The 4 steps to building an engaged team

Published on
October 21, 2013
Chris Taylor
"Ideas are only valuable when applied."
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Engagement is (understandably) one of the big focuses for 21st century businesses and teams. When customers are demanding, competition is fierce and innovation is an essential part of “business as usual”, teams can only thrive (and survive, really), when they consist of a collection of dedicated, motivated individuals.

From what I’ve seen with our clients, there are really four simple steps to building and maintaining that desired high level of engagement. Here we go:

1. Paint the picture

People are only really motivated (in anything), when they inherently love what they’re doing, or have a clear sense of what they’re working towards. The role of the leader is to paint that picture. To define – with such clarity and enthusiasm – what we’re working towards such that the rest of the team can see it, too.

2. Support personal objectives

Company objectives are important, obviously, but for someone to really get behind a company mission, the “WIIFM” question needs to be answered. I’m not talking about financial gain (though that may be part of it). What we mean here is that the leader’s role is to understand and support each individual’s personal goals, as they pertain to the company mission. What does the individual have to gain from advancing the company’s objectives? Why does that truly matter to them? As leaders, we need to play the coach; helping to unearth and clarify those personal goals, and then support them at every opportunity we have.

3. Give opportunity for team members to constantly reconnect to their own pursuits

There are aspects of every job that simply have to get done. I think we understand that, as employees. That said, we’d rather be working on things we’re passionate about. Things we’re good at. Things that give us a sense of accomplishment. What are your people working on? Are you giving them opportunities to work on the personal objectives (outlined in #2), or are bogging them down with “grinder” work?

4. Over-communicate

Engaged teams talk regularly. Leaders of engaged teams repeat themselves. A lot. I heard once (Clayton Christensen, maybe?) that a leader needs to say things 7 times before the message is heard, understood and internalized. Never assume that the message you shared once, 3 months ago, was heard in the first place, or that it’s still a driving motivation for people now. Ask questions. Share success stories. Be hyper focused and, when in doubt, communicate it again. Other people don’t live in your head.

Four simple steps. Not easy, mind you, but simple. Connect with your people – share the vision and help them see their own future in it. Check in regularly. That’s true leadership.

How are you spending your time?