Five Ways to Create an Environment for Employee Engagement

Only employees can engage themselves. You can’t do it. All you can do is create an environment which helps people to be self-motivated and engaged.  Everyone is different, that is true, but there are common factors that are intrinsic to everybody’s level of satisfaction and engagement at work.

Engaged employees voluntarily invest time, effort and take the initiative to contribute to business success in various ways over and above what is expected of them. Why? Because they feel three basic human values: a sense of belonging to a group; a sense of fulfillment and a sense of purpose with their job. These factors help them to be enthusiastic, passionate and energetic.

To achieve these values and engage people in making the following visible and part of your business and how they work:

Produce meaningful work  –people who believe the work they do is important and valued, will believe in themselves and engage with their work environment. What you need to do is to consistently make clear the importance of their roles to the success of the business.  You need to show them the connection between what they do and the company’s success whilst setting goals and challenges that will give them a sense of purpose.

Create growth and opportunity  - people want to use their skills, and respond to encouragement in stretching themselves and developing themselves further. Are your people fully using their strengths and abilities? Do you know what their strengths and abilities are? Are they being given the opportunity in what they are currently doing to use them? Are their achievements moving in the direction it makes them grow? Are there projects or challenges they can work on to expand their skill set? Help them advance within the company, and provide clear and consistent feedback on how they can improve their performance. This will benefit, in terms of growth, both for the company as well as the employee.

Uphold inspiring leadership – Hands-on, passionate and competent leadership is vital to enthuse and engage teams, whether they’re in admin, sales, manufacturing or else. A genuine interest in understanding the needs and aspirations of teams as a group and individuals will pay dividends.  Sending the message that their contribution is valued and of importance when wanting to stretch them to achieve goals. Get involved with their experience in the workplace, find out what motivates them and how they define success and what is rewarding to them.

Foster a culture focused on people – It’s well acknowledged that companies that recognize their people are their greatest assets reap the benefits. Understand the responsibilities and values of your people outside of work and consider initiatives that will enable them to achieve and carry on their personal pursuits. Encourage people to balance hard work with socializing and doing what is important to them. Encourage them to share their ideas, insights, and experiences and build up in them a sense of being valued, of camaraderie and of a community where they can thrive; this will increase engagement.

Reward and recognize – people who know their efforts will be recognized and rewarded will happily give their best, volunteer time and deliver great work as opposed to feeling they are obliged to. This is the difference between staff commitment and staff compliance. Demonstrate you’re aware of their hard work by appreciating and thanking them for their efforts. Praise great work in meaningful ways and publicly celebrate accomplishments. This will encourage individuals and boost their performance and confidence. Competitive pay and benefits are basic factors to perform well, however, incentives for over and above results give employees something extra to strive for.

More motivated, loyal, and committed employees are typically high performers who contribute and produce better results for both their employers and the company clients.

Doesn’t everyone want more of these employees!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Improving Your Leadership Skills

the one thing to create a multiplier effect for your leadership skills

There are a broad number of leadership skills that you are expected to have and to develop. However, this takes time and effort and you cannot develop these skills in a classroom. You have to develop them in real-time and quickly.

The “key leadership skills” that are commonly cited include: inspiring and motivating others, problem-solving, delivering results, good communication, driving innovation and strategy, providing direction and goals, developing others, internal and external relationship building….

So how can you develop these skills quickly and effectively, and in a way that leverages your experience and helps you to improve what you are doing?

Simple. Ask questions!

In a blog post by Johannes Bayer he looks at some of the key questions that you might ask for each of these key leadership skills.  I have included his ideas here (thank you, Johannes!).

In a nutshell, the process is:

  1. Define the skill you want to improve
  2. Create a list of many questions you can use to demonstrate this skill
  3. Narrow the list down to a handful of key questions.

The questions should help you elicit ideas for yourself and from others to: generate and gain insights; to expand your thinking and that of others; to generate new ideas and thinking; to leverage your experience; to help you gain traction and overcome inertia; to challenge the status quo; and to learn.

For the key skill, you are looking to improve what are the top 3-5 questions from your list which will have the greatest effect for you and others?

