Employee Engagement is Not What You Think

Employee Engagement is Not What You Think

Leaders and human resource professionals spend a lot of time thinking and talking about employee engagement. An annual ritual in many companies is the employee survey where senior leadership waits anxiously to see what their employee base thinks. Some organizations use Gallup’s famed Q12 survey to give them a pulse on their organization.

Employee engagement, however, is not about the survey or people’s opinions. Employees become engaged or disengaged daily depending on how you, as their leader, work with them.

Engagement means productivity, reduced turnover cost and greater acceptance of changing circumstances.

Noted management researcher and theorist Frederick Herzberg published a landmark article in 1968 titled “One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?” It is one of the most reprinted articles from Harvard Business Review and Herzberg’s observations still hold true today.

Herzberg put forth a model for job satisfaction called the Motivation-Hygiene theory that illustrated a continuum from job satisfaction to job dissatisfaction. Lest you think Herzberg was referring to employee cleanliness, “hygiene” in this context refers to what he considered “maintenance” factors such as job security, salary, benefits, vacation, insurance and working conditions (which until recently have included amenities like free food, pool tables and nap pods in some workplaces and now include work-from-home). By contrast, Herzberg gave the term “motivation” to factors such as challenge, recognition, involvement in decision-making, opportunity, and sense of importance of the work among others.

Herzberg’s research identified that the “hygiene” factors had no impact on creating job satisfaction. They only served to prevent job dissatisfaction. On the other hand, the “motivation” factors were strongly correlated to satisfaction among employees.

So, creating a motivated, engaged and satisfied work force requires providing challenging work, opportunities for achievement, participation, recognition, meaningful work and clarity of purpose and impact.

Which of these motivation factors are the strongest ones for you personally? Which are less important? Chances are that one or two of these hit the top of your list. The same is true of your staff.

We all operate day-to-day based on a set of core needs that are personal to us. When these core needs are being met, we are energized, productive and feel good about ourselves. If these core needs are not being met, we feel de-energized, de-motivated and dissatisfied. Our productivity and performance sinks.

For example, if you are energized by challenge and accomplishment and you have not had a great project to ‘sink your teeth into” lately, you likely feel bored, impatient and begin thinking about finding an opportunity that gives you the aggressive challenge you seek. Or, if you have a core need for connection and teamwork and you now may permanently work-from-home, you probably already are ‘climbing the walls.’ We all can sustain short periods of not having our “gas tanks” of core needs filled up. But over time, if we do not get certain needs met, we become frustrated, burned out and unengaged.

How much do you know about the exact core needs of your direct reports? How much do they know about their own  teams?

You can easily figure out an employee’s core needs by asking them some simple appreciative questions:

1. Think about a great work experience you have had either here or at another organization. What was important to you about your work in that situation?
2. When you look back on a day (or week), what are things you consider positive or exciting?
3. What aspects of your work give you the most satisfaction?
4. What is important to you about how you and I work together?
5. What is important to you about how you and I work together?

You can “make or break” employee engagement every day by knowing your employees’ core needs and providing opportunities for them to fulfill them. Remember that their core needs may be very different from your own.

It may take some creativity to identify a way in your work environment and with your constraints to find a way for the employee to meet certain needs. However, you really don’t have a choice. Harnessing the motivating factors is not an option if you want productivity, performance, reduced cost and high agility. It is up to you as a leader to create the opportunities and conditions for your employees to thrive.

How effectively are you leading your employees in a way that engages and motivates them?

If you would like to download our FREE Core Needs and Employee Engagement Quick Reference for Managers click below.

The Gift of Reflection: Explorations

The Gift of Reflection: Explorations

The Results System™ allows you to deliver deep, powerful self-understanding experiences like the Results Accelerator™ and Core Needs Navigator™.

You can help your clients deepen their understanding by helping them reflect on data contained in their Results System™ panels.

The Explorations reflection/journaling assignments guide the client in gaining deeper understanding and exploring the themes they uncovered. If you aren’t using them with your clients, you are leaving insight on the table!

We now have two types of Explorations available:

Original Across-the-Panels Explorations
The original Explorations create insights across the panels (10 Explorations with 3-4 questions each). These are perfect for follow-up to a full Results Accelerator™ experience.

New Specific Explorations
The new Explorations are specific to individual panels (Goals, Origins, Top Ten/Core Needs and Patterns with 3 or more questions each). These are ideal when you do one panel at a time with your clients, such as a Top Ten/Core Needs standalone individual or group experience.

