How Engagement Can Ruin Leadership

Day after day, week after week, you find innumerable posts extolling the glorious benefits of employee engagement. You’ll read about how engaged employees are more productive, have less absenteeism, apply more discretionary effort and overall improve bottom line numbers by a significant amount. Many of those posts you will find in this blog. So how, in good conscience, can I even imply that leadership could be ruined by such noble and gentle effort? Glad you asked.

Executives are beginning to see the value and necessity of quality employee engagement. They are actually starting to look beyond the mere annual survey and include it in more daily activities to make sure employees are engaged, and fell fulfilled in their work – all the while organizational objectives are being met. It’s a veritable organizational utopia out there, right? Wrong.

How Engagement Can Ruin Leadership image tired leaderHow Engagement Can Ruin LeadershipThe group of people who seem to suffer from employee engagement efforts belong to the layer just below the executives and just above general managers…usually at the Director level in most organizations. They are what I like to call the implementation crowd. They become responsible for important efforts, like employee engagement, and work tirelessly to help make them a success. They believe in these things and want to see the organization improve. There is just one thing missing. What is being done to engage them?

I’m not suggesting this is something malicious or nefarious on behalf of the C-Suite. I am suggesting that it is a common mistake that is based in ignorance. When we hear the word “employee”, the executive team (senior or junior) isn’t the first, second, or even third group of people who pop into our minds. At the end of the day, engagement affects everyone in the organization, as well as external stakeholders such as vendors and suppliers.

Here are a few tips to make sure engagement isn’t ruining the leadership in your organization.

  • Define employees differently – If the word employees trips you up and has a unintended mental association of “them”, then use a different word. Find more inclusive terminology when you’re talking about engagement. Everyone in the organization has to reap the rewards of engagement efforts.
  • Do what you ask of others – If you’re a senior executive or a member of senior leadership and your guiding, coaching, instructing (whatever) someone else in the areas of engagement, you better make damn sure you’re doing the same thing with them that you’re expecting them to do with others. This is Leadership 101, but when it comes to engagement it can have a tendency to slip off the radar.
  • Ask questions – This is the easiest and most cost-effective thing any leader can do. Not only does it help reveal issues before they become problems, it actually helps build healthy relationships and is just good quality leadership. Ask those who report to you how you’re doing as a leader. Ask them if they feel under resourced or need more support/coaching in any particular area. This helps slow them down and give them an opportunity to engage more in what they do.
  • Check for culture alignment – In the process of doing “work”, the reasons for doing that work can get lost. Re-visit the hot points of your organizational culture and check for alignment with the senior leaders in your organization. It’s just as easy for senior leadership to misalign as it is for a frontline employee.

This layer of leadership is crucial to every organization. They keep things moving forward and act as conduits for vision and strategy within the company. Don’t neglect to keep those doing this vital work engaged, or it will ruin the leadership in your organization.

What are your experiences regarding this?

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