple practice helps you connect with your team on an authentic and powerful level.
4. Recognise the people on your team
All people want to feel that they matter and recognition is the perfect answer. Managers need to understand that people are unique and therefore may want to be recognised in different ways from a congratulatory personal email to lunch to a group team email to a simple thank you. Often, managers mistake negative feedback for recognition. They are not the same. According to the Gallup research, only 40 per cent of employees on a global basic feel they have been recognised in their work in the last seven days. Recognition is a great way for managers to let their team know they care about them.
Managers play several roles in a company including being individual contributors, developing each person on their team and being responsible to motivate the team to achieve performance goals. Engagement and success levels increase when managers consistently recognise people on their team, listen to the needs and concerns of each person, ask better questions to solve conflicts and help people understand and use their strengths to achieve their goals.