Best Practices for using the powerful questions in the Explorations…

For Results Accelerator™ clients who avidly want to go deeper…
Give them the full set of Explorations (1 thru 10) and let them “go to town”. Ask them to share a brief summary or key insights in a follow-up or on-going coaching session.

For clients who can benefit from introspection but aren’t the journaling type…
Review the Explorations and choose a half dozen questions you really like. Assign them one at a time as a writing assignment between coaching sessions and review at their next session.

For clients who like an interactive discussion (but are not fans of writing)…
Choose a question or two that you think would explore an area beneficial to the client and bring it up for discussion during a coaching session.

Explorations are available in Microsoft Word format for easy computer journaling and in PDF versions as well. You can access them in the tools section of the Files and Resources section of the Member’s Area.

To get started with Explorations:

1. Download all the Explorations from the File and Resources section of the Member’s Area
2. Review each of Explorations
3. Decide which ones you would use in their entirety and make a short list of the individual questions you  really love
4. Determine which clients or coaching situations you’d use which full or partial Explorations for
5. Make great impact

The Explorations are a great tool in your toolbox for helping your client transform through deep understanding.

Virtual Teams and the New Norm…

Virtual Teams and the New Norm…

No, it’s not a typo. I didn’t leave off the final “al.” I intended the title to say “norm” instead of “normal.”

This distinction is important in the current climate in organizations. Everyone has had to adapt to working virtually and its likely that this will continue for the foreseeable future. Some people will continue to work-from-home, perhaps permanently.

Some teams have been virtual all along. When I worked at IBM before starting my consultancy, I was on a global team where over the years I never even met 80% of the team face-to-face. Everything was telephone conference calls. Web conferencing was just starting to take hold (although we made software that did just that!). You got used to it. However, something was missing.

Today, the lion’s share of teams are now working virtually and it’s been an adjustment for everyone. We are getting proficient at using Zoom or Webex or Microsoft Teams. We are even remembering to mute our audio when not speaking (hallelujah!). Yet, something is still missing.

There’s a “secret sauce” that makes working in a great team great.

Most leaders ignore a simple truth that the “people people” know: it takes work to make a team a team. Too often we take for granted that assembling a group of employees as a department or on a project means that everyone will just work together and “get it done.” Nope.

Left to its own devices, such a team is just a collection of people trying to bring their best (or maybe their worst) from their past experiences working in teams (or silos).

Teams operate with a set of “rules” of behavior called “norms” that lay out tacitly or explicitly how things will work in the team. Some are clearly articulated. However, most of the time they are unspoken. They govern how the team works as the team works.

Norms Make Things Normal

“Norming” isn’t an internet fad like “The Ice Bucket Challenge” (or maybe TikTok). It’s a well-researched stage of team development where “how we do things around here” is established. And, it gets established and operates whether you pay attention to it or not.

Smart team leaders know that it’s better to be explicit about norms rather than leaving them to chance. They take a little time to set the tone or discuss and decide how the team will work. What is acceptable for achieving the team’s mission or delivering the team’s services? How will team members work together and treat one another? It’s making an investment in the team’s process up front. It pays off in a big way as the team does its tasks. As a leader, if you don’t know how to do this yourself, pull in someone who does.

A Changed Team is a New Team

Far from “set it and forget it,” norming is not a one-time thing. Over time, teams change. Members come and go. Maybe there’s a merger or reorganization. Or, a pandemic hits and you have to ‘pivot.’

Each of these situations means that the team changes. When it does, it’s time to revisit or re-establish team norms. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Unless you do, people carry the questions, “What is still true?”  and “Do we continue doing what we did before?” Worse, they make up their own answers. New team members are left to guess what to do from observing what others do (and that is sometimes not pretty). Even long-time teams with a static membership need reminders.

The best way to think about it is that a changed team is a new team. Help it maintain its footing.

Pixels Don’t Make People Connect

Going virtual hasn’t made this easier. Yet, it has made paying attention to the team’s norms more important. As a leader, the physical (or digital) distance means the team can lose the glue that holds it together. An ‘unglued” team loses focus, momentum and its ability to create consistent results. Or sometimes, any results.

Entropy is a natural phenomenon in physics. Teams atrophy unless they are maintained. Well-working teams are often neglected. Their wheels can “come off the bus” just like dysfunctional teams. Preventive maintenance is better than “drastic repairs” in a crisis.

