Tag Archives: Organization

At Last We’re Engaged – Leading Your Team (Part 2)

Is employee engagement relevant in today‘s workforce?

Earlier this week I wrote the first part of this blog relating to Employee Engagement. In part two I examine some of the leadership themes, highlights and a few statistics supporting the relevance and importance of engaging employees.

CoachStation: Leadership and Employee Engagement

A leader‘s ability to consistently demonstrate and apply relational skills has a direct correlation to the level of engagement an individual may feel. Providing genuine leadership is key. There appears to be a gap between what employees state is occurring and what leaders feel they are applying in reality.

Data and surveys continually reflect the discrepancy between what leaders believe is occurring and what their team members state.

This is often reflected in frequency and quality of the levels of engagement through formal and informal communication, coaching and development opportunities.

There are many leadership traits and skills identified in various books and literature. However, a handful of values-based attributes are identified consistently towards the top of the ‘criticality-list‘ i.e. they are identified as a deal-breaker for many employees. Over the past 5 years I have conducted values assessments with over 35 people and trust is identified more often in people‘s core values than any other value. (1)

In addition to my own research and observations, it is of interest to understand the core reasons a breakdown in relationships and engagement between an employee and manager occurs. Of relevance to this discussion is the recent study that showed organisations were falling short when it came to ‘preparing‘ employees for leadership. The question of sustainable leadership was raised – if we are not preparing our leaders to be good managers then we are not creating good role models for future leaders and so the cycle (of poor management) continues.

This research shows most people leave a job because of their relationship with their immediate manager.

Confronting a boss with feedback about their behaviour and its impact was one course of action to consider, although this can be a difficult conversation. A lack of ‘trust and integrity‘ was the main reason employees would ‘fire‘ a boss. A third of respondents nominated trust as their main issue and a further 24 per cent would leave a micro-manager. Other noted negative leadership traits were, not providing development opportunities (12 per cent); not providing open and honest feedback (12 per cent); stealing credit for ideas and work (10 per cent); and not providing coaching support when needed (8 per cent). (2)

Although not a definitive list, the following traits and attributes highlight poor leadership behaviour as identified through my experiences:

  • An unwillingness or inability to delegate effectively – be willing to take on tasks yourself otherwise don‘t delegate – you don‘t want to be seen as a ‘shirker‘.
  • Inconsistent language and messages – your team members will see and take note of some of what you say and all that you do!
  • Not leading by example.
  • A need to be liked rather than respected.
  • An inability to communicate effectively – this has an alignment to making too many assumptions without ‘checking in‘.
  • A lack of self-awareness which is also matched by an unwillingness to identify and take action for one‘s own development, which regularly leads to an inability to develop others through a lack of skill to do so and avoidance based on the thought-process that ‗I am not developing myself, so how can I hold other‘s accountable for developing themselves?‘

In this context, possibly the best way to summarise the importance of accountability in personal and professional development is to review the key Principles of Leadership as itemised by the US Army. The listed attributes and skills offer a worthy checklist of several core areas to focus on to become an effective leader, whilst highlighting the link to employee engagement:

1. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – in order to know yourself, you have to understand your ‘be, know, and do’ attributes. Seeking self-improvement means continually strengthening your attributes. This can be accomplished through self-study, formal classes, reflection, and interacting with others.
2. Be technically proficient – as a leader, you must know your job and have a solid familiarity with your employees tasks.
3. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions – search for ways to guide your organization to new heights. And when things go wrong, they always do sooner or later — do not blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and move on to the next challenge.
4. Make sound & timely decisions – use good problem solving, decision making and planning tools.
5. Set the example – be a good role model for your employees. They must not only hear what they are expected to do, but also see. We must become the change we want to see – Mahatma Gandhi.
6. Know your people and look out for their well-being – know human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for your workers.
7. Keep your workers informed – know how to communicate with not only them, but also seniors and other key people.
8. Develop a sense of responsibility in your workers – help to develop good character traits that will help them carry out their professional responsibilities.
9. Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished – communication is the key to this responsibility.
10. Train as a team – although many so called leaders call their organization, department, section, etc. a team; they are not really teams…they are just a group of people doing their jobs.
11. Use the full capabilities of your organization – by developing a team spirit, you will be able to employ your organization, department, section, etc. to its fullest capabilities. (3)

