Want to know the best way to get a compliant, less-engaged team?  Act like a manager most of the time.

Want to know the best way to get a committed, highly engaged team? Act more like a leader.

When you are managing your focus is on producing predictable results.  These results were established whenever you set goals for your department or team (usually at the beginning of the year.)  As part of your duties as an effective manager you’ll no doubt be planning how your goals will be met, identifying the resources you’ll need and assigning or at least directing the work.

Because the focus of management is on getting results, you’ll be monitoring them throughout the year and will have several, and in some cases many, metrics available to determine whether you are on track or not.  If you are off track, or if issues come up that affect delivery of results, then you will embark upon problem-solving.

All of these activities are essential to the well-functioning of your organization.  In fact they are critical to achieve the results that management represents to key stakeholders.

All of you get recognized and hopefully rewarded for meeting these predictable outcomes, or reprimanded for not doing so.

Much of our successful careers are dependent on demonstrating that we are effective managers.  However management is a necessary but not sufficient requirement to getting the best effort from our people.

Employee engagement is low!  In fact it is the lowest that it has been in some time.  The discretionary effort contributed by employees is absent.  Why is this?  Because there has been so much emphasis placed on getting results – management – that the key driver of increased employee engagement  – leadership – is being ignored.

But why would leadership be the secret sauce of increased employee engagement as well as a  driver of discretionary effort?

Because people are keen to be led!  They won’t ask for it but they want it.  When led, it is the reason that they will do whatever it takes to help the group that you lead be successful.

Why is that?

When you just manage them they will do what you ask.  They are complying with your wishes mostly because they know that if they don’t then things may happen to them that they won’t like.

When they are led, rather than complying they are committing themselves.  Your job as their leader is to awaken that commitment.  It is present in every employee, even those that appear not to possess much of it.

People want to commit to something.  They want to be able to go home each day and tell those that are important to them what a difference they made.  It’s called pride, and it is present in all of us.  Now think about the last time that your team went home and could do that.  You can probably think of a day here and there, when you all knocked it out of the park regarding a key deliverable, or by wowing a difficult customer.  But could you say that for every week, and even every day?

Leadership will give your team that commitment.  Leadership is the process of laying out, in terms that they understand and can relate to, the journey that you would like them to take with you to make your team the best that it can be.  You might have discovered that a vision statement would do the trick, and certainly it won’t hurt (though a lofty one that is not representative of your team’s culture will appear contrived and fall flat.)  More importantly they want to hear from you what your beliefs are about what can be achieved, what will make them different, better than your competitors or other departments in the company.  They want to be able to say: “Yeah!  I want to be part of that.  In fact I’ll even work harder to make that happen.”

Working with a client of mine I had her write out a short conversation that she would have with each of her team as a way of introducing an exciting, compelling future for her department.  I instructed her to do this with each team member individually, not in a group (which appears as speechifying.)  The results spoke for themselves.  Every one of her staff agreed to join her and engagement increased immediately.  (Not once did she mention a performance metric by the way.)

Here’s a sample of what she said to start the conversation:

“When I arrived here three months ago I was struck by how professional and hard working the staff was. What I also saw was a group rather dispirited by the relentless drive for results with no end in site.  I am meeting with you today because I don’t believe it has to be that way.  In fact I know it doesn’t.  Yes, the results we need to achieve are challenging, however we are missing the point to achieving them.  I know that between us we have the skills and motivation to achieve the results and I also believe that we can be the best customer service team that this company has ever seen.  How we will do that, well, I don’t have all the answers, but I do know we have the potential to achieve it.  I am asking you to join me in figuring that out.  I am asking you to be part of the best team this company has.  Think about it.  We will be the team that others look to for what success and personal achievement looks like.  Wouldn’t that just be the best?   We would be the team that gets recognition, enhances each of our careers, gives each of us the visibility that brings nothing but good.  Will you join me in making that happen?………”

What’s your leadership conversation?

Leadership is free! – Show it generously.