Alignment is Not Just for Auto Undercarriages

If you’ve ever found your car a bit difficult to steer or making funny vibrations, you know that the suspension can get knocked out of alignment by hitting a pothole or a dodgy road surface. It’s like the four wheels are working against each other as you proceed down the road. It’s the same with “team alignment.” When you hit a “bump in the road,” things get off-track.

You may have had the experience of working in a team where everyone is “not on the same page.” I’ve sat through those meetings, haven’t you? Could I have some cyanide with my Chai, please?

Some leaders take “buy-in” for granted. They think, “If I just announce what we’re going to do, everyone will get on board.” Nope. You need to actively solicit the buy-in of each team member and address the concerns or objections. An actively disengaged team member can disrupt an otherwise highly functional team. Ignore the intentional alignment of your team at your peril. You may need a someone outside the team to help facilitate so you can participate in the discussion.

Reserve the Silos for Corn and Soybeans

Unless you establish norms for a team, especially a cross-function team so common today, everyone brings their own luggage from “back home in the silo.” They arrive with assumptions, behaviors, and attitudes (the norms) from their team or organization. You know how that works out.

Divergent points of view are helpful on a team. Resistance, protection, indecision and inaction are not. If you don’t come to a new common agreement on how this team will operate and what it will accomplish, you get the “same old, same old.”

Great teams don’t just happen. However, they can be made. Norms are the secret ingredient.

Resilience is an Inside Job

Resilience is an Inside Job

Bouncing back.

That’s an expression you hear a lot these days. The economy will “bounce back.” You will “bounce back” after uncertainty, stress and staggering change bend you all out of shape. You’ll “bounce back” from dealing with working from home, tending to the kids, enduring ‘Zoom fatigue’ and general mental, emotional and physical disruption. It’s a nice, encouraging idea. But maybe it’s kind of wrong.

I’m thinking it’s more about “bouncing forward.”

Being resilient, in my opinion, isn’t about bouncing back, like how a marshmallow resumes its previous shape after an aggressive finger press (sort of). No, resilience is about having the wherewithal to spring in a different direction or become something new necessitated by the circumstances.

It takes energy to make that leap from being down, defeated or sleep deprived. Or to rebound after a punch to the chin (figuratively, of course). I don’t know about you, but I feel very ‘knocked around’ by the present-day challenges (personal health, economic, social and political). It has drained me.

So, what do you do to make yourself ready to spring forward in whatever direction is mandated by the moment? How do you soar after arising from a heap of ashes?

In my years as an executive coach, one of the ways I help clients build and maintain resilience is to help them understand and manage how well their “Core Needs” are being fulfilled.

Understand Your Core Needs

 We all have a set of Core Needs – the types of experiences that energize, engage, satisfy and fulfill us.

Examples of Core Needs include achievement, connection, collaboration, reflection, fun, being part of something bigger, travel, purpose, freedom, creativity, etc. Each of us have anywhere from 8-20 of these that make up our unique profile.

From time to time we all need to experience each of our Core Needs. Without this, we become de-energized, discouraged, unfulfilled and burned out.

Knowing your Core Needs and seeking to get them fulfilled is the cornerstone of having the energy and motivation to be resilient.

Do you know your personal list of Core Needs? As one of my clients said “I wish I knew this twenty years ago. I would have made different decisions.”

Pinpoint Your Low Points

Your Core Needs list is the source of help in being resilient. On those days where things just aren’t going well or you feel overwhelmed, check your Core Needs list to see which of those needs is not being well met.

It’s a great diagnostic for knowing where to focus your time and energy to improve the situation for yourself.

You don’t have to be a victim of circumstances. You can take intentional action,but you have to know where to start… your Core Needs list.

 Manage Your ‘Gas Tanks’

 Think of each of your Core Needs as tanks of fuel that power you around. If one or more of these tanks is low, you’ll feel it zap your energy. While few people have all their tanks full all the time (I’d sure like to meet them!), you need to have at least some gas in every tank to function.

When a Core Need requires some attention, you can intentionally do activities to “fill the tank.” For example, if you have a Core Need for connection and you used to get that fulfilled by being in the office with colleagues, it’s likely that in this work-at-home, Zoom-filled world  your connection tank might be low for you.

However, connecting with your family or having a heartfelt conversation with a friend or colleague can put some fuel back in that tank. You don’t need to fill the tank to full, just get enough to get your through the day. Knowing your Core Needs and the new activities you can use to ‘fill your tanks’ is important for maintaining your energy.