Here are a few examples too of how this might look like

To improve this skill You may want to ask questions like these
Inspiring and motivating others
  • If I gave you 4 hours each week to work on anything you like what would it be?
  • What roadblocks can I remove for you?
  • If you could change 1 thing to make you happier at work: what would it be?
Problem-Solving
  • What exactly is the problem? Why is it a problem? How big is it?
  • Has someone else solved this problem already? If yes, how can we use this?
Delivering Results
  • What are the key factors that influence the results I need to deliver (data, process, people, turnover, price, customer satisfaction….)?
  • How does world class performance look like and how do we compare?
Good Communication
  • What questions should I have asked but did not?
  • Let me understand your communication preferences: what are they?
  • What questions/comments do you have for me?
Driving Innovation and Strategy
  • If you had to do this in half the time / with half the funds / half the resources / … how would it work?
  • What does the customer value that’s not in our product?
  • What is in our product that the customer does not value?
Providing Direction and Goals
  • What is the #1 goal to focus on this year?
  • What are priorities vs sideshows?
  • What should guide all decisions we make ($, quality, client satisfaction, data…)?
Developing Others
  • Which of your skills are we not using?
  • What have I done today to develop others?
  • If you were in my place, what would you do?
  • How do you add value around here?
Internal and External Relationship-Building
  • What questions can I ask colleagues / clients to get into a deep, meaningful conversation right away?
  • What was the achievement that makes you most proud this year?
  • What key challenges are you working on right now?

Use this approach to help you develop your leadership skills.  Even more importantly, share this approach with your peers and reports – a great leader helps others to surpass himself or herself. So what have you found of most value in this blog post? What will you do as a result?  Share this here and we can learn from each other!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The Three Areas of Leadership Focus

Self-focus, others focus and a wider world focus

The Three Areas of Leadership Focus Being a leader is continually demanding role. To be effective you not only need to know what to focus on, but also what to not focus on.  This is made more complex is that you need focus on and understand yourself, your people or team, and the business environment in which you operate.

Self-focus and others focus on developing your emotional intelligence, and a wider world focus develops your strategic, management and innovation thinking and capacity.

To develop your self-focus you need to develop your self-awareness and your self-control. Your self-awareness is being aware of your ‘inner voice’ and self-control is about keeping and maintaining your attention where it is needed. To develop your self-awareness you need to develop your ability to interpret your gut instinct, whilst also being authentic – being able to look at yourself objectively and compare that to how others perceive you.

To improve your others focus is about focusing your attention on other people, not yourself, and to do this you need to build your empathy and create relationships.  There are three distinct types of empathy:

  • Cognitive empathy—the ability to understand another person’s perspective
  • Emotional empathy—the ability to feel what someone else feels
  • Empathic concern—the ability to sense what another person needs from you

You need all three types of empathy and to be able to draw on them as and when you need. This helps you to build strong relationships with other people and helps you to have influence.

Finally, developing a wider world focus helps you develop your strategic thinking and allows you to pursue new ways forward, and to spot and take advantage of opportunities and changes before others. This is especially important as the business environment is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous; this has meant that you can no longer get the same results from what you have always done. You need to change and anticipate the changes.  So type of focus also needs you to develop your creative thinking which includes that you have:

  • Vigilance – that you remain alert for relevant information while immersing yourself in all kinds of input
  • Selective attention – you focus on one thing while filtering out everything else
  • Open awareness – when you keep yourself open to new possibilities as you explore the environment around you.

Each of the three areas of focus – self, others and the wider world – comes together for the greatest effect.  Do this for yourself, but also help others to develop their focus in each of the three areas – this will provide you with leverage and opportunities!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here. 

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Using Peer Pressure to Create Alignment

How to design and create peer pressure to align people and efforts.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is a useful way to get people to work together.  A working definition of peer pressure for the purpose of this is:

“Peer pressure is the influence exerted by a peer group or an individual, encouraging other individuals to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors in order to conform to group norms”.

In other words, the group or individual(s) are looking for their peers to behave in a desired manner to achieve given outcomes.

Key Steps to Creating Peer Pressure

1. What is the peer group? – for what group of peers are you looking to create peer pressure for?  Be clear on who they are.  If the people identified to belong to different groups then you will not be able to work with a group who have commonality – these may be in terms of roles, responsibilities, position etcetera.

