1,001 Ways to Engage Employees

employee engagement

Increase Employee Engagement

One of the top priorities for leaders is employee engagement. For several years, I have seen countless books and executives looking at every possible method for increasing engagement.

Bob Nelson says that it’s time to move beyond measuring it. “It’s now time to focus the behaviors that truly impact employee engagement, and not just the scores that measure it.”

In his book, 1,001 Ways to Engage Employees: Help People Do Better What They Do Best, Dr. Bob Nelson provides the methods for increasing engagement. I recently spoke with him about his new book.

 

“If you have a good boss, you have a good job. That’s true the world around.” –Dr. Bob Nelson

 

Simple Things to Do Today

Share some surprising gems from the 1,001 ideas in the book.

Probably the biggest surprise for me has been the fact that the greatest motivators for today’s employees don’t require a big budget to implement, but are relatively simple, behavioral things any manager can do with their immediate team.  Thanking employees for doing good work, asking for their input and ideas, providing them autonomy and authority to get their work done, involving them in decisions that affect them, two-way communication, and using mistakes as learning opportunities for them to improve are some of the key take-aways.

 

“Most managers ignore or underestimate the power of praise.” -Roger Flax

 

Which ones have gotten more enthusiastic feedback than you expected? 

The book is still new, but readers in general love the real-life examples and pithy, fun quotes—both of which support the topics discussed. Hearing a great example makes readers immediately ask, “Why couldn’t we do that in our work group?” In this way, the book becomes a motivator of change: to try something new that may very well get you a better result. That’s my ultimate goal: to help people better manage their employees so they feel more valued for what they do and are more successful as a result.

 

And which ones might be most useful when the organization needs to bounce back from a bad shock?

Communication is critical in working with others, and you have to do more of that in tough times and times of change.  Managers’ tendencies, however, are to withdraw during tough times, so you have to fight that tendency and force yourself to be out there, speaking with employees, answering questions and helping them do a better job. Likewise, for employee recognition.  So many managers have an unstated assumption that they expect employees to always do good work, so they don’t have to thank them for it when they do. To the contrary, you need to proactively catch people doing good work in order to get them to more easily continue to do so. No one likes to work for a manager that only finds their faults and mistakes…

 

What do most managers get wrong when they think of engagement?

Essential Daily Exercises for Becoming More Successful

Become Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful

 

Do you want to break old habits?

Do you want to manage your time more effectively?

Do you want to motivate your staff and be a more effective leader?

 

Rhett Power is cofounder of the toy company Wild Creations, named one of Inc. Magazine’s fastest-growing companies. He is a speaker and author and has written for numerous publications from Time to the Wall Street Journal. I recently spoke to him about his research on success.

He says that success today isn’t just taking a few steps, but it is available to all if you take action day after day, week after week. Rhett’s new book, The Entrepreneurs Book of Actions: Essential Daily Exercises and Habits for Becoming Wealthier, Smarter, and More Successful, focuses on 53 weeks to accomplish lasting change and success.

 


“Successful people create a supportive network.” -Rhett Power

 

Why Personal Development is Critically Important

As a busy entrepreneur, with multiple conflicting to-do lists, how do you prioritize personal development? Why is this critically important?

In my first business, I learned that if I didn’t take the time for personal development, then my business would suffer. I buried myself into making that first business work. I worked 20 hours a day seven days a week. After two years, I was nearly bankrupt, and I was physically and emotionally wiped out. I wasn’t reading, eating well, exercising, or spending time with family and friends. When I stopped to reevaluate my life and made significant changes, I saw dramatic results.

I started taking more time out of the business. When I was well rested, I made better decisions. When I started exercising, I had more energy and was more productive. When I started to take time for personal and professional growth, meaning spending time reading, researching, and planning, my business took off.

 


“Constant self-improvement is as important as a physical workout.” -Rhett Power

 

Overcome Your Fears

Let’s start with overcoming fears. You faced some seriously challenging days and, in the end, you now say that facing a fear helps you gain strength. What practical tips can you share for someone who feels paralyzed with fear?   

