Sunday, March 30, 2008

How to Engage Employees - Part 5

I recently "met" employee engagement consultant Michael Lee Stallard via the Employee Engagement Network. Michael's engagement manifesto, The Connection Culture, is an excellent read. His essential message is this: engagement is all about connecting.

He says: "In a nutshell, one of the most powerful and least understood aspects of business is how a feeling of connection between management, employees and customers provides a competitive advantage. Unless the people who are part of a business feel a sense of connection — a bond that promotes trust, cooperation and esprit de corps — they will never reach their potential as individuals, nor will the organization."

For Managers who want to do a better job of engaging their employees, take a page from Michael Lee Stallard:

~ Vision: Share the organization's vision with your team. Share your vision. Find out what they envision for themselves. A shared vision can unite and motivate everyone.

~ Value: Appreciate the value that each member of your team brings to the organization. Develop each person's value.

~ Voice: Seek and consider the ideas and opinions of your team. Promote participation.

With these interacting elements of connection, a culture of engagement begins to take root and bloom.

Connection is critical. As Michael Lee Stallard says: "Connection is the key. It makes a difference in families, in workplaces, in schools, in volunteer organizations, in communities, and in nations. No one can thrive for long without it."

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 30, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

How to Engage Employees - Part 4

Blogger Chris Bailey looks at some employee engagement statistics and asks a logical question:

"I guess the surprise for me is that (only?) 40% are disengaged if their manager ignores them. . . it does make you wonder who that other 60% is doesn’t it?"

Good question. My first thought was that there are probably a lot of employees who would prefer it if their boss ignored them. Bosses who annoy, who meddle, who micro-manage, who disrespect.

In talking this over with my wife, I got to thinking about what it means to ignore (Latin: to not know, to disregard, to pay no attention to). And I asked myself, What then is the positive alternative to ignoring?

For Managers who want to do a better job of engaging their employees, take a good look at your own behavior and check for the presence of the following:

~ Acknowledging - This can take many forms, from a simple "Good morning" when you encounter your employees early in the day, to "Have a nice weekend" on a Friday.

~ Paying attention to - Do you know what your employees are working on? What they are up against? What resources they may need from you?

~ Respecting - This can take many forms, from respecting an employee's time or their space, to respecting an employee's expertise.

~ Praising - Do you express and show your appreciation when an employee puts forth a notable effort?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 29, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nudging the Paradigm Shift

As I've suggested before, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in organizations worldwide.

~ from focus on weaknesses to focus on strengths
~ from appraisal to appreciation
~ from "our way or the highway" to flexibility
~ from "one size fits all" to customization
~ from "command and control" to engage and energize

Call it the Positive Workplace movement, or the Employee Engagement movement, or the Strengths-Based movement, or the Appreciative Inquiry movement, or whatever. It is happening.

And it is a very good thing!

As Kenny "the monk" Moore has said, it will "awaken joy, meaning and commitment in the workplace."

There are a lot of very interesting folks on the front-lines, including Rosa Say, Alexander Kjerulf, Judy McLeish, Martin Seligman, Judy Bardwick, Marcus Buckingham, David Zinger, Tim Wright, David Cooperrider and many others.

Somebody once said that it's a curse to "live in interesting times." I disagree. To me, it's a gift...and an opportunity.

So who wants to join me in nudging this paradigm shift along?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 22, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to Engage Employees - Part 3

What, in your view, would qualify as a meaningful conversation? How about these?

~ Conversations about what you hope to achieve in your life? (Your dreams)

~ Conversations about the skills you are best at and enjoy using the most? (Your strengths)

In thinking about Parts 1 and 2 of this series, where I called out Dreams and Strengths as areas for Managers to focus, it occured to me that some might snort and ask, Why?

~ Are dreams really relevant to the workplace?


~ Why should we focus on strengths when we really have some pressing weaknesses to shore up?

In today's disengaged workplace, I think it's clear that Managers must develop the ability to have meaningful and engaging conversations with their employees.

