In my first podcast, Mary Davis, CEO of Special Olympics said “Leadership isn’t a tick box exercise”. It’s the same thing that, in a previous life, I used to say to new people leaders about engagement.
Of course, working in a team that’s more engaged than not engaged has its benefits. However, what I've found, and what Mary referred to in the podcast, is that engagement and leadership aren't things you do, they aren't tick boxes or something to be diarised for 9.30 to 10am on a Tuesday! To get to that destination, leaders and organisations need to consider the journey.
Involving your people is key
Key to creating an engaged team is involving them on the journey. I've seen it from both sides - where teams really were central to their own success - taking engagement scores and implementing changes (often REALLY small things) to make their teams better places to work. And I've seen and heard horror stories where engagement scores landed, 'senior management' got together and decided on the actions (sometimes with input from staff and sometimes not!) before implementing them.
Why are your people more engaged in the former scenario? Because you've involved them in shaping their own team and workplace, somewhere they spend a very significant chunk of their lives.
Four key themes to engaged teams
When you look at Engage for Success, the report written by David MacLeod and NIta Clarke for the British Government in 2009, you'll see that, from their research, they identified four key themes that tended to make companies more engaging places to be.....
What's not particularly surprising when you look at those four themes is the fact that each of them revolves around people.
Strategic Narrative is the very life blood of your business. It shows your people where the the business has come from, where it's going, how it's going to get there and, crucially, the role each of them plays in making that happen. It's a written document or a picture that your business uses to make sure everyone is pointing in the same direction.
Developing Engaging Managers is critical to bringing that to narrative to life in the most relevant way for their teams,(each of which has very different communication needs). Engaging Managers really focus on their people, they listen and support, coach and stretch to ensure that each person on their team is the best they can be. As I wrote in a previous blog, key to success is strong and human leadership.
An organisation that actively listens to Employee Voice benefits in a couple of ways. Firstly, your people are a great source of ideas and thinking - they do the job every day and, therefore, are best placed to help when it comes to changing things for the better. Secondly, as outlined in my open, the actual process of listening itself, of seeking input, of asking for ideas, of letting them be masters of their own destiny, in itself drives engagement levels.
But all of this is nothing without Integrity. When leaders and organisations 'listen' to staff, when they say they want to create a more engaging workplace and then don't or when they create a narrative which is based on corporate BS and untruths, they undermine their own integrity very very quickly. And for me, integrity is central to trust - the whole idea of 'we do what we say we so' NOT 'we write or say one thing and then, when you aren't looking we do something else!'
So don't think about engagement as a destination. If you focus on enjoying the journey you'll get to the destination before you've even realised!
I’ll be running another masterclass on ‘Creating a Culture of Change’ on 21st March in the Irish Aviation Authority in Dublin. You can find out more and book tickets by clicking here
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