I am often asked, “How do I become an engaged leader?”
Focusing on employee engagement can be a bewildering task for some leaders. Organizations spend time and effort in generating big-picture strategies and initiatives to improve employee engagement and retention. While these approaches are useful and serve an important purpose, you cannot forget that part of the plan must be teaching leaders to be engaged with employees.
There is a misconception that engaging employees requires leaders to take additional actions and efforts. Sometimes this is true. Most of the time, simple behavior shifts implemented by a leader will easily open the doors to better employee engagement. Fundamentally, engaging employees is about their needs and mindsets, not about the leader. Here is another way to look at this: When you meet with your boss, are you focused more on them or what you need from the conversation?
Adopting the behaviors below when interacting with your employees will improve your workplace relationships, morale and satisfaction. Please note that consistency is key. You must consciously add these behaviors to every interaction, regardless of the person, place and time.
Take time to listen (and pay attention) to employees. Everyone wants to feel valued and acknowledged. During conversations, try to focus all your attention on the individual. Avoid multitasking or trying to talk over the other person. Simply put, you are not more important than the person you are talking to. What they are saying matters too.
Lead by Example
Display and model behaviors that show your understanding, care, accountability and integrity. Employees want to follow leaders who have workplace values. Reflect your leadership values openly.
Be aware of employees’ needs. Acknowledge them and try to find ways to help remedy these needs. Nothing is more frustrating than telling your boss about a barrier, risk or challenge and receiving no support. Show your employees that you understand their dilemma and are dedicated to getting them what is needed to overcome it. In addition, be mindful that sometimes people just need to lean on someone’s shoulder. You may have to provide the shoulder and actively listen.
Link to Career Development
Treat every dialogue as an opportunity to help develop employees. Learning opportunities occur at every moment. Regardless of if the employee is interested in advancing to another position or simply perfecting their craft, constant positive development enhances an employee’s morale. Try to help employees see the connection between issues/behaviors and their professional lives/experiences.
Embracing employee engagement is not a monumental task that requires you to create complex plans. Adopting a mindset that incorporates listening, leading, developing and supporting employees will create a more open and engaged culture in your workplace.
Think of the leaders who effortlessly earned your support and loyalty. How often did they practice these behaviors? In the end, a good leader gives their employees what they themselves needed on their worst day.