Idea # 3, for Managers who want to do a better job of engaging employees, is learn the power of meaningful conversations.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

How to Engage Employees - Part 2

Skip Reardon, at Six Disciplines blog, has a great entry today that connects two favorite dots of mine, Engagement & Strengths.

He says: "If your manager focuses on your strengths, your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%. How could we not be talking to each other, all the time, about our strengths?"

Great question, Skip. Here's one possible reason that managers are not focused on strengths: they don't get it.

Seems to me that this Engagement stuff is part of a new paradigm. Some early adopters are already there, while a vast sea of managers are still mired in the old ways of thinking about people.

So Idea # 2 for Managers, who want to better engage their employees, is: Focus on Strengths. By focusing on strengths, you will start to realize what Martin Seligman, co-founder of Positive Psychology, has found in his research work on the power of positivity: that people who engage their strengths at work are not only happier, they are more successful.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 17, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How to Engage Employees - Part 1

If employee engagement is defined as "winning the hearts and minds of your employees," how in the world do you do that?

Since the answer is multi-faceted, this entry will be the first in a series. To start, let's talk about dreams.

Consultant Matthew Kelly has written a marvellous little book called The Dream Manager, that was recommended to me by Judy McLeish at the Employee Engagement Network. (Thanks Judy!)

In his book, Kelly tells the story of a company, struggling with a terrible turnover problem, that discovers a simple yet powerful solution: ask employees what their dreams are and then try to help them fulfill those dreams. By doing this incredibly positive thing, not only does the turnover problem improve, but the company's profitability soars.

Judy McLeish wrote: "I found that (Kelly's book) offered so many ideas on how to engage individuals regardless of the type of work that they do. So many Executives struggle with how to engage their frontline employees and delivering dreams is such a positive way to actually engage them."

Interestingly, this idea is consistent with one of Dr. Judy Bardwick's ideas for engaging employees, customize rewards and benefits for your employees.

So Idea # 1 for Managers who are looking for ways of engaging employees is, Ask them about their dreams. Listen and ponder the answers. Then ask yourself, How can I help them to reach their dreams?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 15, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Engagement Person of the Month!

I am pleased and proud to announce that I am David Zinger's Engagement Person of the Month! Last month's person was Tim Wright and he is a tough act to follow. Previously, Rosa Say and Kevin Eikenberry have been in the spotlight as well.

Zinger is an expert on engagement and his wonderful Employee Engagement Network continues to grow, with over 122 members since January 26. There are a bunch of interesting discussions going on.

And within his network, I have started a groupcalled Manager Tools for Employee Engagement as a place to focus on ways that Managers can promote high levels of employee engagement. Already there are several discussions going on, including:

- What are the skills a Manager needs to develop to promote Employee Engagement?
- What should a Manager have in his or her Employee Engagement toolkit?
- What does an Engaged Employee look like?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 3, 2008

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Four Streams of Change

The other day at LinkedIn, someone asked for a good definition of Change Management. Then by coincidence, via Bloglines, I came across a blog entry by organizational consultant Luc Galoppin called "Wellness? My Ass" (colorful title) where he has a diagram of the four work streams of change that must be mindfully managed in any major organizational change project:

~ Organization: The work here "is to define and implement a new organization structure and to define and realize new responsibilities for working. 'Who does what' is the big question this stream concentrates on."

~ Communication: The work here (which I would call Engagement) is perhaps the most difficult of all because "The main outcome of this stream is the social construction of a new reality in the hearts and minds of all stakeholders. 'What’s in it for me' is the big question you are trying to answer in this stream."

~ Learning: The work here involves "upgrading the skills and knowledge of the organization. Learning deals with three questions at the same time: '1. Why should I care?; 2. What is it you want me to do?; 3. How should I do it and how will I be supported?'"

~ Performance: The work here is "to implement the new ways of working. In short it aims at translating the three learning questions to practice."

While I would quibble a bit with Luc's four buckets of work, overall this strikes me as a very useful model for change management. It helps me to see what must be done for change projects to succeed...and where many change projects go astray.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Mar 2, 2008