 Check Your Beliefs

 Even when you know your Core Needs, getting them met can be another story. We all have beliefs about our needs. Sometimes these help us and other times they interfere. For example, you may have beliefs about whether it is possible to get your needs met or whether you might be expecting too much. You may wonder about whether you deserve to get them met or if doing so makes you selfish. Still others think “I need to put everyone’s needs before my own.”

 Know the Core Needs of Your Team Members

 Do you want engaged, energized and resilient employees? Employees are excited and fulfilled when their Core Needs are being met.  Keeping this in mind, your employee engagement strategy needs to be understanding the Core Needs of each person on your team and providing an environment where they can get them met.

Perhaps you can assign projects or duties that play well into an employee’s Core Needs. Or, you rearrange or swap responsibilities to make it work better for your staff. Someone may not be in a role that best suits their Core Needs. Move them toward a role that does. After all, knowing your Core Needs is foundational to making career decisions that are fulfilling and drive performance.

Help your staff understand their Core Needs. You can download the Core Needs and Employee Engagement Quick Reference with a list of questions you can ask to learn more about your employee’s Core Needs in your 1:1 conversations.  Or, put them through a team building program that explores their Core Needs and getting them met in the team.

#leadership #executivecoaching #newnormal #coreneeds

Your Head is a Nice Place to Visit But Please Don’t Live There

Your Head is a Nice Place to Visit But Please Don’t Live There

One of the secrets about dealing with change and uncertainty seemed counter-intuitive when I first discovered it…

Thinking can be dangerous.

As someone who likes to be thoughtful and smart about the actions I take (heck, my company name is “ThoughtAction”), my first inclination in dealing with today’s unprecedented world situation is to try to ‘figure it out.”

That works a lot of the time, just not right now.

As a professional executive coach, my studies have explored the prevailing neuroscience research into how our brains operate and deal with change.

The big learning:  the way our brains usually function to make our lives work doesn’t help so much in times of change.

To deal with the onslaught of information, your brain (and mine) uses what it already knows from past experience to address any situation. It makes sense right? It’s expedient and efficient. And, it works a lot of the time.

But, when we encounter something different, our brains apply the same old rules and the same old patterns automatically. That’s great for efficiency, but not so effective since the “same old” doesn’t work with something entirely new. Like the world situation right now.

Here are five tips for “running your brain” in a way that helps you and the members your team (or your family) navigate the unpredictable challenges.

Be Aware of Assumptions

Assumptions are connections or associations that we make between two ideas, concepts, situations, relationships or physical items. They are like rules in our heads that say “If this…. then that.” Or, its reverse, “If this… then that can never be.” We believe that two of these things must always go together or can never go together.

For example, have you ever found yourself saying something like, “The only way we can get this done is to get it started before next week,” or, “If we don’t decide this today, it will never get completed on time.” Often spoken with great surety, these assumptions aren’t actually helping in “getting it done” because they close out all other possibilities.

Watch Your Expectations

Expectations are predictions about the future based on our past experience. We may have expectations of ourselves, of others or of situations. However, they are only guesses and they shape our perceptions, perhaps in a way that doesn’t give enough flexibility. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’ve seen this movie before. The same thing happened last time. I know how this ends.” But, do you? If you do, I’d like some stock picks!

Trust Your Head… To a Point

Confidence is a much appreciated, much sought-after commodity. Over-confidence, however, can get in the way of our results. And, over-confidence in our own thoughts and opinions is how we “get in our own way.”

We all have blind spots in our thinking and behavior. It’s part of the human condition. So, knowing that, it is good to step back from the rush and look at our perceptions, beliefs, habits, expectations and assumptions from the bigger picture. Yes, your head may tell you that your conclusion or your plan of action are best. However, remember that it may not be the whole story.

Embrace the Reality Check

Given that our heads may be harboring a skewed perspective, it’s a good idea to get some feedback and a reality check on our ideas, thoughts and game plans. We all need a trusted colleague, friend, coach, therapist or spouse to challenge our thinking and help us find the best approach. Who is that person for you? If you don’t have one, find one.

Be their Coach

Leaders…. Your people need you to the sounding board, the “reality checker” and the thought partner. This boils down to you being their coach. Listen carefully to what they say (and what they don’t say). Point out where their thinking or logic might be making assumptions or having unrealistic expectations. Show them where their confidence is well placed and where it needs re-assessment. Be the confidant.  Be that for your team and you will help them thrive.

More: Resilience is an Inside Job

#leadership #executivecoaching #newnormal