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7 Fundamental Behaviors That Help Leaders Engage Their Employees

Lynette Reed
Lynette Reed

Follow These Steps to Create a Collaborative Work Culture

Many leaders find it easy to say that they believe in engagement and value their employees. But the proof is in their actions. Per Gallup, 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. In contrast to this indicator, Dale Carnegie reported that 90% of organizations say engagement impacts business success.

The discrepancy between these two indicators suggests that leaders have an awareness of the value for engagement but do not create a business culture that supports engagement. The missing link to a successful company may very well be related to the effort that a leader invests into creating an engaged work culture.

James Heskett in his book, "The Culture Cycle," reported that culture, "can account for 20-30% of the differential in corporate performance when compared with ‘culturally unremarkable’ competitors." This information suggests that a company gains 20-30% more opportunities for success when actively integrating engagement into the workplace culture.

Leaders can improve the likelihood of engagement and create a successful culture by incorporating these seven fundamental behaviors into the business:

1. Match your actions to your words. When you match words to actions, you create an environment of stability. Words that sync to actions keep everyone working together. You fracture trust and consistency within the workplace when your words do not match your actions. People are unsure whether to believe the words or the actions. For instance, if you say, "We have a friendly organization," or "We care about our employees," but then expect everyone to work difficult hours without complaining, you create a place where people do not feel that the company is authentic.

2. Manage healthy workloads. Employees benefit from having an adequate amount of work. Employees with too little work become apathetic toward their job or disconnect. When this happens, they disengage and lose productivity. Overworking an employee causes them to feel overwhelmed or underappreciated, which causes workload fatigue and creates a less-productive workplace. A healthy workload shows your employees that you value their skills and are respectful of time and energy invested into the organization.

3. Make employees feel valued. Employees like to hear that they are doing valuable work. When you show employees that you appreciate and value their efforts, they feel more connected to work, which increases productivity and job enjoyment. Send a short, sincere email, a thank-you card, a small gift, a long lunch or even time off to show your appreciation. If budget allows, offer free drinks or an occasional snack to show support of their efforts. A small, sincere gesture translates into a more connected workplace.

4. Don’t judge people or events as good or bad or wrong or right. Stick to the facts. When you judge individuals or situations as good or bad or wrong or right, you identify people by a perceived value as opposed to managing the situation. You help maintain the focus of the work when you keep facts and solutions foremost in the discussions. There is a subtle difference between, "He is bad at his job," versus "He did not do his work correctly." You save time and energy when not judging things as good or bad, or wrong or right. Instead, put your time and energy into identifying the issue and coming up with a solution.

5. Create clear goals and objectives. Offer a clear set of goals and objectives so employees understand their role in the process. Clear goals and objectives help manage tasks that need to be completed, along with who and when the jobs require completion. Clear goals and objectives also maintain engagement and keep individuals focused on timelines and project activities. Projects become work driven without feeling scattered when you have clear goals and objectives.

6. Recognize the value of social responsibility and wellness. Many companies adopt policies for social responsibility and wellness. Social responsibility helps build partnerships and comradery both within and outside of the enterprise. Wellness allows employees to focus more efficiently on the work without outside distractions related to emotional or physical health. Some companies have incorporated a mind, body, spirit perspective to the wellness programs to address issues that take away from engagement. These programs offer employees ways to connect self and other people to the world in a meaningful way. When people are healthy and connected, they become more productive in the work and more vested in the company.

7. Use big-picture thinking to adapt to new situations. A leader should never say, "That’s the way we’ve always done it." Big-picture thinking helps leaders adapt effectively to new situations. You find value added to engagement when ideas and information flow, and people work together to create more options and different ideas. Gather ideas, then come up with the plan. You never know when someone will see an idea that creates a better process.

A leader creates the heart and soul of an organization. As Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, suggested, "…no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it." You may benefit from implementing training programs and team-building exercises; however, leaders who integrate these fundamental behaviors into the workplace help build engagement into the culture of the company.

 Image from Brian A. Jackson/Shutterstock



Lynette Reed
Lynette Reed Member
Writer, researcher, and facilitator with an emphasis on human potential for personal and organizational development. Dr. Reed has mentored people from a variety of organizations to include businesses, not for profit organizations, schools, allied health agencies, Chambers of Commerce, governmental entities, and churches. She has taught courses on world religion and world cultures and also continuing education courses approved by the American Planning Association for ethics, HRCI, and team building/leadership training sessions approved by the Texas Education Agency for continuing education of teachers, superintendents, and school board members. Her current literary contributions include an executive summary paperback titled, Fixing the Problem, Making changes in how you deal with challenges, as well as some book contributions, articles, and guest radio appearances, and a series of children's books with Abingdon Press. She is also a founder and board member of the Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership at Seton Cove. Her academic background includes a Doctor of Ministry in Spirituality, Sustainability, and Inter-Religious Dialogue and a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders.