“Stupid computer, why are you doing that?”

Have you ever yelled that question (or a similar one) at your computer, and been tempted to pick it up and throw it out the window? I guess most people (me included!) have at one time or another. Of course, sometimes computers do go wrong and it can be very frustrating. Often, however, the problem in my case is that the computer is actually doing what I have in
structed it to do; I’ve just told it (inadvertently) to do something that wasn’t what I intended. In essence, the problem was user error, with me putting in the wrong instruction.
With computers, as with most things in life, what you get out is a reaction to what you put in.

It’s the same with the team you lead at work. If you want to raise employee engagement where you work, one factor to consider – and it’s arguably the most significant one – is the way managers behave towards their staff. Admittedly, there are other things too, but both research and experience show that if you get this part right, many of the other challenges dissolve of their own accord.

So as a leader and manager, in practical terms, how can you raise your team’s engagement? What are the inputs that will be most likely to produce the outputs you’re looking for?

Here are six things that I have found really matter, that you can begin to implement today without spending an additional pound or dollar:

  1. Be clear about the vision and values that drive your organisation. What really matters? What is important to us, as a team, department, and organisation? Make sure your team is clear about your organisation’s foundational values. And make you demonstrate them all day every day!
  2. Make your team to be accountable for their performance, and make yourself accountable to your team, for your performance. This involves a level of vulnerability and humility that many managers find difficult, but the results can be hugely rewarding.
  3. Demonstrate your commitment to your team by “bigging them up” within the organisation; don’t run them down. Be prepared to stand up and be counted with your team. This is the opposite of a “blame culture” and is powerful in fostering trust.
  4. Create a feedback culture within your team. This won’t happen over night, but you can start the process today! Do this by always giving positive feedback when it is due, as well as always giving difficult feedback when required. Never “save up” feedback for a later time  – give it now! And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your team – you are more likely to get useful feedback when your team knows you are keen to receive it.
  5. Be clear with your team about what you expect from them, both in terms of performance and behaviour. Set stretching (but achievable) performance objectives, and agree with your team how you will all work together to achieve them. Share regularly how things are going – open communication is key to building trust and mutual respect.
  6. Celebrate successes, even the little ones. Be creative about how you reward your team (and remember, there are many ways to do so without spending money!).

This is clearly not an exhaustive list, but taking these steps now, from wherever you’re starting, will help you begin a journey to more engaged employees. Get in touch if you’d like to talk further about how to implement these ideas, and please share your success as well!



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