How often have we not heard the famous Marcus Buckingham sentence: People don’t leave companies they leave managers?The fact that Google spits out 330 million search results for that sentence proves that it’s true. The Corporate Leadership Council in their landmark report ‘Engaging the Workforce’ also identified that line managers have the biggest impact on employee engagement. The reason for this is pretty straightforward:

No one can influence motivation, sense of belonging and emotional well-being as much as the boss.

1. Be Clear on What You Expect and Help Understand the Bigger Picture
The biggest complaint I hear from employees when their boss tells them that they haven’t done what they were supposed to do, is either

  1. Their boss was not clear on what they expected
  2. He changed his expectations half-way during the assignment
  3. They didn’t understand why they have to do a certain task

This links perfectly with the results of the Corporate Leadership Council report which identified 3 levers that had the biggest impact on employee engagement and effort. They are:

  • Employees understand how to successfully completes a task
  • Employees understand the connection with their work and the strategy of the organisation
  • Employees understand the impact of their contribution to the success of the organisation

According to the report, if an employee was clear on these three things his commitment to make an extra effort (read performance) increased by a whopping 30%.

2. Remove Barriers
One of the key jobs of a line manager to help a team member contribute and perform is to remove all barriers that could stop him or her from delivering results. However recently Laurie Taylor in response to my blog on how you can help teams to achieve results made a wonderful suggestion to remove barriers. Laurie wrote:

“Breaking down those barriers that tend to exist between a manager and an employee takes place one on one. I encourage managers to meet weekly with their direct reports and ask three questions that help drive the conversation to be all about the employee, not task discussions or ‘what did you get done this week’ discussion. Those three questions are: 1) What did you do last week that you are proud of? 2) What would you like to learn next week that will help you be more successful in your job? 3) How can I help? It’s a powerful exercise and I think goes a long way toward that engagement issue.”

3. Encourage the Effort and Reward the Result
Achieving a result is obviously important and recognizing an employee for his delivery is not only important to the person who achieved it but also sets a standard for colleagues and creates competition (in moderation of course).

However as important as it is to praise efforts and encourage people during their activities, a thank you, some words of wisdom or sharing an experience on how to do something goes a long way to engage employees and help them perform.

4. Have that Difficult Discussion Today
Research by the Institute for Employment Studies indicated that line managers who were good at engaging their employees were also good at doing the difficult stuff. The study highlights that

“Line managers of highly engaged teams referred to the need to be firm and clear about the standards they expected, and to take action quickly but fairly – if necessary, to get tough and go to formal procedures: ‘I tackle things straight away. I explain why things aren’t right and work with people to make it better. I don’t allow things to fester.

The key is to have these difficult discussions whenever the issue arises and not at the next employee performance.

The consequences of NOT having these conversations are significant. They may result in:

  • The performance of the individual not improving.
  • Causing confusion for the employee since they won’t know why they’re not growing within the company.
  • Creating a situation where other team members assume they can get away with under-performing.
  • Loss of respect for the line manager due to the perception that they’re not doing their job.
  • Overall decline of the team’s performance.

5. Identify What Drives Your Team:
Different people are driven by different things. Below is a list that I have amended from Dave Ulrich with 7 different drivers that could motivate your employees. Employees can be looking for:

  1. Vision: Being part of creating the future, something that is important and bigger than themselves
  2. Development: Being given the opportunity and support to grow, learn and develop themselves
  3. Recognition: Being recognized, rewarded and celebrated for their contribution
  4. Impact: Being able to make an impact on something that is meaningful
  5. Sense of Belonging: Being able to pride themselves to the organisation they’re part of
  6. Challenge: Being given challenges that stretches their capacity
  7. Empowerment: Being given the ownership and autonomy to take initiative, operate and deliver

Take ten minutes and reflect on what motivates and drives each member of your team. Pick the top 2 for each employee and based on this write down an action that you can take to drive his personal motivation.

What are the things that you do that has a positive effect on employee engagement? If you think you’re a manager with a highly engaged team please comment below with an example of how’re you’ve succeeded. I’m working on a study to research the behaviors of line managers that are successful in engaging their team members and just may feature you!

[Photo Credit: flickr via Compfight cc]