How to drive team engagement in some simple, "old fashioned" ways

September 27, 2018



Employee engagement levels around the globe seem stubbornly tough to shift. There's plenty of research to prove the point.


And yet it’s clear that some businesses do better than others in the engagement stakes.  


We’ve looked into what influences engagement levels and in our usual fashion have decided that it’s less complex an issue than many would have us believe. At the risk of sounding a little suspicious of the motives of those who would over-complicate things, we reckon there’s a few key ingredients in the “secret sauce”.


First, we obviously can’t overlook the tangible things that underpin a basic level of engagement - things like a competitive salary, a reasonable range of valuable and valued benefits, flexibility of working arrangements, the right tools and resources to do the job and so forth.


Of course these are vitally important.


It’s the intangibles that seem harder to nail in most organisations. Perhaps because there’s a degree of over-thinking going on.


How do you like to be treated at work?


Picture the scene...


You "enjoy" an interaction with your boss (or indeed anyone in your business). You walk away from it shaking your head thinking something like “I’d never treat anyone the way (s)he just treated me”.


We'd like you to recall a time when you had an experience like that. We’ll wait for a bit….


Got one in mind?




Now…here’s a test. Can you honestly say you’ve never, ever…not once…treated someone in the workplace in a similar way? A way that on reflection, you regretted? A situation you’d approach differently if given the chance?


We all have, of course.


Most likely some factor unrelated to the situation triggered a response that was out of the ordinary. The thing is, it was exactly that….out of the ordinary.


Now imagine if that kind of behaviour was actually the norm in the workplace. How would that go? What would it do for engagement?


It wouldn’t matter if salaries in the business were way above average. Pretty soon, engagement would be through the floor and turnover through the roof.


We know treating others with decency is an obvious thing to do. It’s common sense. And if that’s the case, how come there are still workplaces where respect among and across teams is uncommon?


Which leads us to...


Lead by example


This is Management 101. Again, we know it.


I recall reading somewhere a long time ago that your team picks up on your state of mind within 7 seconds of you entering the room/office/workspace. That’s not long so you need to be constantly aware of how you’re conducting yourself in the vicinity of your team and others.


There’s some days when you just don’t feel like being positive and upbeat. Some people would say that’s too bad and you need to suck it up.


We reckon it’s ok to not suck it up.


But you do need to manage it. Don’t let your temperament drive the way you treat the people around you. And if it does get the better of you, either remove yourself from the situation or be ready to swiftly apologise. 


In other words, deal with your emotions in exactly the way you’d expect of your team members.


That’s the easy part.


Leading by example is also about leading in the context of the purpose of your business.


The best, most concise way to put it we believe comes from Nick Craig, author of “Leading From Purpose”. He simply says:


“you have to lead from some place”. 


Purpose provides that place. It also provides the example you ought to lead by.


Embrace change


Our next blindingly obvious statement is: Uncertainty is abundant in business.


No…really…it is.


With uncertainty and change comes a great deal of stress and worry for some people. It’s a normal human reaction. Some people welcome change and others don’t. Your job as leader is to recognise the difference and lead accordingly. 


You can’t steamroller through the wall of worry that some folks feel when it comes to change.


That approach never works and countless books and articles have been written about how to manage change with particular focus on team members for whom it presents the greatest concern.


These days though, given that change is a constant, minimising the impact of change on your team and on engagement levels has become a standard in most leaders’ job descriptions. As a leader, you need to embrace uncertainty and change - keep in mind those 7 seconds we mentioned...


The good news is it can be done quite simply.


How? Thought you’d never ask….


Put purpose at the core of everything you do in your business


This is our favourite subject here at BusinessBlades (just in case you’d not noticed).


In the absence of any other way to think about it, some people regard uncertainty and change as unnecessary. Something that happens just for the sake of it.


At worst, the conspiracy theorists in the workplace might suggest it’s all about keeping teams on their toes and/or weeding out the weakest of the tribe. It might sound extreme, but that frame of mind really does exist. 


The key word in the paragraph above is “unnecessary”. 


Any change, in the absence of any visible, understandable “point” might reasonably be viewed as unnecessary. Even on the home front. When you move furniture, you (hopefully) do it because it might give you more sense of space, to take better advantage of a view, or to fit a new piece of furniture. It’s unlikely you’ll do it “just because” (if so, your partner has every right to resist said furniture move…)


Same goes at work.


In the absence of visible, understandable business purpose change will be regarded by some team members as unnecessary disruption.


Which breeds resistance.


Purpose provides the constant that underpins all that happens in your business. That constancy helps even the most status quo-driven team members gain some comfort that the business can cope with uncertainty through purpose-driven change.


Clarity of purpose won’t make resistance magically disappear but it does provide the base from which greater understanding and acceptance will grow.


How’s your business going?


We believe the most successful businesses are those driven by purpose in everything they do.




Including engaging teams.


Of course there’s lots of other moving parts, but purpose provides the direction and meaning that team members generally yearn for and thrive on.


Team engagement is a proven contributor to customer satisfaction and bottom line performance of the business making it a no-brainer priority. 


We can help you understand where your business sits from an engagement point of view and where improvements can be made. Understanding your business is our key priority which means we won’t simply provide a one-size-fits-all solution. You can be sure though, that purpose is at the core of everything we do for clients.


Give us a call or drop us a note and we can organise an initial discussion.


Join the conversation


If you’re not ready to take the “engagement on purpose” challenge right now, at least let us know your thoughts. Please feel free to leave your comments (or start an argument…) below!!


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