Better Your Engagement
I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy and have demanding lives to lead. But what would happen if you made a commitment to set aside time to become a more engaging leader? By “engaging,” I don’t just mean talking more to others in some sort of charming manner (although that can help). I’m referring to getting involved in others’ lives, such as those team members you may commonly breeze most mornings without pausing to stop, check in, and really find out how work is going—and why. To improve engagement requires focus. Focus requires turning off your autopilot switch to become fully present, in the moment. True engagement isn’t something you can fake, either. Tell people you believe in being engaged and truly committed to them but fail to back your words with action, and you’ll quickly lose credibility. On the other hand, if you find even a few ways to consistently nurture how you engage with your people, their feelings about you as a leader will grow their respect for and loyalty to you.
Here are three ways to create greater engagement with your teams or direct reports:
Make the commitment. In The Disciplined Leader, MAP’s hot-off-the-press book, we talk about the power of creating great habits around what’s vital. If you feel like engagement is a pitfall of yours yet is something that could improve your relationships with your people, motivate them, and accelerate productivity and results, then it may be a vital priority for you. If so, then you’ve got to discipline yourself to make a commitment to improve it. Set some goals, develop a few strategies, and build in some personal accountability. If it’s not a vital priority but something that you still value and believe important, develop a list of ways you know you could boost your employee engagement by just 20%. Why? Because as the Pareto Principle states—and as we commonly remind our MAP clients—only 20% of efforts drive 80% of results.
Plan ahead. When you plan ahead, such as for meetings or events, you’ll be able to focus better when you’re actually in the meeting or at the event itself. While planning ahead is common sense, how many of us get to a meeting without creating a solid agenda, then spend a good chunk of the time in reactive mode, rushing to define the purpose and scrambling to pull things together with some kind of meaningful structure? We’ve probably all been guilty of this oversight at some point or another. When you fail to plan ahead, whether it’s for a big meeting or just an important phone call, it’s hard if not impossible to relax, be present, and fully engage with those around you. Carve out the time to plan, and you’ll come across as and actually be a more engaged leader.
Develop your communication skills. A leader may be a rocket scientist or have engineered and pioneered a brilliant company idea, but that doesn’t mean that person is an A+ communicator. But as we all know, the best leaders are almost always great communicators. They’re people who have learned how to use verbal and nonverbal skills to connect, exchange thoughts and feelings, interpret, and understand. If they are deficient in one or more of the key communication skills, they realize that fact (perhaps through MAP’s 360 Feedback offered in our 2.5 day executive workshops), and then work hard to improve on their deficits. As these developing leaders work to improve this aspect of their leadership, a light bulb usually turns on. Suddenly, they grasp that great communication is about being engaged—fully engaged. It’s about really listening. It’s about really paying attention. It’s about really honoring and respecting another person by being present, in the moment, and consistently focused on understanding what’s being communicated. It’s also about developing communication skills that reflect that engagement, such as looking someone in the eye, putting an understanding hand on the shoulder, asking critical “why” questions, and even shutting off the iPhone. Engagement may be a mindset but the leader must then adopt behaviors that align to and support that mindset. That’s when the magic happens, communication becomes excellent, and leaders learn what they need to know to better inspire and motivate those people who surround them.
What’s an easy, daily habit you could do to create better engagement with your team?