Highly engaged teams take greater ownership over their work and perform at a higher level. How can you as the Leader influence the team’s level of engagement?

This is part three of our series of building high performing teams. In part one, we talked about the reasons why people don’t perform to expectations. Part two in the series talked about how to provide effective and actionable feedback. And, today, in part 3, we will discuss engagement, why it’s important and an approach to building engagement on your team.

Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. When people are highly engaged, we see

  • discretionary effort
  • people offering their best and volunteering to do more
  • actions above and beyond
  • people are taking ownership

“This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.”– Kevin Kruse

And the business impact of highly engaged organizations is significant. In highly engaged organizations, we see less absenteeism, fewer quality defects, even fewer accidents. And, we see higher productivity, profitability and customer satisfaction. (Source: Gallup)

Unfortunately, on average, only about 30% of our people are highly engaged. Something like 60% are in a neutral place and these people can absolutely be moved into a more highly engaged state. About 16% of people are actively disengaged, that is they are working against the goals of the organization. Imagine a team of six rowers trying to move a boat upstream- how would things go if one of those six were actually rowing backward. That’s why it’s so important to focus on raisng your team’s engagement.

So, how do you build higher levels of engagement on the team?

The following five elements tend to be present in highly engaged teams; these are not necessarily causative but do tend to present when teams are at a high level of engagement. And, these are areas over which you have some latitude, some control and influence.

As a bonus, in your work to develop these areas, you’re not only giving the business a better chance for success but also moving your team members toward more success and fulfillment in their work.

Five Elements of Engagement

1. Engagement is more likely to occur when people deeply understand the mission of the organization or team. What is the purpose of the organization, what is the vision are they working toward and why.

2. They need to understand how their individual contribution impacts that mission and what they bring to the table. Their opinion is valued and listened to.

3. They get to work in their strengths most of the time. The highest performers tend to be working in their strengths at least 70% of the time (a strength is an activity you do that you’re naturally very good at and brings you energy). Obviously, that’s a high goal to accomplish but it’s worthwhile to help people move incrementally closer to it in designing their work.

4. There is frequent and actionable feedback that is both positive and negative. What’s right about what you did? If it wasn’t right, what help can you provide there is © Upside Partners 2021 help to find the best approach. There should be, at minimum, three positives for every one negative piece of feedback. Of course, feedback is a big topic but consider these four keys to Effective feedback: – focused on the behavior (not the person), – good feedback is genuine – good feedback is specific, not generalized and – it’s as close in time to the action as possible.

5. People feel understood, recognized, seen and cared for as human beings. This is important. We have a tendency to think of teams as ‘resources’, particularly when we’re busy; it’s just easier than consistently considering people as individuals When people know their leaders see them as whole and unique human beings, with all their strengths and experiences and passions and fears, they are more ready to be resourceful and more resilient. They know they can bring new ideas and try new processes and feel psychologically safe in doing so.

One thing I appreciate about this model is that you, as Leader, have influence on all of these areas. As needed, you can place greater emphasis on the org’s mission and how everyone contributes to it. You can organize your team such that people are working in their strengths more of the time. And you can provide feedback in a way that people can stretch and grow in their roles. And, of course, you can make a point of listening to your team such that people feel valued in the organization.

Putting this into action

The good news: there’s a straightforward way to determine what you’re doing great with and what might need to be more present, in terms of building engagement on your teams. To evaluate the level to which you’ve created this environment, you can complete a simple scorecard to see where you stand.

A score of 5 being true and 1 being not at all true.

___ My team understands the organization’s mission at a deep level (1-5)

___ Each team member understands her/his contribution to achieving that mission (1-5)

___ My team members spend most of their time working in their strengths (1-5)

___ My team is receiving actionable and frequent positive and negative feedback (1-5)

___ The people on my team are valued as whole human beings and feel cared for. (1-5)

Based on the ratings in the areas above, you can focus your efforts on building up whatever area(s) which seem to be lacking. If you’re not sure of an answer on one or more of these attributes, try asking your team how they would score this. And then ask, ‘what had you give it this rating?’

Finally, remember this is a process, not something which can be flipped like a light switch. People will bring distinct and different perspectives which can change quickly depending on circumstance. You’re looking for general and continual and sustainable improvement rather than a sea change overnight.

What do you think? Is engagement something worth emphasizing and what have you done to improve it? Feel free to comment on this post- I’d be eager to hear how others think about this. Thanks for reading.

Thanks for reading this article- I’d be eager to read your thoughts on this. And, you’re always welcome to reach out to me directly if I can support you: ascantland@upsideleadership.co

My purpose is to help people identify and activate their potential.