As a leader, it is up to you to ethically get the most from your team. They don’t fire teams, they fire bosses! You have big goals to achieve in short time frame. There will never be enough time, money or resources. You are unlikely to have the team you want when a challenge comes. Leadership is turning a rag-tag bunch into a high performing team ahead of schedule and under budget.

How are you to accomplish this feat? Engagement!

There is no shortage of articles on engagement as well as studies revealing how disengaged the workforce (75%) and leaders (52%) are. The good news: you can get more productivity from your team without investing large sums of money in capital improvements (which are unlikely to be funded until you and your team are consistently exceeding your boss’ expectations for a number of quarters in a row – sorry for the bad news!)

The time to get started is NOW!

Engagement is a two way street built on trust and faith.  It is grown by consistent success over time with decreasing management oversight. The more your team can do on their own, the more you can accomplish.

You have to trust your team and they have to trust you will do your best to help them succeed. Making this broad concept more specific, they need to know: 1) you won’t fly off the handle when things go wrong 2) you will provide all of the resources you can 3) you will provide the opportunities they need to gain confidence in themselves 4) you won’t give up when times get challenging. 5) you will empower them regardless of circumstances and 6) you will have patience with the process. Engagement is a long term commitment and not a flavor of the month.

Engagement takes time.

Over time, you will develop faith in your team’s ability to perform, point out problems and seek solutions. They will develop faith that you are sincere, your motives are honest and all of this is for their betterment. For best results, link their performance to more customers, better working conditions, new equipment, new hires and better incentives (monetary and non-monetary).

Make engagement count!

People need to know their contributions won’t be ignored or quickly forgotten. You and your company have big goals to meet. You need to translate these goals into words and actions they understand. Create a movement they seek to not only join but lead. Set milestones and expectations for every team member. Review their progress frequently and keep them on track. Encouragement fuels engagement.

Consider this BEFORE starting your engagement efforts.

You need to be crystal clear on how much engagement are you comfortable with, how much your leadership team is expecting and how much you need. Learning to trust your team develops over time. It is a calculated risk. Not everyone can be trusted to work autonomously and some may prove that they cannot be trusted. All must have a role in your success or they will have a role in your departure.

Like any change, not every team member will jump at the chance. Late adopters can be your staunchest allies. Be patient and keep moving. Engagement depends on team culture so don’t ignore it.

What does engagement look like?

Engagement links practical company needs to the employee’s ambitions and career path. In its basic form, engagement is as simple as asking for suggestions in a meeting and adding a suggestion box. Highly engaged teams may be trusted and empowered to be self-directed with full autonomy to make decisions on day to day operations, training, continuous improvement and PTO.

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