I’m excited to bring you Dave Willis, one of our thoughtLEADERS instructors, for today’s post on employee engagement. Here’s Dave:
If you haven’t already done so, read Mike’s Leadership Principles. I love them all, but my personal favorite is number 7: He Drinks 7Up. Sometimes after reading this story I have visions of legions of managers frantically stocking up their office mini-fridge with all manner of beverages. Jolt Cola for the IT department; Evian for Susan from marketing; Zima for Bob from accounting. (Should you ever happen to be my manager, I like Honest Tea.)
But of course, the point of the story isn’t 7Up or Zima. Like many of the Leadership Principles, at its core this story is about engaging your employees. Notice I didn’t say “motivating.” What’s the difference? Engaged employees are “motivated plus.” Let’s define some terms. Engaged employees are:
Motivated – they give you their best effort, they help each other out, they find creative ways to solve problems for coworkers and customers
Loyal – they stick with you when things get rough, they don’t jump ship the first time someone else offers them a 5% raise
Advocates – they tout your products and services to potential customers, and they recommend you as an employer to potential employees.
Motivated, loyal advocates. And you can’t have enough of them.
In part 2 of this post I’ll talk about ways to create high levels of engagement among your employees (with no Zima jokes). But in this post I want to talk about why engagement matters. I could quote from dozens of consulting and academic studies, but instead let me make one observation: in ten years of management consulting I never once worked with an organization that was able to succeed without high levels of employee engagement. Have you? Or put another way, is there any strategy you currently plan to undertake that doesn’t require a whole heck of a lot of people giving you their very best effort (and sticking with you) in order to succeed?
I’ve had the privilege of working with organizations all over the world to improve employee engagement, and in almost every instance some cynical manager (who invariably was one of the least engaged people in the company) would ask, “But what’s the ROI of engagement?” I like to think this is the person Scott Adams had in mind when he first drew the Pointy-Haired Boss. My answer is simple: without engagement there is no “R” on any “I” you might care to make in any part of your company.
Look, engagement doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s a necessary precursor. And it’s the single most important responsibility you have as a manager. If you aren’t engaging your people, you are directly preventing the organization from being successful. But if you ARE engaging your people, then I don’t care what your title is or at what level of the org chart you find yourself. Guess what? You just made the transition from manager to leader.
About Dave: Dave is an executive with more than 15 years of line management, consulting, and entrepreneurial experience. He’s trained executives from many Fortune 500 companies while he led practices at The Corporate Executive Board and has entrepreneurial experience in the areas of executive coaching and business network building. He brings this wealth of experience to the classroom as a Senior Instructor here at thoughtLEADERS.