I read recently that engagement is more like a plant than it is like a solid structure. It grows, you don’t build it. The best way to help it grow is to create an environment where growth can happen.
This reminded me of my own experiences as a manager. When I was first promoted to Chief Purser (yes, I did nearly 10 years on Cruise Ships), my good friend and mentor, Mark Shannon said to me: ‘Eva, it’s not the job that will cause you strife, it’s the staff’. At the time I laughed but he was right. Over the years and many teams later I learnt a few things in how to guide your team or ‘water your garden’ correctly!
If you are currently responsible for a team or have just joined a group of dysfunctional individuals then here are a few things that you can do to help you engage them.
Talk to them (and look them in the eye when you do). Yes, it sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how seldom leaders actually talk to their staff one-on-one. This is where relationships grow and where issues are most likely resolved before they begin.
Touch base. Check in on your staff without being a ‘micro-manager’, let them know you are there and be sincere about it.
Praise people, no matter how small the ‘win’. People desire acknowledgement. It doesn’t have to be a monthly award, just a pat on the back and recognition for a job well done. It will go a long way. Be specific about exactly what behavior you are acknowledging eg ‘Your perseverance over six months in continuing to call that prospect was the key in winning that project’
Encourage them to recognize they often know the solution to an issue. Staff will come to you with problems, help them to see a solution without giving it to them. Encourage and feed their progress by asking questions like ‘what do you think’, ‘what other options might there be’ or ‘If you were the client what would you be expecting?’ .
Regular Team Meetings. Keep people up to date with business and (appropriate) personal news. Use this platform also for others to raise concerns or road blocks they may have reached. The ideas, encouragement and praise from team members will strengthen your staff bond.
Celebrate wins as a team. Have everyone discuss what worked well and praise other team members for good work. Take time to revel in your success before you move on to the next challenge.
Tolerate mistakes. When people are learning, they will make mistakes. Sometimes this is the best way to learn and grow. Encourage them to experiment and to think for themselves.
Weed the garden. From time to time you will encounter a toxic plant that no amount of attention or technique will help. Remove it from the garden before it infects the other plants.
Long may your garden blossom!