2. Identify the outcomes you are looking for – what is it you want the peer group to achieve?  Be specific.  The tighter the description of what you are trying to achieve the better.

3. What behaviors are you looking for? – this works in two parts:

a. Desired behaviors – what are the behaviors that you want the group to exemplify and demonstrate in working to achieve the desired key outcomes.

b. Undesired behaviors – what behaviors do you not want to see portrayed by the group which, if they occur, will be subjected to peer pressure from the group to make the individual(s) conform to the desired behaviors.

4. Determine the metrics:

a. Outcomes – how will you measure your progress in achieving the outcomes you are looking to realize; how will you know when you have got it?  The metrics used need to be meaningful, relevant and commonly shared and understood by the peer group.

b. Behaviors – what will people be doing that need to be exemplified and demonstrated in achieving the desired outcomes.

5. Establish the process – make sure there is a clear process to guide and assist the group to achieve the outcomes and exhibit the desired behavior.  This process should align people with what is wanted and set the desired expectations.  Furthermore, this process should help to make the situation visible and tangible so those impacted can see what is happening.  Furthermore, the process should make clear:

The benefits to every one of adhering to the process

A. The costs to everyone if one or more people do not keep to the process.

B. The costs to everyone if one or more people do not keep to the process.

Case Study

The Situation

A company I worked with had a number of teams working on a variety of different projects at the same time.  The reports that were written, based on fieldwork, took time and effort to develop and needed to be cross-checked and submitted to a quality control process.  This involved a small report processing team of people who liaised with the team leaders.  A key aspect of this was for all team leaders to inform the report-processing team on upcoming work for the next week.  This allowed them to schedule the workload and ensure that the work was properly prioritized.

The Problem

Several of the team leaders, despite repeated requests, were either late in submitting the information or did not pass it on at all.  This caused problems for both the report-processing team who were given the work at the last minute, with no prior consultation, and then had to try to fit it into the workload that had already been scheduled.  This caused them difficulties and could also adversely affect the work of those team leaders who had informed the report-processing team of their upcoming work requirements promptly.

Developing Peer Pressure to Help in Solving the Problem

Step 1: Determine the Peer Group

This is the team leaders in charge of the field teams which compile the information used to create the report.

Step 2, 3 & 4. What are the Desired Outcomes, Desired Behaviours & Metrics?

Creating Peer Pressure - Case Study

Step 5: – The Process

The report-processing team developed a report which highlighted who had submitted information, when (whether on-time or late), for which project and the principal responsible.  All information was to have been submitted by midday on Friday.  Anything coming in after that was regarded as late and was detailed in the report that was emailed to all team leaders, their reports and the principals to whom the team leaders reported.

Sample of the Project Information Update Status Report

Creating Peer Pressure - Case Study Report

The report was sent out with a message to highlight the benefits of conforming to the group and the costs of non-conformance.  This was to help stimulate and direct peer pressure.

Sample Text

“Please find below the information submission report.  As you are aware providing us with the necessary information when required helps us to schedule the resources to ensure that reports are produced on time and to standards.

Please note that delays in submitting your information will not only make it difficult to schedule your work, and may cause delay, but may also negatively impact the work of your colleagues.  Please help them by submitting the information on time.

Currently, 60% of projects are supplying information on time; this is a standard expected of 100%.  There are four projects for which we lack information, some of which are significantly overdue.  Please help us to address these outstanding projects so we can help you effectively”.

By doing this it made everything visible and tangible. It identified trends and patterns in what people were doing, created peer pressure by highlighting those who were not conforming against a background of everyone conforming, and made it difficult for people to maintain non-conforming behavior.

Try this for yourself.  Use the five steps to create the process to help you achieve the desired outcomes and behaviors which will be encouraged by the resulting peer pressure.

Share

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Putting Active Questions to the Test

A study carried out by Marshall Goldsmith and Kelly Goldsmith look at testing the effectiveness of active questions with employees who underwent training.

In short, a passive question begets a passive answer. For example, an answer to “Do you have clear goals?” might be “My manager can’t make his mind up as to what my goals should be”. In doing this the employee rarely looks to him or herself to take to responsibility and assigns blame elsewhere. By using passive questions when assessing employee engagement the company is essentially asking “What are we doing wrong?” They can also, if used exclusively, give employees implicit permission to pass the buck elsewhere and to avoid taking responsibility.

