I was fortunate that my team was nearly always fully engaged in the outcome (or at least they did a really good job of faking it!). However, there were a few times when either I had an idea that I wanted to implement, or when I was responsible for implementing some new policy from “corporate,” that I got some “push-back” from my team. Or, if not actual “push-back,” then, shall we say, less than all-out enthusiasm?
Does this sound familiar? Have you gotten these kinds of responses from your team? Have you wondered how to turn things around?
If so, you’ll be pleased to know that there are some things you can do – and they begin with you. (NOTE: These are by no means the only three things you can do to get your team more engaged.)
1. Do a Self-Check
How engaged in the outcome are you – really? I’ll admit it; there were times (especially when I was trying to “sell” some edict from corporate that I didn’t particularly agree with) when my own engagement was less than 100%.
So I’d call a meeting of my team and say something like, “Look, corporate says we have to do this. I think it’s a stupid policy and it probably won’t work, but let’s just all suck it up and get through this thing.” (Okay, perhaps it wasn’t quite that bad. Then again, perhaps it was.)
Now, you may find this difficult to believe, but many times after a rousing pep talk like that, my team failed to become fully engaged! Remember: your team looks to you for clues as to how to behave, what to feel, what to think. If you aren’t engaged in the outcome, don’t expect them to be. But the more you believe in the vision, the more your team will too.
2. Communicate as much and as often as you can
In the absence of information, people will fill in the vacuum themselves. And there’s a very good chance that their fill-in material will be both negative and incorrect. Haven’t you found this to be true in your own life?
You meet that cute person at a party, you have a few drinks and a wonderful conversation, and you call them the next day. And they don’t call back. Two days pass, and they still don’t call back. So, in the absence of any other information, what do you fill-in with?
“They’re probably busy taking care of their sick mother who lives in a mountain pass with no cell or internet connection, but they’re thinking of me constantly and will call as soon as humanly possible.”
That’s what you’re thinking, right? WRONG!
Here’s what you’re really thinking…
“I shouldn’t have called so soon. I should have waited another day. Either way, I shouldn’t have made that comment about how I’m more of a dog person than a cat person. They probably hate dogs and love cats. This was probably my last chance for true happiness and now I’ve ruined everything and I’m going to be miserable for the rest of my life until I die alone and bitter!”
Now, be honest, isn’t that more like it? So don’t put your team in this position! Don’t make them play “fill in the blanks.” Give them as much information as you can-even if the news isn’t great. When they know that you’re communicating openly and honestly, that builds trust. And trust builds engagement.
3. Help them develop as individuals
It’s human nature. People will care more about your priorities when they feel that you care about theirs. And it’s really hard to care about someone’s priorities if you don’t know what they are.
So find out what drives your team members, remembering that your team is made up of individuals, and each individual has different goals and aspirations.
Have a one-on-one meeting with each member of your team. During this meeting, ask them to name one personal goal they have and one professional goal. And then look for ways that you can support them in achieving those goals (as long as they are congruent, or at least not opposed, to the team and/or organizational goals).
Once your team members see that you care about them and their goals, they’ll be much more inclined to become engaged in the team goals.
You, as the leader, are the single biggest influence over your team’s engagement. So stop just wishing your team were more engaged. Do something to make it happen.
Photo Cred: Incedogroup.com