Better Your Engagement
I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy! And we have demanding lives to lead. But what would happen if you made a commitment to become a more engaging leader? By “engaging,” I don’t just mean putting on some charming manners (although that can help). I’m referring to being a participant in others’ lives, being personable, helpful, and involved. Think about the team members you breeze past most mornings. What would happen if you paused, checked in, and really discussed how their life and their work is going—and why?
Improving engagement requires focus. Focus requires turning off your autopilot switch and becoming fully present in the moment. True engagement isn’t something you can fake, either. If you say that you believe in being engaged and committed to the people on your team, but fail to back your words with action, and you’ll quickly lose credibility – and trust. On the other hand, if you find even a few ways to nurture your engagement with others on a consistent basis, their trust in you as a leader will grow, as will their respect for and loyalty to you.
Here are three ways to improve engagement with your teams or direct reports:
1. Make the commitment.
In The Disciplined Leader, we talk about the power of creating great habits around your most vital factors and issues. If you feel like your level of engagement and personal relationships with your team could be improved; if your team needs motivation and accelerated productivity, engagement may be a vital priority for you. If so, then you’ve got to discipline yourself and make a real commitment toward bettering your level of engagement. Set some goals, develop strategies, and build in personal accountability. Develop a list of ways you could boost your employee engagement by spending just 20 minutes a day dedicated to doing so.
2. Plan ahead.
When you plan ahead for meetings or events, you have greater focus when you are at the event. While planning ahead is common sense, how many of us go to meetings without creating a solid agenda? When you do this, you waste a good chunk of meeting time in reactive mode, rushing to define the gathering’s purpose and scrambling to pull things together into a meaningful structure. We’ve probably all been guilty of this oversight at some point or another, right? But 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 and do your best, be present, and fully engage with those around you. Carve out the time to plan, and you’ll come across as (and be) a more engaged and effective leader.
3. Develop your communication skills.
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. You may be a rocket scientist or have engineered and pioneered a brilliant company idea, but that doesn’t mean you’re an A+ communicator. How can you develop these skills?
If you are struggling with one or more key communication skills, you can still work hard to improve. As many developing leaders work on 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 the information being communicated. It’s also about developing communication skills that reflect engagement, such as looking someone in the eye, never interrupting or breaking in, asking critical “why” questions, and shutting out any distractions.
Engagement may be a mindset, but the leader must also adopt behaviors that support that mindset. That’s when the magic happens. When you master these skills, your communication becomes excellent, and you have a chance to learn what you need to know to better inspire and motivate the people you lead.
What’s an easy, daily habit you could do to create better engagement with your team?