During their long journey across the skies, Canada geese, in their V-formation, have a clear goal and a sense of purpose.
Growing a business is also a journey that can be much more productive when everyone is working in a supportive environment. With this in place your team can adopt the vision of the business and can be actively engaged.
Just how engaged are the majority of us?
A recent survey by the Harvard Business Review showed that less than a quarter of business leaders are actively engaged. But those who are, are much more productive, actively find solutions to work challenges and have a real sense of belonging in their workplace.
More than a quarter are actively disengaged and the remaining 50%, the silent majority, don’t identify as either. They are just turning up and blending in. They represent huge untapped potential. By putting a little more time and effort into this group, you could turn it around and gain great business benefits.
Actively communicating with and engaging this group will reduce employee turnover, increase productivity, improve customer retention and therefore significantly increase profits.
To enhance engagement use the three Cs: communicate, collaborate, celebrate.
There is an increasing variety of communication tools available to teams. Many are time-saving, like texts, emails and conference calls. These are efficient and easy, though frequently result in miscommunications. Having an ‘old fashioned’ face-to-face chat over a cup of coffee is a wonderful way to connect with colleagues.
In one of my earlier roles, I had a boss, Alex – a tall fair-haired friendly Scottish chap who always took time out to chat with us individually. We would review progress from the previous week and look at goals for the coming week.
Alex would always finish by asking: “Karen, what do you need from me to reach your goals this week?” It was great knowing he was offering his support and it encouraged me to give him and the team my best.
Schedule a one-on-one conversation with everyone reporting directly to you. The start of the week is an ideal time for this. Develop an interest in them as people. You might well find out about challenges they are facing personally and, for that week, know they may not be able to give you 100%. You can then organise support from other team members. Your empathy will be repaid in many ways. You can also take this time to review progress from the prior week and review priorities for the coming week.
I practice this weekly routine and end these meetings with the same question…. “What specifically do you need from me this week?”
With this sense of connection your team is likely to expend less energy and complete projects more quickly. This again translates to bottom line financial benefits.
The small amount of time you spend engaging with your team, building rapport and trust, will actually save time by eliminating complications down the road and increasing engagement.
Do you recall when a colleague or boss listened to your suggestions and took on board your ideas? It’s a great feeling when your recommendations are considered and even implemented.
Effective collaboration comes from each team member feeling engaged, as though they are an integral part of the success of the organisation.
Develop a corporate culture of listening. Brainstorm with your team and you will uncover gems – this will ensure a high level of collaboration. When you encourage ‘idea sharing’ within your company, you empower employees to think outside of the box to generate new products and services for your organisation. They are also best equipped to come up with improvements on how they can be more efficient and effective. When teams have a sense of inclusiveness, each member has a vested interest in the success of the project and they collaborate.
When we are acknowledged and appreciated, we are more likely to help and co-operate with other team members.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others’ – Cicero (Roman philosopher)
Many companies do acknowledge and recognise employee achievements at the end of a project or with an ‘employee of the month’ award. But by then the good deed is well forgotten. I would recommend celebrating immediately and frequently. These small moments of thanks occur as informal, real-time exchanges of social praise and feedback, performed by employees and leaders alike.
Being acknowledged, even with micro-recognition, on a frequent basis triggers our intrinsic motivation and inspires us to work better, harder and more efficiently. This recognition happens ‘in-the-moment’ as a verbal appreciation of gratitude and helps employees to draw immediate connections between the noteworthy behaviours they performed and the positive lift they feel from the instant recognition.
When I thank a team member, I use the power of three: (1) say thanks, (2) specifically mention what they did that’s worthy of praise and (3) explain how it is in line with the company’s vision and goals.
Catch team members doing good things and thank them for it. Celebrate even small achievements. Say, ‘thank you’ – two simple words that have an immediate impact. Saying it in front of others will magnify its impact.
Employee engagement supports business growth. Build the 3 Cs into your communication process and it will help you achieve a fully engaged team. A team in which everyone is committed to the business vision and feels part of it. This, in turn, will lead to a strong brand, greater customer loyalty and long-term profitability.
About the author
Karen O’Donnell is from Toastmasters International a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org.