An honest self-appraisal and dedicating time and effort to developing self-awareness traits can be one of the most challenging aspects of leading people. The alternative is to assume, act in denial of circumstance, work in isolation or not build a genuine connection with your team and the individuals who form this unit.

This style of leadership will not enhance employee engagement.

The highlighted principles of leadership are as relevant today as when first introduced decades ago. It is worth reflecting on the following questions:

  • If employee engagement is so closely linked to leadership and these principles are arguably not revolutionary concepts, why is there such disparity between what leaders and employees say is actually happening in the workplace?
  • Could it be that we overemphasise how well and often we apply these principles in reality and/or underemphasise their importance?

Leadership is not easy – and neither is dealing with the many people-related issues and challenges that arise. Through managing these issues and assessing your leadership strengths and development areas regularly and taking appropriate action, your team will see that you are committed to your role and to your people.

Although not the only aspect of effective leadership, a focus on your employees and understanding what motivates each person is a solid base to work from. When aligned with an attitude to grow as a leader (not simply being a ‘manager‘) the related success, joy and fulfillment that derive from this transformation can be one of the most rewarding aspects of your work-life.

Food for thought for those in charge, as effective leaders continually review their own situation and progress and take appropriate action to ensure the perceived or real gaps are reduced or removed. This is worth considering as an employee, as a leader or your role as both. What does this mean for you?

The six most important words: “I admit I made a mistake.”
The five most important words: “You did a good job.”
The four most important words: “What is your opinion?”
The three most important words: “If you please.”
The two most important words: “Thank you,”
The one most important word: “We”
The least important word: “I”

References
1. Personal Values – One View: CoachStation
2. How To Tell If Your Boss Is A Dud: CareerOne
3. Principles of Leadership: US Army, 1983

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At Last We’re Engaged – Leading Your Team (Part 1)

CoachStation: Leadership and Employee Engagement

Is employee engagement relevant in today‘s workforce?

I would suggest more significant than ever with the ‘war for talent‘ escalating, technology providing a seemingly endless stream of information and contact with new job opportunities being more accessible than ever.

What is employee engagement? Simply, it is how well an employee is fully involved in his or her role and the desire in meeting business interests, outcomes and goals.

Employee Engagement is the extent to which employee commitment, both emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission, and vision of the organisation. Engagement can be seen as a heightened level of ownership where each employee wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of their internal and external customers, and for the success of the organization as a whole…Thus engagement is distinctively different from employee satisfaction, motivation and organisational culture. (1)

Although employee engagement has strong alignment to emotional connection and the level of commitment an employee applies to their work setting, clearly there are other variables and contributors. Whilst acknowledging the myriad influences, the key focus of this blog is the alignment between leadership and employee engagement.

Is there a link between effective leadership and employee engagement? Evidence supporting this theme is provided through various surveys and related commentaries, with results displaying a high proportion of employees leave their role primarily due to their relationship with their immediate leader and/or the broader leadership team.

An organization’s senior leadership team has a significant impact on its employees‘ overall opinions of the company and engagement levels, which have been linked to both earnings per share and total shareholder return.

A strong organizational leadership team has a significant impact on its employees’ engagement levels. Employee engagement is the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to the achievement of organizational goals. Engaged employees favorably rate their pride in their organization, willingness to recommend it as a place to work and their overall job satisfaction. Additionally, employees with positive opinions of their leadership team state a higher intention to stay with the organization versus those who are dissatisfied. Those who favorably rate their leadership teams are also much more likely to have confidence in the organization’s future and feel that they have a promising future with the company. (2)

An ability for an employee to relate to and understand their ‘place‘ within the workplace and sustaining a connection with the business to a level that an employee is willing to provide heightened discretionary effort above the base, are both relevant. In contrast, a disengaged employee can be extremely damaging to the business by reducing the morale and engagement of those they work with.

