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6 Things Wise Leaders Do To Engage Their Employees

Posted by | February 11, 2015 | Leadership, Workplace

Via Forbes : An article in the New York Daily News reports that nearly 70% of U.S. employees are miserable at work. According to the story, research conducted by the Gallup Poll suggests that the majority of American’s dislike or feel disengaged on the job. Needless to say, this is disturbing news. It’s also an indicator that leaders are having trouble finding ways to stimulate engagement with today’s employees – a workforce that is much more diverse and younger than ever before.

Many corporations are experiencing transformation mode, where leadership is about enabling the full potential in others. It’s about allowing employees to be their authentic selves so they can leverage their strengths and unique perspectives. I know this firsthand; in the early years of my career, I was considered high-potential by an organization that was reinventing itself. Rather than assume I was too young to take on the additional responsibilities of hiring and leading people twice my age to accomplish their goals, the organization’s leadership invested in my potential and as a result I grew quickly in this new role. This calculated risk from leadership paid off, and allowed me to prove that as an executive in my late 20s, I could generate tremendous revenue growth and ROI for the organization. I will forever be grateful to those leaders that engaged me early on and guided me rightly.

Leaders need to let go and guide their employees to mature within new and expansive roles and responsibilities. Employees want to feel valued and challenged; they want to be trusted and given the freedom to explore and learn within the job. Employees that stretch themselves to grow and take on more advanced assignments especially should be given the opportunity to further accelerate their advancement. The bottom line is that leaders must continuously create new opportunities for their employees – or their workforce will not be innovative enough.

How else can you determine if an employee is capable of performing and stepping-up their game if you are not continuously finding new ways to engage them? This is leadership and it takes extra time and effort. If you are not cut out for this, then reconsider your leadership role. If you are not engaging your employees to create great teams, you are being irresponsible to the organization and the people you serve. Perhaps this explains the Gallup Poll’s recent findings.

Today’s leaders must constantly focus on the growth of their teams and strengthening the capabilities of individuals that can make the team more effective; this creates an environment of continuous innovation and initiative. Think of your employees as an innovation lab. As such, employee engagement should always be abundant!

To assure you don’t create a reputation as a leader that doesn’t engage employees, here are six things to consider to more effectively engage your employees. These are fundamental tips that employees desire from their leaders, and if implemented properly, will stimulate employee engagement that’s been missing.

1. Stop unknowingly creating tension

Leaders unknowingly create tension with their employees when they expect them to behave like they do, rather than encouraging them to be their authentic selves. Opportunities are everywhere, but few leaders have the eyes to see them. When employees are encouraged to be themselves and not what others want them to be, they will begin to embrace an entrepreneurial attitude that wasn’t previously being leveraged – thus stimulating engagement.

Tension is created by leaders who don’t take the time to engage with their employees. When an employee feels that their leader doesn’t care – or is disingenuous about their career and future opportunities, they may begin to shut down and grow bitter. Employees respect leaders that allow them to use their most natural skills and characteristics. Employees are most engaged when they don’t feel confined to an environment of limitations and constraints. Be more aware of what your employees need and stop unknowingly creating tension.

2. Detect the most positive capabilities in people

Stop spending time being overly critical of what your employees are not doing right and identify what they are naturally gravitating towards – that which gets them excited. Throw their job description out the door and focus on those areas your employees enjoy contributing to the most and build a plan that utilizes their most positive capabilities to create the outcomes you desire.

Everyone wants to enjoy what they do at work, so allow employees to engage with the business in ways that generate the results that you require, while giving them the flexibility to navigate and explore how they can best contribute. See well beyond the obvious. Expand your leadership lens to detect what matters most to your employees and allow them to flourish.

3. Empower to discover potential

You will never know what an employee is capable of accomplishing unless you stop micromanaging and start empowering them to discover their full potential. Put them in situations that will build their confidence and strengthen their self-trust.

Empowering employees sounds simple, but it requires a leader to let go, step back and observe. It demands a confident leader that is willing to allow their employees to fail, then help them pick up the pieces and rebound. Employees engage when they are empowered to explore endless possibilities.

4. Put them in a position of influence

Beyond empowering employees, put them in a position of influence to see how they react and engage in their new role. Stimulating engagement is a two-way street: it’s not just how employees gravitate towards their leaders, but how others gravitate towards them. Allow your employees to discover their own potential and put them to the test. Witness how they lead and collaborate with others. If you micromanage employees too much, they disengage. Employees want to feel trusted and valued for the independent decisions they can make and the impact they can create.

The most engaged employees are those whose leaders have confidence in them; who trust that they can always be depended to deliver when called upon. Employees are most engaged when they feel a sense of responsibility towards their leaders and the example their performance sets for others. This is accelerated when they are placed in roles of influence and responsibility.

5. Share your success to build their momentum

Rather than enjoy your leadership success alone, share it with your employees and allow them to experience it with you. The wise man forfeits his fortune when he does not trust himself. Sharing your success with your employees and making them feel an important part of your accomplishments is a sign of trust that organically creates engagement.

Employees want to support their leaders – even more so when a leader is transparent enough to share not only their success, but also their vulnerabilities. Employees don’t need leaders that always have to be right (or perceived as perfect) – they want leaders that open themselves up enough to share their journey with them. Genuine collaboration drives engagement and creates an environment of significance for everyone.

6. Be consistent and have their backs

Leadership is about having each other’s backs – especially those of your employees. Employees disengage when their leaders play mind-games and are inconsistent with their approach and style. Employees are vulnerable these days – not really knowing who to trust, rely upon or follow.

Recently, I spoke with a Fortune 80 executive who has been with his organization for more than 15 years. He has grown tired of the inconsistency of his leader, who doesn’t value him nor does he place a priority on his career development. This executive is ready to leave the organization in search of a leader that has his best interests at heart – while still in support of the organization’s goals. He wants to be part of a team that matters, with no hidden agendas.

Who wants to engage with a leader that doesn’t have their back? This is why leaders lose top talent all the time. They just assume their employees will be loyal to them – rather than recognizing that retaining top talent requires leaders to always be looking out for their best interests. Leaders must communicate and become more emotionally intelligent to stimulate employee engagement.

These six things are what employees are constantly thinking about – but not talking enough about with their leaders – as they navigate ways to elevate their engagement at work. Just as the wise man may forfeit his fortune when he does not trust himself, the wise leader forfeits his leadership when he does not engage his employees.

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