So what should we do? In short, we need to use active questions.

There is a significant difference between “Do you have clear goals?” and “Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?” The former is trying to assess the employee’s state of mind; the latter challenges the employee to describe or defend a course of action. A good example of an active question being asked was in John f. Kennedy’s memorable call to action: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

The power of active questions is that they engage the individual, they encourage the individual to think about the subject of the question, and to take responsibility for that which he or she is being asked about.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Shaping Your Future

What you can do to bring the future back to today.

In the current business environment leaders are subject to increasing demands on their time, requiring faster responses, with less information in shorter time-scales. In this age of infinite information and endless distraction, it’s easy to spend an entire day reacting and responding to what others want as opposed to what we want or need to do.

Here is a question for you.

Do a quick calculation of the percentage of time you spend responding to things in a typical day (answering email and phone calls, etc.). Compare this with the percentage of time you spend initiating actions.

Where do you spend most of your time? In most cases, a reactionary time greatly outweighs proactive time.

The problem is that you spend most of your time dealing with the past in the present, making it difficult to prepare, plan and act for the future.  And it is what you initiate today that will shape the future.  It might be a conversation that leads to a new friendship, sharing an idea that leads to a new product or service etcetera.  Your ability to create a positive charge for others is almost directly proportional to the amount of time you can spend initiating instead of responding.

Leaders look to the future, deal with people, and lead change. So, with your team, allocate time to reflect and look to the future to determine what you can and need to initiate that is aligned with your purpose and goals. Talk with others, and encourage your team to do the same, to gain insights into their perspectives and thoughts and to start the process of developing opportunities for the future. Look to initiate rather than respond, this will help you to be proactive and to take control of the future for yourself.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Requirements for High Employee Engagement

Sustainable Engagement

Are your people really engaged in their work or not?  What does current research tell us? What are the implications of the results?

Falling levels of engagement are leading indicators that your business is likely to experience a fall in productivity, a decline in customer service, and increasing rates of absenteeism and employee turnover.

Disengagement, in all its forms, is a real risk to the organization’s productivity and performance. This is especially important in increasing competitive and volatile times, especially as organizations downsize with reduced workforces having to do more with less.

The 3 Elements of Sustainable Engagement

Tower Watson describes sustainable engagement describes the intensity of employees’ connection to their organization, based on three core elements:

  • The extent of employees’ discretionary effort committed to achieving work goals (being engaged)
  • An environment that supports productivity in multiple ways (being enabled)
  • A work experience that promotes well-being (feeling energized)

Traditional engagement

  • Belief in company goals and objectives
  • Emotional connection (pride, would recommend employer)
  • Willingness to give extra effort to support success

Enablement

  • Freedom from obstacles to success at work
  • Availability of resources to perform well
  • Ability to meet work challenges effectively

Energy

  • Ability to maintain energy at work
  • Supportive social environment
  • Feelings of enthusiasm/accomplishment at work

How Engaged are You & Your Team?

A study by Towers Watson in 2012 shows that only one in three employees are highly engaged – the rest are unsupported, detached or disengaged.  These types of engagement and whether people in each category are engaged, enabled or energized is shown below.

Types of Engagement & Attributes Mix

Types of Engagement & Attributes Mix

Global Levels of Engagement (Tower Watson, 2012)

2012 Global Levels of Engagement On average, only one in three of your employees are engaged – the rest are not sustainably engaged.

About one in five is engaged but lack the necessary support to perform and/or a feeling of achievement and support at work.

Nearly one in five is detached – they have the support they need to perform, and the feeling of achievement and energy, but they are not aligned and engaged with their work.

One in four is disengaged – they are not engaged, energized or enabled in their work.  As such they are unhappy in their work, and use your business as the means by which to share their unhappiness to other employees, clients and others.

What Does This Mean for Organisations?

Organisations need to take the time and make the effort to understand their people and where the engagement gaps are that need to be addressed.  To help engage people, and to create performance and the realization of the right outcomes and productivity you need to ensure:

  1. You have the right people
  2. Who are using the right tools, who have
  3. Access to the development of the skills and behaviours they need

So what are you going to do, and where can you work first to have the greatest impact?  Your people are your biggest asset not on your balance sheet – so invest in them!

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.