As I think about some of the greatest leaders I have personally known and worked with, the ones that had the most positive impact on my life have shared one common characteristic. They engaged the people on their teams. It really is true that the team is only as strong as its weakest link. Keeping fully engaged with all the members of the team helps bring up your weakest team members and keeps everyone moving in the same direction towards the same goal.
Let’s make a hypothetical example. Let’s say you have two identical teams that share the same abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. They both are led by leaders who have the same abilities, strengths, and weaknesses except one thing. Leader A does a good job of engaging the members of their team and Leader B only rarely engages the members of their team. I guarantee you 100 out of 100 times, the team with Leader A will be more productive and ultimately more successful.
Here are a few tips (you could go so far as to call them rules) on engaging employees or other members of your teams that you find yourself leading:
Listen carefully to people’s opinions. What people perceive influences how they act or behave. If individuals don’t believe their opinions are valued, why would they offer suggestions on way to improve the business?
Don’t shoot messengers. Avoid coming down on team members who inform you of problems or setbacks. When it comes to leadership, ignorance is NOT bliss. You can’t deal with and fix what you don’t know is broken. Making employees or other team members feel bad for keeping you informed is not the way to enhance their engagement.
Keep them informed. Make sure team members have the information they need and want. Take special care to do this on subjects of direct interest to them in getting their jobs done. People feel respected when they’re kept “in the loop,” and that feeling will likely have a positive effect on your relationship with them.
Draw the connections. Describe and emphasize the linkage between what your team members do and the organization’s overall goals and objectives. For example, consistently meeting daily production requirements, quality, and on-time shipments connect to an organization’s goal of superior customer satisfaction.
Engaging people is not hard to do, but making yourself actually do it is what can be a challenge. It is far more important to your team members that they know that you care about them than any special knowledge you could ever provide them. People are built for relationships and they thrive when they are engaged in them. Make engagement with team members a priority in your life.