You probably know the anecdote about President Harry S. Truman, whose desk bore a sign with these words: The buck stops here. What he meant, of course, was that he and he alone was ultimately responsible for everything going on in his White House; beyond him, there was no one else to be held accountable.
I think that’s a good attitude for leaders of all stripes. Everything that happens under the umbrella of your organization is ultimately a reflection on you and your leadership—and that includes employee engagement.
To put it a little bit differently: Employee engagement isn’t about little workplace perks or “fun” events, though those things can be fine. Employee engagement springs out of your own leadership style. So, if your employees aren’t as engaged as you’d like them to be, the first thing to do is to conduct a rigorous inventory of your own leadership approach.
Leadership and Employee Engagement
Some tips I can recommend:
- Start thinking about engagement early on. As in, before the employee even starts work. As soon as you hire someone, start talking to them about mission, culture, etc. Help them identify ways they can add their voice to the company. New hires tend to be pretty enthusiastic, so try to harness that positive energy!
- Provide a sense of meaning. I mentioned mission. I really believe that’s the key concept in employee engagement. Provide a sense of what your team is trying to accomplish—how it’s trying to change the world, disrupt the industry, or make a difference in clients’ lives. Then show employees how they contribute to that mission.
- Get outside the office. I also made a comment about “fun” events. While parties and get-togethers are fine, what really makes a difference is any event that gets employees out of the office and working together on a project—whether that’s coordinating a fundraising run or building houses for those in need. Plan an event that will allow your employees to connect and to gel as a team outside your typical office context. And prove that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get in there with them. Be an involved, engaged leader!
- Prove your commitment to balance. Encourage your employees to take time for themselves—even if that just means getting them out of the office and home with their families on time each afternoon. Avoid sending after-hours emails or texts. And practice what you preach! Take some time for balance in your own life. Always lead by example!