I have always believed I would rather have my fate in my own hands than in someone else’s. That is why I kept going even when times were tough, and I was scared we were going to fail. It’s important to understand that significant fear cannot be overcome overnight. That’s why it’s significant. To effectively deal with this kind of fear, it’s helpful to break down the object of your fear into small, more manageable parts. One of the benefits of breaking down a task that you fear is it can provide you with some insight as to what, specifically, about the task causes you to have fear.

The other thing that always makes me less fearful is preparation. Everyone remembers the feeling of confidence you get from being ready for that school exam. You also know the feeling of not being prepared. I find being over-prepared makes that feeling of fear turn into confidence.

Each time you face a fear, no matter how small, and overcome it, you gain great strength. That strength turns to courage and that courage to confidence in the doing–no matter what “doing” you might be called upon to do.

 

Reward and Recognize Good Work

You share the importance of valuing employees. As an entrepreneur, you also know that resources are often a challenge. What creative ways have you seen to accomplish this goal on a limited budget?

Even on the tightest budget, you should recognize and reward great work. Here are some things I do in my businesses:

  • Ask staff to post recognition notes to each other on a bulletin board. Add testimonies from external customers.
  • Give people time off. Time is the most precious gift, and people will always remember that afternoon or day to do what they love.
  • Send a letter to the employee’s family, telling them why their loved one is so important to the company’s mission.
  • Do one of the employee’s least favorite tasks.
  • Give a coffee or carwash gift card, sports or movie tickets.
  • Allow people to work from home or present them with a “flexible day” certificate.
  • Give departments their own week: Accounting Week, Programmer Week, etc. Recognize the contributions made, take them to lunch, make certificates.
  • Create opportunities: to be a mentor, chair a committee, do research.
  • Celebrate birthdays, babies, weddings, graduations, and any happy time.
  • Establish a “Wall of Fame” for photos and clippings that recognize outstanding achievements. Mention staff in the company newsletter, too.
  • Say, “I’m glad you’re here,” and “Thank you.”
  • Bring people together for cake and socializing or a meal like a potluck lunch.

 

Boost Your Bliss

New Leaders – Get Good Information and Build Relationships

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

New Leader Challenges

Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It acknowledges that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and provides greater visibility of your actions and style.

Whether you are new to a department, new to a company or just received a promotion; the challenges are very similar. It is important to establish your style, values and culture effectively and quickly. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So what are some techniques to quickly establish your leadership style and lead effectively?

Much of my career has been serving in interim executive positions or as interim CEO for various companies, where I often entered the organization as the “new guy” in charge. Here are the fundamental areas that I have found helpful for your initial focus to be an effective leader:

  • First Impressions
  • Information Gathering and Relationship Building
  • Open Communication
  • Decision, Delegation and Empowerment
  • Action and Accountability

In this post, I will discuss techniques for:

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Open Communication

The techniques in these areas will establish the foundation to develop a culture of decisiveness, empowerment, accountability and action. I will discuss these attributes in a future post.

First Impressions

Whether you are in a new leadership role as executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader, people will watch closely to understand your style. A few of the things people will evaluate include:

  • Are you decisive? How do you make decisions?
  • How do you take action?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • Do you hold people accountable?
  • Can you be influenced? Will you listen?
  • Are you approachable?
  • How do you react to bad news?
  • Do you focus on big picture or detail?
  • Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
  • How do you deal with good or poor performance?
  • How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
  • How do you gather information?
  • What are your values?

As the organization’s employees and customers observe these traits, it is important to remember: They will listen to what you say, but it is what you do that counts the most to establish culture.

 

“What you do, not what you say, is what establishes culture.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

So, where do you start? I suggest you initially focus on the following characteristics as the most important:

  • Gather reliable information
  • Communicate openly
  • Be decisive
  • Delegate and empower others when possible
  • Encourage action
  • Require accountability
  • Satisfy customers

To lay the groundwork for these cultural practices, you must first have good information, form relationships at all levels and communicate openly. The next two sections provide some techniques.

