Advertising
Advertising

You Want Engagement? Then Start Being Clear!

You Want Engagement? Then Start Being Clear!

20090507-sky

    keys1
      How to keep the wheels turning even when you aren’t looking…

      The Problem: you want your staff to go the extra mile. You want your team to take some risks. You want your employees to ‘get the big picture’ and do what it takes to make it happen. You want the wheels to stay on the bus even when you aren’t there.

      What you want is engagement. But no one’s buying. If you want something done you have to spell it out in detail, or just give up and get to that ugly “I’ll just do it myself” place of the defeated manager. You feel like every time you turn your back, the wheels come off the bus again. You’ve got zero engagement.

      Engagement was defined by John Gibbons (writing for the Conference Board) as “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work”. Notice the line from emotional connection to greater discretionary effort.

      Advertising

      Discretionary effort is the phrase that describes what every employer wants: for the employee to figure out what is needed for success in the bigger picture, and to do whatever is needed to get there – without anyone standing over their shoulder… Stuff just gets done.

      So how do you get your team to this place? What do we require to become fully engaged? In my experience, three things are needed: clarity, hope, and commitment.

      Clarity
      In his book The One Thing You Need to Know… Marcus Buckingham writes that the one thing you need to know about great leadership is “Discover what is universal, and capitalize on it.” Buckingham tells us that what is universally required of leadership is clarity. Specifically, an optimistic clarity about the future.

      We’ll work our hearts out for you (that’s discretionary engagement) if you can make us see with crystal clarity the great future we are all headed for.

      Leadership is the work of leaders. That means get out front and lead. You must see what others cannot yet see. You must see the future with an optimistic clarity that inspires others to follow. Leadership does not just require clarity; leadership is clarity.

      Advertising

      If you can’t see the future more clearly and more optimistically than the rest of us, what makes you a leader?

      Hope
      If there is clarity about the future, then the next link in the chain is possible: hope.

      Hope, as I have defined it, has two components: an optimistic vision of the future, and the belief that we have what it takes to get there. As a leader your clarity of vision creates the precondition for that kind of hope. We must see where we are going, and we must believe it is a place worth getting to, before we decide to invest our blood, sweat, and tears to get there! The success of every great religious leader, every reformer, every leader of any expedition across any ocean or continent has been dependent on their clarity of just how much greener that grass over there is.

      When we can see that where we are headed is better than where we are now, clarity becomes hope.

      Great managers play a critical role in inspiring hopefulness in teams. With their defining work in understanding the strengths of every employee (Buckingham again), great managers help us understand exactly what our role is, and leverage our strengths in achieving the goals of the organization. Great managers support our contribution by constantly encouraging further growth where they know we are strong, and by giving us opportunities to use those strengths for the greater good.

      Advertising

      Great managers act as match-makers between our strengths and the jobs that need to get done. The result, when all is right, is that powerful feeling of a team that is firing on all cylinders, and every member is clear about their role in the success of the overall project. And like so much in life, success builds more success: feeling like we are successful contributors to the greater good, and being part of a successful initiative, builds the confidence and hopefulness that leads to more success.

      When clarity and true hopefulness exist in an organization, the stage is set for the third component of total engagement: commitment.

      Commitment

      When our leaders give us clarity and hope about our futures and the future of the organization, the stage is set for us to make a commitment. Starting on a journey of change and growth requires clarity and hope. But there is no journey at all without commitment. Commitment is the action piece. It’s time to start walking. Commitment is, to paraphrase Nike Corp., ‘just doing it’.

      If organizational change sometimes feels like going over a cliff, then clarity is envisioning just how we will make the tricky descent, and hope is the confidence we will make it to the bottom in one piece. Commitment is taking the first step over the edge. Commitment is the point at which there is no turning back.

      Advertising

      If clarity is the domain of leadership, and engendering hopefulness the domain of great managers, commitment is the responsibility of the whole team. Literally, if clarity and hopefulness are the call, commitment is the response. We are all going over the edge together, and my commitment as a team member is that I will take that first step with everyone else, and every required step after it, until we reach our goal.

      Now we have engagement.

      So you want complete engagement? Give us complete clarity. Don’t complain that you can’t get anyone involved/engaged/committed in your project, your vision, if you can’t help us see it. Do your job as a leader, or we will wander off somewhere else. Require that our managers provide the kind of intelligent feedback and empowerment that strengthens our confidence in ourselves and in the organization we work for, or we will falter and lose our commitment.

      Do you want your employees to tap into that mysterious ‘discretionary effort’ that means the wheels stay on the bus even when you are out of the building? Then make sure that you have done your part to be clear, and to connect our strengths with the task at hand. If you’ve really done your part, then you’ll get passionate engagement and everyone will take that first step towards extraordinary growth and change together, and then keep on walking!

      More by this author

      The One Thing You Need to Close the Deal on Change If your business disappeared tomorrow… You Want Engagement? Then Start Being Clear! Are you Satisfied? Searching for a Shared Virtual Workspace?

      Trending in Work

      1 10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career 2 The Savvy Employees Guide to Asking for a Raise 3 Why You Feel Stuck in Your Career After Staying in a Job Longterm 4 10 Simple Yet Powerful Business Goals to Set This Year 5 How to Make Career Decisions That You Will Not Regret for Life

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on April 17, 2019

      10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

      10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

      What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

      Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

      They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

      1. Communication Skills

      Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

      To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

      Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

      Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

      After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

      2. Flexibility

      Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

      Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

      Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

      Advertising

      Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

      3. Being a Team Player

      Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

      What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

      This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

      Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

      4. Positive Mental Attitude

      There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

      Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

      Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

      It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

      Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

      5. A Strong Work Ethic

      People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

      Advertising

      If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

      Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

      • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
      • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
      • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
      • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

      For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

      6. Public Speaking

      Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

      Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

      If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

      For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

      Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

      7. Integrity

      From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

      • Always doing what you say you will do
      • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

      …even when no one is around to check up on you.

      There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

      Advertising

      Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

      8. Managing Your Time

      Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

      A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

      Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

      Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

      These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

      9. Assertiveness

      In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

      • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
      • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
      • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
      • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

      Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

      How do you use this information for yourself?

      It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

      Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

      Advertising

      How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

      10. Creative Thinking

      LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

      Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

      How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

      Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

      These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

      You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

      What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

      Final Thoughts

      The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

      So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

      The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

      More Articles to Help Advance Your Career

      Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

      Reference

      Read Next