How two strong leaders engaged their people to achieve outstanding results

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Last week I was privileged to hear two exceptional leaders share their stories of how they achieved and now maintain high levels of engagement in their organisation. By making engagement a focus they were able to turn underperformance to high performance in less than 18 months.

There is general consensus that there is a higher probability of discretionary effort when people are actively engaged in what they are doing and have positive emotional attachment to their job, their colleagues, and their organisation. As leaders we all look to our people for discretionary effort.

So what did these leaders focus on to achieve this engagement with their people? (These insights are in no defined order, they simply outline the essentials shared as the stories unfolded.)

Build Your ‘Bench Strength’. It starts with selection and placement of people. Their golden rule was first hire on values and attitude and then look to skill. They first ensured there was a strong fit with the existing organisation and particularly with the team they would be joining. Their view about skills is that no-one comes perfectly equipped for the role with all the skills required.

Once the person has been appointed to the role they were very clear about using the probationary period wisely, don’t ignore it or waste it. Work out where the person’s strengths lie and if additional skills are needed put a development plan in place to close the skill gaps.

Ensure the person receives regular assessment and appropriate recognition. However, if it is clear they are not going to make it don’t persist in the hope they will; instead help them find other roles they better suited to.

Define a clear path of where the business is going that is simple and easily understood. Create a clear and vivid picture of where the business will be at some future point – at least one year. Both leaders reinforced using simplicity and clarity because when people are clear about where you want to go the more likely they are to be able to work out ways of helping you make that picture a reality.

Be empathetic. Simply, are you able to walk in the other person’s shoes?

Build Rapport. To build rapport as a leader you need to be able to develop relationships with people at every level that are marked by mutual trust and understanding. Can you form a meaningful connection with every person?

Respect. Again, both leaders agreed it begins with having respect for yourself; only then can you respect others for their views, their diversity, their values, and their contribution.

Be the example. As one of the leaders put it ‘This was a certainty to make it on to our list. While it is so familiar, almost clichéd, it is nevertheless true that people will follow what you do as leader. The more genuine and actively engaged you are, the more engaged others are likely to become.’

None of these six areas will come as a revelation to great leaders. I thought it was valuable to restate them as they underscored the stories two exceptional leaders shared with us about creating meaningful engagement with their people. It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how well we are engaging with our people.

Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.