I’ve been thinking about what engages employees because I’ve seen a lot of organizations with ass-dragging employees delivering ass-dragging service. Now, I’ve recently read various articles, infographics and things and they all have the typical 25 things to engage employees or top 10 things to engage employees, etc. It all looks complicated, and I hate complicated. I live for distilling things down to something you (I) can remember.
But before we get into all of that, perhaps we should get to why I am asking this question first?
It’s simple, engaged (energetic, committed, passionate) people are critical to moving things, and moving things forward is what business leaders want and need. Thus, a leader’s job is about engagement. Leaders motivate the moving of the movement (or business or school or religious group or charity or whatever).
So, if you are the leader in a business and you want your business to be living and breathing and not stinking to high heaven of slow lingering death, you must ENGAGE your employees. And when I say slow lingering death, you know what I mean, it’s when you see the employees going in on Monday morning looking like an episode of Walking Dead and leaving on Friday as if released from 20 years in prison.
Okay, before going any further, I know that some of you need hard numbers for proof of everything from the death of Elvis to the existence of God, so here are some stats about the need for employee engagement…according to research done by Dale Carnegie, $11B is lost annually to employee turnover, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%, and roughly 71% of employees are disengaged at work. Simply distilled, businesses need engaged employees to reach great success, and employees need to get engaged or become brain dead, unhealthy or unhappy to say the least.
Okay, the question remains, what does a leader do to engage people? Since a song and dance act is not really in most people’s bag of tricks, I needed some other uncomplicated action that would answer the question. Here is where I did what most people seem to do when confronted with a difficult question, I googled it. After some sifting through the 1,000s of results, I tripped over something simple from Tom Peters, that guru of no-BS-hit-you-in-the-head-no-nonsense leadership and management wisdom, MBWA, Managing By Wandering Around. This is something I had read a hundred times but now it came clear, if managers would get up off their tails and get out there with their employees, they could connect more, and learn more. This level of commitment should grow the level of employee commitment (engagement), right? It makes perfect sense.
Thing is, I don’t like the idea of just wandering around. I think leaders need to do more; they need to get their hands dirty. I was recently presenting at a meeting in Atlanta and mentioned that managers would do well to get out and walk around to observe their employees and the difficulties they have when an attendee of the meeting said, “you mean MBWA” and I gave a resounding “YES!” From there they went on to say that they thought wandering around wasn’t enough; they thought it would be better for managers to work with the team and that he had, for his own management effectiveness, changed the WA in the MBWA moniker to Working Alongside. I have to say I loved it. Just think, managers not just walking around but working alongside and really getting an understanding of their employees.
Then it struck me that this isn’t really management as much as it is leadership. So here it is, my answer for engaging employees, LBWA, Lead By Working Alongside. If you have a management title, get your hands dirty by helping your employees, do some work, turn a wrench, set a table, ring up a sale, answer a service call, etc. You will not only learn, you will demonstrate that you too are an employee, a worker, part of the team. You will help to develop commitment, you will lead, you will serve and help them to serve…and most of all, you will engage.
QUESTION: Are you working alongside or do you camp in the office? Do you know what your employees do every day? Do you know their difficulties? Do you know what tools they need?