Supporting this concept, workplace management consultant, Tony Wilson claims that, Ninety per cent of employees who resign are leaving because of poor managers, not their job… when an employee resigns, many managers point the finger at reasons beyond their immediate control. In most cases they should point it straight at themselves. Most managers spend too much time on operations, systems, strategy, products and services. While these are important pieces in the performance puzzle, they spend relatively little time developing their people – their greatest competitive advantage. (3)

Employee engagement is neither static nor linear. As is the case when dealing with most people-based situations, engagement can and does fluctuate, depending on current situations and assumed future circumstance – and it is absolutely related to what has happened in the past, as understood and perceived by each individual.

An employee who is fully engaged today will not necessarily be in a year‘s time, or in a month for that matter.

Employee engagement can never be taken for granted. As a leader it is imperative CoachStation: What Should Leaders Do with Their Greatest Asset?that engagement levels of each person are assessed and reviewed regularly, along with that of the team as a whole and aligned with development plans and coaching sessions.

Positive morale, team-spirit, enhanced commitment and other elements have input into and are an output of strong employee engagement. However a key hypothesised advantage for any business is the link with improved financial results. Employee engagement is also a leading indicator of financial performance. The world’s top-performing organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resources initiative — it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business. Research by Gallup and others shows that engaged employees are more productive. They are more profitable, more customer-focused, safer, and more likely to withstand temptations to leave. The best-performing companies know that an employee engagement improvement strategy linked to the achievement of corporate goals will help them win in the marketplace. (4)

Many articles and blogs debate the link between engagement and financial performance, however my experience has shown that an engaged employee makes the choice to provide more input and related outputs as a result of their level of engagement. In a broader sense, profitability is not only a financial measurement in the business-world, but is also identified with benefits such as personal fulfillment, self-esteem and contribution to society. In the business environment at the very least reduced turnover/attrition costs can be one positive financial gain. There is also a level of contribution and a ‘halo‘ effect on those who work with the engaged employee, with higher rates of sharing, peer-training / coaching and overall contribution to not only the individual‘s outputs but that of the team.

This leads to the point that application, credibility and skills of leaders are also paramount. A recent survey in Australia found that 40% of employees describe the management skills of the person they report to as average or below. The analysis underlined that there is a perception gap between how managers rate their own skills and how employees rate the skills of their manager, with 38% of managers stating they consistently lead by example, however only 20% of employees agree. In addition, 41% of managers say they consistently show interest in their staffs problems, however only 23% of employees agree. (5)

The ultimate situation occurs when a primarily engaged team works so well together that they ‘punch above their weight‘, where for example, a team of six operates like a team of seven or eight in terms of comparative contribution. On the contrary a disengaged employee (or team) displays obvious signs regarding both inputs (contribution) and outputs, which are quite clearly reduced compared to others contribution or how that employee may have been engaged previously.

So, if employee engagement is so important for a business and its employees, what is it that makes an employee stay in their role as opposed to seeking other opportunities? As mentioned earlier, an employee‘s relationship and connection with their immediate manager is critical. Emotional Intelligence, relationship-building skills and the ability to build a connection across many personalities, cultures, values and individual needs is essential to effective leadership.

Simply talking about these traits and skills is not enough.

What have been your experiences with companies you have worked for or with? Does engaging your team and employees really matter?

References
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employee_engagement

2. Does an Organization‘s Leadership Really Affect Employee Satisfaction?  Kenexa research Institute accessed via: business.salary.com

3. Working With, Not For The Boss: CareerOne

4. Employee Engagement: A Leading Indicator of Financial Performance

5. Bad Managers Adding To Skills Shortage: CareerOne

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Development and Training – Same, Same: Maybe Not?

