A couple of weeks ago, I posted a tweet and it seemed to gather a bit of interest. A good friend of mine, and all around HR superstar Steve Browne, made the suggestion that I write a blog post about it. I respect Steve and so this one’s dedicated to you my friend. Thanks for the encouragement!

As a leader, we definitely want those on our team or in our organization to have the highest levels of engagement. We encourage them, explain how important things are, and sometimes we even try and bribe people with things and put a reward sticker on it so we can check off an HR box. The big challenge with this approach is most of the responsibility is placed on the person who is meant to be engaged.

Engaging LeadershipEvery single person in the organization is responsible for their own engagement. It is a personal issue as much as it is an organizational one. This is true from the front-line employees to the CEO. What is also true is that leadership – at any level – is responsible to create an atmosphere which facilitates engagement. It can’t be mostly heaped on the person who is meant to be engaged.

How engaged would you be if you were your leader? – @LeadrshipAdvisor

This was the tweet that I sent out earlier that prompted this blog post. It’s a tough question. I struggle with it. I have to deal with the day-to-day frustrations of things not going the way I need/want them to go. Things depending on the actions of others and having to manage the creative tension that comes with that. It’s difficult to keep the need for engagement front of mind. All the more reason to do it. It’s difficult nature doesn’t diminish the need, value or validity to do it.

Reflect for a moment on your leadership. How engaged would you be if you were subjected to the daily influence of your leadership? My trick knee tells me many of you reading this don’t like the answer. No need to self-berate over it. Recognizing this short-coming is a great first step to making it better.

Here are a few tips:

  • Manage your calendar – I’m sure there are plenty of things crowding in on your calendar. Great leaders make time to reflect. Add this to your list of things needed for healthy reflection. It doesn’t have to be cosmic or mystical. Simply ask yourself, “How has my leadership facilitated engagement?” Take notes. Write in your journal. Use these notes for further reflection. You’ll see a pattern.
  • Ask those you’re leading – This may make your heart rate jump about 10-15 beats per second. You have to be vulnerable enough to hear negative feedback about yourself from those you’re leading. Scary, right? The flip-side to that same coin is the respect it will earn you. Put your ego in neutral and really hear what they have to say. Take notes and refer to them during your quiet time of reflection.
  • Ask those leading you – This could be beneficial or not. Use your judgment. Not everyone is great at engagement and you may have a superior who sucks at it. You may have someone who makes you feel like a superstar and you want to do your job so much better because they believe in you. Ask them about engagement. Ask for feedback about your leadership in that context. What you do well. What you can improve. Most people don’t know because they are too afraid to ask. You’re not asking for a loan, you’re asking to get better.
  • Prepare – There are certain leadership decisions that aren’t forced to be made on the spot. When you’re contemplating a certain action or decision, consider how engagement will be affected based on your decision or action.

What are some things you have done to make your leadership more engaging?

  • We tend to think that “others” need to be engaged first with the assumption that we already are. It often is not the case !! Engagement can’t be projected or programmed. It needs to be modeled. If we aren’t engaged as leaders, how can we expect others to be?

    Great post William. Way to bring it !!

  • Excellent point Steve! Most leaders forget that everything is exemplary, for good or bad. Common sense, but not so commonly practiced. Thanks for your contribution and encouragement to write this post. A needed conversation for sure!

  • William, great post. I’m glad Steve instigated you to write it.

    I’d also add that my leaders engagement must include me. I’ve just received some negative feedback that I may be engaged, but I haven’t “engaged-with” a particular member of the team. My engagement in my position as a leader must include my team and their teams as well. If I’m engaged, but only doing my thing or the organization’s thing, I still may exclude others. Interesting problem.

    Mike…

  • Very valid point Mike. Engaging with others as a leader is part of owning your engagement. How your engagement looks is based on your role, responsibilities and job function, just as much as your personal goals and passions and how they connect to the organization’s goals. Thanks for sharing something so personal!

  • Hello William,

    Great post – always good to have a prod to self-reflection.

    My view is that to be engaged, that is, to be the opposite of “coasting”, people need to be challenged. Having a hill to climb means you need to get “in gear”. I wrote a little about it here:
    http://bit.ly/10SvLsG

    Would be happy to have your comment.

    Cheers,
    MichaelJ
    @MethodLead

  • Great question, William. This is one of those self-awareness questions we really to need think through and pay attention to. The points you make help us to do that.

    Another reflection point may be how our team members are engaging others. If we are setting a good example, then their actions should show it too. Also, when we are engaging with someone, do we see it in their eyes and in their responses? If we are really listening and are really open, then we see it reflected back to us.

    Great post. Thanks! Jon

  • It’s easy to believe you’ve hired good people and then trust that they are doing their jobs well. It’s never fun to find out that they in fact are not.

    From my experience as a business owner, hiring people doesn’t mean that you no longer have to do the task. It means that you now need to help other people excel in that task. Doing so requires a great deal of commitment to your staff and your customers.

    Thanks for the post William.

  • Thanks for sharing more content on this subject Michael. A very important one indeed!

  • Excellent addition to the post Jon. Engagement needs to be all pervasive…no doubt. Thanks for your contribution!

  • Very important points Eddy. You may not be responsible for doing it, but you are responsible for making sure it gets done. Thanks for the contribution!

  • I love the question, thanks for reminding me. It’s all to often we read about “engaging others”, but engaging ourselves generates more immediate results, and yet often isn’t done.
    Thanks William,

  • Absolutely right, Jon. All leadership begins with self-leadership. The context your leadership creates influences engagement – it does it through culture, but it is an influencing factor. Thanks for your thoughts!!