Employee Engagement – Do not Wait for anyone else, Take Charge!

Would you like to have a team that outshines the rest even when the circumstances are not the best? Read on if that is what is on your mind!


COVID-19 and the resulting social distancing is impacting how we work with our teams. Team performance may get adversely impacted too. Though a few good managers continue to achieve outstanding performance even in these times. 

Manager makes all the difference

Gallup estimates that world over only 13% of the employees are really engaged. The situation due to COVID-19 is increasing the stress on teams that are not engaged and accentuates the challenges faced by them. The uncertainty is likely to lead to further dis-engagement.

The engagement value-chain comprises of four interest groups. The leadership team, the HR team, the managers and the employees. Gallup estimates (The State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders) that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.

In present situation of remote working, the employees have lesser chance of meeting and seeing other leaders and an even lesser chance to be a part of the group corporate initiatives. Their world view of workplace has shrunk, and the manager plays an even bigger role, I believe that the managers will now be responsible for 80-90% of the employee engagement value chain. That is a lot of responsibility. But it can be made simple if you take charge and think every interaction and action in a ‘human to human’ way.

Let me elaborate it through the real story of a leader, Anil (name changed), who took over an over-worked and disengaged team. It was a thirty-member team comprising of four groups of specialists. Despite being one team, the groups were often at odds with each other, writing emails to pass the buck and blaming others for team failures. The previous leader had consistently found faults in quality of their work and drove the team to re-work over most of the weekends. The team was blamed for being incapable of doing their work and felt that their jobs were under threat. The previous leader was very knowledgeable, highly ambitious and hard-working but had little respect for his team and did not do much to care for them.

Strategies that worked for Anil

I worked with Anil to develop rapport with his team and make the team productive. He created simple strategies that changed the way the team worked and behaved. Over time he was able to knit that team together and build it into a high-performance team. I am sharing a few techniques that got Anil great results:

Ø Transparency: One thing Anil was sure that he is going to be open and honest in his communication, even accepting the fact that team is not functioning well, and he needs everyone’s help to deliver the results etc.

Do your team believe that you are authentic in your communication?

Ø Big Picture: He made sure that the team understood, why he was driving certain projects, how they impacted the team’s objectives and how it all linked to the overall organizational goals.

How can you tell every team member a real story of how they are contributing to the big purpose?

Ø Trust: He trusted them and earned their trust over time, by consistently delivering on his promises. It took time and was not miraculous.

What are your behaviours that strengthen your team’s trust with you?

Ø Empowerment: He enabled his direct reports to make their own decisions. He redirected relevant decisions to his team members and establishing them as primes for quite a lot of work concerning other groups and teams. People stood up to the challenge and emerged as strong leaders themselves.

How do you delegate your decision-making effectively?

Ø Growth: He encouraged his team members to talk about their growth and plan for it. He helped his team members find growth opportunities outside his group when needed.

How happy your people are with their individual growth?

Ø Collaboration: He helped the team to work in collaboration with multiple other teams taking them along on cross functional projects. Over time, his team became known for a great attitude and others started to love working with his team.

What are your behaviours that encourage collaboration?

Ø Customer Focus: He inspired the team to keep the needs of the customer in mind every time. When they kept customer in focus, the team developed a common goal, aligned well and achieved success.

How aligned is your team with your customers?

Ø Acknowledgements: He acknowledged the good work frequently.

Whom did you acknowledge today?

Ø Development discussions: He scheduled quarterly development discussions with each of his direct reports. He worked with them to understand their goals and made sure that he supported them with right assignments and opportunities to achieve growth.

How are you contributing to help your team in their development plans?

Ø Skip level discussions: He scheduled skip level discussions for his team.

What are your thoughts about benefits of skip-level discussions?

Ø Learning Focus: He made sure that his team including himself joined the training and learning opportunities provided by the organization.

What are your learning goals for next six months?

Ø It is OK to make mistakes: He owned up his mistakes and encourage everyone to do the same. He helped people to have growth mind-set.

When did you own-up a mistake last?

None of it was magic, it took time. Some of the above may not sound that simple too. Observe leaders who are exhibiting these behaviours to imbibe the habits easily. Choose one thing at a time and work on it. Connect at a human level with your team. If Anil can do it, you can too! Do not procrastinate, start today and practice every day!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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employee engagement COVID-19 lockdown Manbir Kaur


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