Five Leadership Skills That Increase Engagement

Our team recently experienced a significant restructure and realignment, so my vice president called a meeting of her direct reports. Instead of opening the meeting with tasks or corporate insights that we needed to pass along to our respective teams, she began with her personal view on change, sharing how she's dealt with change throughout her career and how change has contributed to her professional growth.

It was a personal moment. It was good insight. And, it was genuinely engaging.

In an article written by Steve Minter, the executive editor of IndustryWeek, he referenced Keith Ayers, the founder of Intégro Leadership Institute, a management consultant and a speaker who works with high-level executives. Minter discussed Ayers' strategy, which is to get employees excited about and, in turn, committed to the organization's vision.

Ayers said: "We need to understand about the role of the leader in employee engagement. Your leaders are either increasing engagement, or they are decreasing it. There is no middle ground. Everything a leader does that impacts employees either increases or diminishes engagement."

What skills does it take to create a high level of engagement? Minter shares these five traits described by Ayers, which is our focus in today's issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

1. Building Trust. Ayers says that trust is the foundation for increasing engagement, but trust is earned or demonstrated. Employees don't engage with you because they think you are trustworthy; instead, you build trust by showing that you are trustworthy. And in order to do so, employees must demonstrate trustworthy behaviors—meeting deadlines, communicating with clients in a timely manner, respecting the opinions of colleagues—while also having trust in their colleagues. According to Ayers, businesses should be comprised of trustworthy employees. He questions, "After all, if you have untrustworthy employees, why did you hire them and why are there still there?"

2. Mentoring. Minter wrote that, according to Ayers, the relationship between the employee and his/her direct manager is a critical determinant as to the employee's projected level of engagement. Employees need feedback. Feedback provides crucial information about how they are performing, and it should be offered more than just part of an annual review. It allows employees to know when to switch gears if a current strategy is proving ineffective and consider their needs regarding growth and development. Feedback is a must-have skill for effective leaders to help coach and counsel employees in a way that drives engagement and commitment.

3. Inclusion. Ayers said that an employee's perception of being an insider versus an outsider in the workplace can impact their level of engagement. Effective leaders are aware that everyone on their team has unique strengths needed for the organization's collective success, and they know how to draw the best effort out of each employee. These leaders understand that people with different personal values can work together effectively when they commit to the same values about trustworthiness and standards of work performance that are enforced in their organization.

4. Alignment. According to Ayers, employees that feel more aligned with their organization's purpose, values and vision are naturally going to be more engaged. Their work is meaningful to them personally, because their leader helps them to make connections between their work and the success of the organization. These employees can see how their individual contributions make a difference. An effective leader also understands that employees who are committed to the organization's values will improve their performance standards, as well as their overall engagement.

5. Team Development. As stated, all employees have unique strengths, and it's important to remember these strengths and encourage employees to develop their strengths, while improving their shortcomings, in order to have a high-performing team. Effective leaders focus on developing the leadership potential of each team member, and ultimately implementing a shared leadership approach to continuously improving performance overall.

But also, according to Ayers, these skills don't come naturally to most managers, but they can be learned. It is important to make time to focus on these skills, reinforce changed behavior and show commitment to your growing and developing managers.

Sources: Steve Minter is the executive editor for IndustryWeek, where he writes about leadership, international economy and trade and energy. Prior to joining IndustryWeek, he served as the publisher and editorial director of Penton Media's EHS Today, where he helped to develop the Champions of Safety and America's Safest Companies recognition programs. Keith Ayers is the founder of Intégro Leadership Institute, a management consultant and a speaker who works with CEOs and senior executive teams who want to develop an organizational culture that is supportive of their business initiatives and impacts their bottom line. He is also the author of Engagement Is Not Enough: You Need Passionate Employees to Achieve Your Dream.

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