 

Information Gathering and Relationship Building

Before a new leader is able to decide, initiate action or communicate intelligently, he/she needs good information quickly. It is vitally important to have information from different perspectives and different levels in an organization. Just getting information from one person/place can lead to narrow, sub-optimized decisions. Here are some mechanisms to obtain good information and simultaneously form relationships:

  • Skip-Level Meetings: Go to department staff meetings at all levels of the organization, starting with your direct reports, if you are a manager. This also works for project team leaders. You may simply listen during the meeting, but a simple round table discussion also works very well. Popular questions are: what is working; what is not working; what is frustrating; what should we stop doing; what decisions are holding up progress?

 

“It is vitally important for leaders to have information from different perspectives and levels.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

There are several benefits to skip-level meetings. Not only do you get good information from “the front line,” but it is also a good place to find things that people can be empowered to fix, thus setting the tone for delegation, action and decisiveness. Two fundamentals: 1) Always listen and question; 2) Be cautious not to manage around the team leader.

  • “State of the Union” Meetings: These are short one-on-one meetings for a person to give you a summary of the situation for a group, team, department or project. It does not have to be a polished presentation, just a discussion from an outline that covers: priorities, issues, decisions needed and what to start, stop or keep doing. Basically, let the person tell you what they are doing, what is going well and what needs attention. Again, look for opportunities for decision and action.

3 Ways to Motivate Your Team

What are the best ways to motivate a team? Are there best practices that managers can use to lead?

I’m always asking people these questions, trying to improve my understanding of team motivation.  Entrepreneur, speaker, and CEO of MyEmployees, David Long, is an expert on motivation and rewards.  His company specializes in helping managers link rewards and recognition to the desired goals of the company.  The firm he founded has been working at this for twenty five years.  His new book, Built to Lead: 7 Management R.E.W.A.R.D.S Principles for Becoming a Top 10% Manager, is David’s view of what it takes to become a Top 10% manager.

I asked David:  what are three ways to best motivate a team?  His answer:

 

Value Opinions

1: Show your employees you value their opinions.
Anytime we seek to improve something in a particular department or process within our company, we always tell the employees what we want to happen.  Then we ask them, “In an ideal world, what changes can we make to improve the process and make your job easier?”  Why do we ask them instead of just telling them what to do?  It’s quite simple really.  We want buy-in to the needed changes being made, and we insure that by involving them and their input.

 

“Success leaves clues.” -Tony Robbins

 

Note: Your front-line employees should always be involved in the process when developing the system in which they are expected to produce and perform.  If they help create the system, it greatly increases the likelihood of them adopting any changes that may be created as a result.  Without that happening, there will definitely be unnecessary resistance.

 

“No man will make a great leader who wants to get all the credit for doing it.” -Andrew Carnegie

 

Recognize Excellent Work

2: Recognize excellence at every opportunity.
Someone once said, “What gets recognized gets repeated.”  You want more innovation within your company, then recognize it.  You want more employees to take ownership of their responsibilities and care about the success of the company as if it were their own, then recognize it!  You want to improve any quantifiable metric of success within your company, such as sales, increased profits, higher dollar per client, then recognize it.

 

Research shows that every employee should be recognized at least once every 7 days.

The Outs and Ins of Employee Loyalty

What’s In and What’s Out?

The era of employees signing up to work at a single company for their entire adult lives has long been over.  The importance of differentiating and branding yourself has never been more important.  The best employees have options. They are always on a recruiter’s radar. They often have a resume ready. If your best hope of retaining them is a counteroffer, then you have already lost the war. Consider these ideas if you want to increase your employee retention.

OUT

Helping employees only with their jobs and specific skills to improve productivity.

IN

Helping employees with their lives, which recognizes them as individuals who have needs outside of work.

OUT

Keeping employees at arm’s length and in a strict business relationship. Getting too close clouds your judgment.

IN

Taking the time to know them. Ignore the old advice and become friends. Employees are more likely to be loyal to someone considered a friend.

OUT

Telling employees that promotions are rare, that Jane is never going to retire and to “forget it,” that they will be blocked from transferring elsewhere.

IN

Brainstorming various ways to boost earnings, potential and career options to move within a company.

OUT

Employees nodding their heads like parrots at everything the boss says.

IN

Constructive disagreement, polite dissent, and compromise.

Employee Loyalty

OUT

The rulebook. Everything has a strict procedure and no room for individual deviations or decisions.