Forget Employee Engagement - Leadership Engagement Comes First

1/14/2013 by David A. O'Brien

Jim was quite frustrated with his team and their apparent lack of engagement. After listening for almost 15 minutes to a litany of problems caused by their carelessness and lack of follow through, I asked Jimwhat he wanted. He explained that he had a lot of other demands on his time and needed his team to be able to follow though independently.

Jim’s situation is not atypical from many of my coaching clients. He was focused on “them” – wanting to fix his team - without awareness of his own role in the equation. Jim needed to start by examining his own engagement as a leader.

The best way to increase employee engagement is to increase leadership engagement.

Here are 7 things you can do to increase employee engagement by increasing your leadership engagement.

 1.  Assess your leadership. As a leader, you set the tone for your team. Everything you do or don’t do impacts employee engagement at some level. How well do you model the behavior you want from your team? Do you demonstrate the critical leadership characteristics ofopenness, integrity, resilience, trust,and respect? What are the top five characteristics of your leadership style and their impact on your team?

 2. Show employees that you value them. Research shows that one of the chief influencers ofmotivation and engagement is feeling valued.You don’t need a complex program to show employees you value them. Connecting with people on a personal level and building relationships can take you much further. Schedule 20 to 30 minutes of Leadership By Walking Around time on your calendar every week to let your team know that you’re there for them and that you care about how they’re doing.

 3. Communicate clearly and frequently.Another key factor in engagement is providing information that enables them to do their job and information about what is happening in the organization, especially around change.  Keep them informed about what is happening, why it is happening and its impact on the team so they don’t have to depend on the rumor mill.

 4. Ensure performance expectations are clear. Develop specific measures by soliciting input from employees. Hold everyone accountable for team success. Aligning talent capacity with interest, needs and motivation allows each team member to understand their contribution to team and organizational success.

 5. Link each person’s role and contribution to the key goals of the department and organization. The more each employee understands how their efforts impact the greater good of the group, the more likely they are to find meaning in their work.

 6. Give timely and specific feedback.No one knowingly chooses to fail.People need feedback in order to improve their performance. Make sure your feedback helps and motivates them to improve.

 7. Involve employees. Hold a discussion with your team about their view of engagement and what they think are the key actions and behaviors that support success for the group and organization. Identify the top 3 shared motivation drivers of the group. Involving them helps build a common language, clarify purpose and increase their ownership.


About David A. O’Brien, our Guest Blogger:

David is President of WorkChoice Solutions, a trusted provider of leadership and team effectiveness coaching and training services. He works with a wide range of corporate and nonprofit clients to help bring about sustainable improvements in organizational productivity. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker on the topic of leadership excellence. His first book, The Navigator’sHandbook, 101 Leadership Lessons for Work & Life is available on-line and in bookstores nationwide. Additionally, his articles have appeared in a variety of local, regional and national publications.

 To learn more, please visit WorkChoice Solutions on line at www.workchoicesolutions.comor contact him directly at 860.242.1070. You can also connect with David on Linked-in @

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