Follow the Leader – It’s More than a Game; It’s about Being Engaged

When people are led, they are more likely to be engaged. People who are managed do what is necessary and no more. Getting your team successfully engaged in the “work at hand” has been a challenge for all leaders since the beginning of time. Having your team engaged is especially important as employers of all shapes and sizes struggle with the challenges brought on by today’s economic climate.

To successfully engage your team, they need something to get “engaged” about. The best formula to achieve this is to present employees with engagement opportunities that will contribute to the overall success of the company while also helping them grow individually. Companies who want to foster an environment that’s conducive to employee engagement need to have a vision.

Let’s talk about vision– what is it, exactly? Vision is the target, and the challenge of reaching this target should fuel the fire within your team members. Companies where “healthy” employee engagement is alive and well share these common “vision” characteristics:

  • There is a specific and well-communicated vision that serves as a motivational tool for the team– it’s about action, not just words.
  • Employees are able to correctly and consistently describe why the organization does what it does and who they do it for.
  • Employees are emotionally attached to the vision; believe in what they do and are committed and loyal to the organization.

So, you need a “great” vision that your team can willingly buy into and adopt. For that to happen, every member of your team must know:

  • What they do
  • How to do it consistently well
  • Who they do it for (internal and external customers)
  • Why they do it – the most important factor
  • Where they fit in within their company – so they know that what they do is important and their contribution is valued

Now, if you can correctly “educate” each member of your team on these five points, here is what you will have accomplished: Your team will understand how what they do contributes to the fulfillment of this vision. In addition, they will realize that achieving the vision motivates them to make it happen since their own growth and success are directly linked to the company’s growth and success.

It can sometimes be a significant challenge to get your team to share your passion and desire to ramp it up and take your company to the next level. You sometimes end up in a fierce struggle to either push them or pull them over the goal line. Neither of these approaches were my first choice, although I did, at times, have to do some of both. It sometimes ends up that we settle for something less or worse- and we give up trying to lead and end up just managing.

Here are the 10 key steps you should be taking to make sure you spend the majority of your time leading:

  1. Explain why the ‘status quo’ needs to change. Show them the way (the vision and the plan) step by step so they know what needs to be done; their role in it and why each step is important.
  2. Continually demonstrate that working as a team is essential – the company relies on its leaders and their teams to help realize its vision. Remember, the vision is the target and achieving it should fuel the fire within your team members.
  3. Spell out the timetable and the milestones to measure progress, as well as the consequences of not meeting the targets.
  4. Celebrate and acknowledge the wins together and learn from the mistakes together. The most successful teams win together, lose together and learn together.
  5. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it – it shows you’re human and that you don’t make excuses. As such no one else should make excuses either.
  6. Everyone should follow this standard process when mistakes are made: Own it, fix it, learn from it and move on.
  7. Show no fear, or as I once heard, “never bleed in the shark tank.” Despite the obstacles, show your team how to continue moving forward.
  8. Measure your team’s progress; acknowledge the “wins” and say “thank you” as needed.
  9. Reward the right actions. Recognize those who move the organization closer to the vision, always strive to be better than average and act quickly when issues have been identified
  10. Make sure your team knows you’re always there to listen; actively solicit feedback.

Engaged teams will follow their leader. Managed teams will tolerate their boss. Every team can be managed but those teams that are engaged do so because they follow an individual who has made the choice to lead. The 10 steps in this post will get you started.

Chris Ruisi spent more than 35 years as a senior-level corporate executive; he’s a nationally recognized business and leadership speaker, executive coach, award-winning author and radio show host who challenges business leaders to “Step Up and Play Big.” Chris uses his wealth of knowledge to help business professionals develop the practical skills and solutions necessary to navigate the risks and demands of the current economic climate.

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