Workplace Culture

Building a Team to Last Through Engagement

The Challenge – Disengaged Employees

Great leaders want to create change and have an impact.  This can only be accomplished through the teams they lead and build.  Stephen Covey, in his book The 8th Habit, describes a poll of 23,000 employees drawn from a number of companies and industries.  He reports the poll’s findings:

  • Only 37% said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why.
  • Only one in five was enthusiastic about their team’s and their organization’s goals.
  • Only one in five said they had a clear “line of sight” between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals.
  • Only 15 percent felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals.
  • Only 20 percent fully trusted the organization they work for.

If we applied these stats to a soccer team:

  • Only 4 of the 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs.
  • Only 2 of the 11 would care.
  • Only 2 of the 11 would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do.
  • And all but 2 players would, in some way, be competing against their own team members rather than the opponent.

Engage Your Team to Win!

Leading and building a team is one of the most challenging parts of leadership, and it begins with engagement.  As George Kohlrieser points out, “High performing leaders are able to unite diverse team members by building common goals and even shared emotions by engaging in powerful and effective dialogue.” Research has shown that employees who are engaged significantly outperform teams who are not engaged.

In today’s competitive marketplace, better products, services, strategies and technologies can eventually be copied.  Former Campbell’s Soup CEO Doug Conant said, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment that team members have to the organization and its goals.  Engaged team members have an emotional commitment and care about their work and their company. They want to further the organization’s goals, not simply their paycheque.  When engaged, people will use discretionary effort.  In other words, they will go the extra mile – or as Red Hat’s Jim Whitehurst says, “They will walk through walls for you.”

3 Things Drive Engagement

So what drives employee engagement?  A study through Dale Carnegie Training found 3 key drivers:

  • Relationship with immediate supervisor
  • Belief in senior leadership
  • Pride in working for the company

Of these three, employees said that personal relationship with their immediate supervisor was the key.  Their supervisor’s attitude and actions determine whether an engaged culture exists.

Engaged cultures also have senior leaders listening to input, leading the company in the right direction, and openly communicating the state of the organization.  Lastly, engaged employees feel respected and that their personal values are reflected and the organization cares about how they feel.

Connect with Your Team to Succeed

Engagement is not some expensive program to be implemented.  It is about bringing humanity to the workplace.  It is about connecting with your team members at a meaningful level.

How well do you know the individuals serving on your team?  What makes them come alive?  What are they passionate about outside of work?  What is their story?  Why do they do the work they do?  How is their family doing?

Engaged team members are also working from their strengths.  How well do you know the individual strengths of each of your team members?  One simple way to do this is by using a tool like Strengthsfinder.  If you know their strengths, are you ensuring they are playing to them regularly?

One of the best leadership movies, Invictus, has a great scene that shows the power of Engagement.  Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) invites the captain of the rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to his office.  As Francois is walking in he asks the security guard, “What is he (Nelson) like?”  The security guard responds, “When I worked for the previous President, my job was to be invisible.  With this President (Nelson), when he found out I liked English toffee, he brought me some back from his visit in England.  To him nobody is invisible.”

People will walk through walls for you, but they need to know you care about them.  Great teams are built when leaders engage at a human level with their team members.

Feel free to check out my other blogs in this series on leadership:

2 Fundamental Questions All Great Leaders Ask
15 Competencies of Great Leadership
Great Leadership Requires Commitment
Why Character Matters

For more free resources, visit our resources page.


John Neufeld

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Learning

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