Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Winning Business Keeps the Team Highly Engaged

By David Shedd

Is your team fully engaged to give their best, day in and day out? In a recent study by TowersWatson, an international HR consulting firm, fewer than 21% of employees surveyed described themselves as “highly engaged,” down from 31% in 2009. 8% admitted to being fully disengaged. Having only one-fifth of your employees highly engaged is not the hallmark of a “Winning Business.”

Other studies show that employee engagement derives from three important factors:

  1. Alignment of the employee with the goals and vision of the company.
  2. Faith of the employee in the competence of management and their commitment to realize the goals and vision.
  3. Trust in their direct supervisor that he or she will support his or her people and help them to succeed.

It has often been said that employees rarely quit companies. Instead, employees quit their managers or supervisors by leaving the company. Mark Herbert, a consultant focused on engagement, says: “Engagement lives and dies on the front line of your business.”

Increasing positive managerial behavior and reducing negative managerial behavior will go a long way towards improving employee engagement. When your talented employees are engaged, they are able to perform spectacularly and build and improve your winning business.

Here I offer a short list of “do’s and don’ts” to get managers and supervisors started in focusing on ways to improve engagement (and to be better managers). The list is not exhaustive. I welcome additional thoughts and ideas from you. First are the don’ts:

  • Don’t get angry. “Getting angry is easy. Anyone can do that. But getting angry in the right way in the right amount at the right time, now that is hard.” (Mark Twain) Anger does not belong in your managerial kit bag.
  • Don’t be cold, distant, rude, unfriendly. Especially in difficult times, employees take cues from their immediate supervisors and need to hear from them. As such, your team will judge you by your action, moods, and behaviors, not by your intent.
  • Don’t send mixed messages to your employees so that they never know where you stand. Keep your message simple, focused and prioritized. Too many messages and initiatives just confuse and alienate people.
  • Don’t BS your team. This includes saying things that you don’t believe in. This includes hiding information and just plain lying. By the time each of us is in our early 20′s, we have all developed very well-tuned BS detectors.
  • Don’t act more concerned about your own welfare than anything else. Your success will come through the success of your team. “Self-serving detectors” are also very well-tuned in most employees.
  • Don’t avoid taking responsibility for your actions. You are the boss. As such, you are accountable and the buck stops with you. You are trying to develop accountability throughout your company. So, lead by example.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions without checking your facts first. A few years ago, I watched in horror as a colleague of mine started screaming at an employee of his who had missed an important meeting that morning. After several minutes, the employee responded: “I apologize and should have contacted you. But, I just got back from the hospital as my mother has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”

Here are the do’s, which are even more important than the don’ts:

  • Do what you say you are going to do when you are going to do it. There is no better way to communicate the message that you are accountable for your promises and that everyone in your company should be accountable as well.
  • Do be responsive (return phone calls, emails). As a manager, your team can be considered to be your customer. You want your sales team to punctually respond back to customer requests, so you should do the same.
  • Do publicly support your people. Your disagreements and disappointment with your employees can be communicated later and in private. Nothing appears so hollow as your attempt to blame your team for failures.
  • Do admit your mistakes and take the blame for failures.
  • Do recognize your team. “You can never underestimate the power of simple recognition for a job well done.”
  • Do ask and listen. “The manager of the future will know how to ask rather than how to tell.” (Peter Drucker) Some of the most dangerous words for a manager to ever say include: “But, you just don’t understand…” “Because I said so…”
  • Do smile and laugh. Have some fun. But, be genuine; programmed fun and faked laughter is worse than doing nothing. When appropriate, laugh at yourself; it will humanize you.

Employee engagement is a pre-requisite for a winning business. By addressing the actions and behaviors or the managers and supervisors throughout your organization, business leaders can go a long way to enhancing the dedication, commitment, and engagement of their most important asset: their good people.


Today’s blog is presented by my friend David Shedd, now living in Phoenix, Arizona, who is an experienced corporate executive, and a consultant specializing in winning B2B leadership. See more articles by him at or contact him directly at




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