While you personally may be very engaged in your work, that doesn't necessarily mean you're very good at engaging others.
As much as we wish high employee engagement were an expectation that we could realize by adding it to everyone's job description, the reality is engagement is something every leader must earn.
Consider this: if your employees aren't engaged, chances are you're not engaging enough.
Therefore the question to ask yourself, if you want to lead for engagement, is not "how do I get them to engage?" but rather "how can I be more engaging?"
Sowing the seeds of employee engagement
Your core ideas and messages are the seeds you sow when you want to engage others. So your ability to effectively engage employees begins with the quality of your messages.
Ultimately, success is a function of how well you engage others in transforming that message into action and results. That is the true measure of effective employee engagement.
Whether your message is a high-level vision or strategy or a message about a policy or project, you can determine how effectively you are engaging employees (and identify how you can do better) by asking yourself these questions.
How engaging are you?
1. Are you truly passionate about your message?
Of course you are supposed to be passionate about your message. But are you really?
Perhaps you were there when the message was crafted, but still have reservations or concerns that were not addressed. It could be that the message was handed down to you to deliver to others.
Unfortunately if you are hesitant or just going through the motions, your people will pick up on it. If this is honestly the case for you, then do the work you need to do to get yourself aligned and fully on board so you can generate genuine enthusiasm. After all, if you don't "buy it" how can you expect anyone else to?
2. Is your message clear and compelling?
Passion may get the ball rolling, but if you want employee engagement to stick you must deliver a message that others find both clear and compelling. By clear I mean it is simple to understand and easy to repeat. By compelling I mean it peaks the listeners interest because they can personally connect with it.
Like any good marketer, a leader needs to know their audience and be able to communicate in a way that reaches that audience, not only intellectually, but emotionally as well.
If your message isn't stimulating lively conversation among your employees and/or at least starting to show up naturally in the things they say, write and do, then consider that your message may not be "sticky" enough to foster engagement for the long term.
3. Are your words followed by action?
Your genuine passion may be a catalyst for engagement. A clear and compelling message will initiate conversations that begin to ignite interest and cultivate understanding.
The ultimate test of how effectively you are engaging others, however, is based on your employees' actions (or lack thereof).
Positional power can fuel the illusion that people are actually listening to what you have to say. Of course they may show up to the town hall meeting or read the broadcast e-mail message as requested. Employee engagement, however, is unlikely to occur based on formal communications alone and here is why.
The wisdom of Confucious reminds us:
"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
You can give people eloquent words, but they must go through the process of creating meaning for themselves.
You will only engage others effectively for the long term when you focus on helping them to internalize your core ideas and messages as their own. Engaging conversations lead to engaged thinking and action.
Want to lead for engagement?
- Be passionate.
- Be clear.
- Be compelling.
And then stop talking and start listening.
Give people a chance to find their meaning, and their thinking and actions will bring your words to life.
Your turn: What tips do you have for leading engagement in others?