Article by, Gilbert Ang’ana
Despite the numerous benefits of creating an engaged and productive work environment, it remains a challenge for many leaders on actions they must take consistently to drive such a highly engaged and productive workforce. A recent Harvard Business Review article on building a productive workforce cites a study which states that employee engagement is a component of employees; commitment to the organisation, job satisfaction, and energy at work, which results in greater innovation and creativity.
Moreover, according to Gallup’s report on the State of the Global Workplace: 2022, 1 (21% of employees) out of 5 employees are engaged in their jobs. Additionally, research indicates that one out of every two employees has left a job during their career life and the main reason being; to escape their managers or improve their quality of life. These stats give the picture of the issues around the engagement of employees, which have a greater impact on the productivity of the workforce. Disengaged employees are unproductive and are costing you money and affecting your profits.
With all the countless books, conferences and training on this subject, why do leaders and organisations still struggle to create a highly engaging work environment for our employees? Why do so many good leaders make terrible decisions that negatively impact their team’s engagement and productivity? I boil it down to five building blocks for leaders to create highly engaged and productive workplaces:
1. Lead with Influence
Building a highly engaged and Productive team is a process. A process that requires the intentionality of the leader. Intentionality, in this case, means a shift to behaviours that build Connection, Nurture & Inspire the team. If leaders build intentionality & consistency around these behaviours, they are likely to see a change in the engagement & productivity of their team.
While your position in the workplace might be one of the most apparent sources of authority, it isn’t the only way your influence comes from. If you practice the mindshift from the authority of position to influence, some shift will happen in your team, growing into becoming a highly engaged and productive team. The ability to have the mindshift from authority to influence may be the most critical shift required to create a high-performing team – a highly engaged and productive team and organization.
2. Be Appreciative
All leaders want to have success. We all want to matter in one way or the other as leaders. This is where our Ego sinks in. With all the experience, position, expertise, and other power sources, what is my alternative to not exercising Ego? This is the dilemma leaders find themselves in. They have worked so hard to be where they are. At least for those who have the credibility to say so. This ego is what kills the success of millions of leaders across the world.
Leadership is not a destination but an infinite aspiration we strive to develop daily. To be a better version of ourselves every day and add value to people and our teams every day, we need to appreciate others. This is what makes us cautious of our ego. Leaders must take the leap and lead with courage to develop an appreciative habit. Leading with courage entails having faith in the team, being authentic and vulnerable with them, and developing some form of self-discipline to keep checking and managing your ego and leadership bubble.
3. Strive to Connect beyond Communicating
We are in a highly communicative world today. As leaders, we communicate with our teams daily, share ideas, develop plans and strategies, and are clear about our customers’ expectations. After all this work, the question still in my mind is why thousands of organisations are still struggling with their financial sustainability. Why do we still have organisations collapsing?
A report by Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2017 shares that organisations could realise up to 12% higher profits if there is enhanced employee connection. The reason why your team is not hitting the intended performance levels is either one of the following: They are not clear on the goals , They are not clear about their roles , and how to accomplish their goals. They lack the information, tools, time, or money to achieve their goals. All these issues are about a lack of connection and not necessarily a lack of communication. Connection is built through authenticity. Whether you are a leader in any organisation, it’s critical to be aware of what you are cultivating.
4. Be the Cheerleader
We all worry at times about our abilities as leaders, more so whether we will remain relevant with the changing dynamics in our organisations. Although distressing, it’s normal to question whether we measure up to others (our peers in the organisations or even our team members whom we feel are more skilled) or to feel momentarily incompetent. Leaders with an inferiority complex have combative behaviour, jealousy and improper ethical and social conduct. In most instances, leaders with their ability and belief issues bring down team members.
To shift from inferiority, you need to develop a cheerleading habit (building capacity, honour diversity, being the coach)and build a practice of honouring diversity in your team. This will allow you to tap into all team members’ optimal strengths and support team members in strengthening their weaknesses. Building your team’s capacity will ensure that you have enough resources to drive the team’s shared agenda to realise without too much dependency on yourself or any team member as an individual. Being the coach is critical for you to lead from the partnership point of view. It enables you to assure your team members that they have a stake in the team and that you aspire to explore their strengths to maximise their productivity.
5. Be Inquisitive
Leadership success is an uphill task. The leader must be willing to walk the process to the end and celebrate the milestones along the way with their teams. The opposite of inquisitive is apathetic. Apathetic leaders are psychologically absent from their teams. They enjoy the privileges and rewards of being in a leadership role. However, they disengage from meaningful involvement with their teams. Apathetic leaders take value out of their teams. They are quick to take the credit and gains when they are there but are not adding value to the team. Apathetic leaders are silent team and organisation destructors.
The solution is to have a mindshift to inquisitive leadership. In his article “Great leaders share a Purpose to overcome apathy”, Paul Myers shared that; “Curing apathy is now an essential leadership skill — getting others to care, to give a damn about a mission.” As a leader, you will have a deeper understanding of your team and their workplace meaningfulness when you step back and realise you do not understand everything about your team, their intentions, attitude and meaningfulness. This will drive you to find out more, and in the process, your team is likely to be more curious too, which raises their level of engagement. When you practice inquisitive values or behaviour as a leader, you gain clarity regarding the challenges and opportunities before your team and organisation. Still, it also helps you nurture and strengthen authentic relationships with your team.
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This article is an extracted summary from the book, “Engaged and Productive,” by Gilbert Ang’ana, which highlights 5 Mindshifts in Building Highly Engaged and Productive Teams.
About the Author
Gilbert is a Global Multi-award winning Organizational Development Specialist focusing on Leadership Coaching, Teaching & Consulting. His work centres on helping leaders energise their organisations with bold, purposeful transformational strategies that unlock their teams’ potential.
He is currently the CEO/Founder of Accent Leadership Group (ALG), a global leadership development firm that equips, empowers and elevates leaders and professionals to understand how to influence beyond positional authority. He is an Author of several books, including “Engaged & Productive,” which equips leaders with 5 Mindshifts in Building Highly Engaged and Productive Teams.