Are learning, training and development the same thing? The short answer is no, however training is one avenue to learning and development. Why does defining the difference matter – aren’t I really just splitting hairs? Now, that is the interesting question!!

CoachStation: Development and training - Same, Same? Learn  and Lead

Having worked with many varied people and business cultures and recognising the similarities and differences, it is clear to me that many managers think training and development are the same thing. I have seen examples where a manager has sent one of their team to training to ‘rectify’ a skill gap and behaviour. Attending the training did not make the difference expected by the manager, so he sent the employee back on the 2-day training course at the next available opportunity.

Of course, there was no change as a result. When this manager attempted to send the same employee a third time, I felt it necessary to intervene and ask the pertinent questions to broaden the manager’s thinking and related actions.

I have written about this before, however it continues to surprise me that people in leadership roles too often do not have the skills, foresight or desire to understand the different components of learning and development in practice, not simply as a field within the HR function.

Professional Development refers to skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching,communities of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.

Personal Development includes activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitates employability, enhance quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations. The concept is not limited to self-help but includes formal and informal activities for developing others, in roles such as teacher, guide, counsellor, manager, coach, or mentor. Finally, as personal development takes place in the context of institutions, it refers to the methods, programs, tools, techniques, and assessment systems that support human development at the individual level in organizations.

Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies…(and) goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance. (1)

At face value the definitions are similar, however there is a significant, almost palpable difference, possibly not obvious in the definitions, but evident in practice. Training is the imparting of knowledge. It is the provider of information, the opportunity to be exposed to new concepts, tools, standards or similar. In itself, it is rarely the changer of behaviours.

Having knowledge is one thing, applying this knowledge in a practical and discernible way that makes a difference, is quite another.

In order to make sure the learner takes in the information in a way that makes a difference for them, the learning must be reinforced post-training. This is where the manager or leader has a huge part to play. It is also where the process breaks down most often. Understanding and applying the basic principles of adult learning are sufficient to aid in development, reinforcing the knowledge gained from training. These principles assert that:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

I recently created a model to visually demonstrate the principle that training, coaching and understanding the nuances between people has significant power in the transformational development of an individual. Any one of the components can make a difference, but rarely does a person have the ability, knowledge or drive to take the learning program to its ultimate state of change without assistance. This is one of the key reasons that training, coaching and self-development tools exist in the first place.

CoachStation: Development Model - Training, Coaching, Profiling and Leadership

John Wenger of quantum shifting articulates this exceptionally well:

For many of you in a leadership position, you probably don’t need more top tips or knowledge about your job.  You probably don’t need much more information about ‘stuff’; you would probably enjoy developing something else, something deeper that frees you up to apply the knowledge and information you have already acquired with greater ease and finesse.  It’s one thing to know about emotional intelligence, for example.  It’s quite another thing for you to apply this elegantly in a living, breathing workplace with real life people in real life situations…(when) more organisations wake up to the idea that, rather than sending people on more training courses that treat them like receptacles for yet more tools, tricks and tips, they should be investing in developing the users of these tools.

Many pertinent questions can be asked relevant to this theme, some of which may be applicable to you:

  • Do each of your team members have a development plan?
  • If not, why?
  • If so, when was the last time you meaningfully revisited this with your employee?
  • How actively involved are you in the development of your team?
  • When a member of your team is scheduled to participate in a training session, has the purpose been linked to an actual development need and/or built into their development plan?
  • Do you discuss expected outcomes and learning prior to the training session? Do you follow it up post-training?
  • In what ways do you reinforce the development of each of your employees,every week?

A good leader recognises that there is a difference between training and development.

An effective leader ensures that he or she is not only aware but actively participates in the development of each individual – this is a responsibility of the role. What are your thoughts?

(1) Source: Wikipedia, accessed on 18/7/12

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