The 3 Paths to Engage your People (Part 2)

Last time I discussed the importance of People Engagement in modern-thinking companies at the CEO level and why the most successful companies make Engagement THE agenda and not a sub strategy under the title “nice-to-do” or “important but not critical”.

This series of 3 blogs each describes one path to engage your people but only work if the three work together and are layered. I try to break down the elephant-sized chunks into actionable strategies that businesses can work on to make a positive step-change of the engagement of their people.

I put these under three areas of focus:

  1. Promote your Purpose
  2. Develop your Managers
  3. Seek and Embrace Feedback

Last time we looked at Promoting your Purpose and the role that senior managers and the Executive have here. If you missed it, you can view it here:

So, this time, let’s move on to Developing Your Managers. Previously we said that, as a senior leader, if you build action-orientated strategies to work on Promoting your Purpose you then have laid a foundation stone for an overall positive change in engagement with your people.

This section is taking that promoted purpose and enabling your people managers to bring it to life. It is a critical area and doesn't use the word “engagement” often but Developing Your Managers is the glue that makes or breaks all engagement strategies. Let’s get stuck in…

Give your managers the tools to do their job effectively

This might sound a bit obvious. But I am not talking about a phone, tablet, laptop and chair. Time and again one of the underlying reasons I observe why organisations’ values and beliefs do not filter down from the Executive to the general population is because the people managers lack the tools and knowledge to turn ideas into engaging actions.

Middle managers are the unsung heroes of organisations. Day in, day out they try their best to keep their teams together, get the job done and hit targets. Often this is with little or no management training. We talk about the 70/20/10 rule of learning. I would say the majority of first line people managers learned most of what they know by trial and error and trying not to do to others what some managers did to them! (Me included) Most got promoted when there was a vacancy and they were the most experienced skilled person in the team, not necessarily in management but in the function they work in. And it is then assumed that they will be great as a manager because they “know their stuff”.

OK, so what to do, remembering this is about engagement. I would suggest that there are 3 focus areas to equip your people managers with a basic “engagement toolbox”:

1)  Personal Effectiveness development

…or Time Management to us non-purists. Give your managers tools they can use to plan and manage tasks more effectively. Why? Because if your people managers can use their time more effectively then this frees the time up to spend more time understanding and listening to the team. First rule of team engagement: spend time with your team!

This development can include separating all their tasks into Urgent and Important and then prioritising, understanding who and what drain their time needlessly and how they themselves can procrastinate without realising it. This first step gives your people managers a very precious commodity: time!

  • Unlock your people managers’ potential by giving them the awareness and tools to be more personally effective

2)  Now give them new techniques to engage others

So, you have given your managers the most valuable gift on Earth: more time with their team. But this can be really scary for people managers. What do I do? What do I say? I knew an IT Manager once who would be much happier in the server room than doing a one-to-one with his team. When asked why he explained that the server was more predictable and he felt in control of the relationship. An employee could do anything. Disagree with him? Argue? Cry!

This is more common than you might think and can be solved with simple development of tools and techniques around common management tasks. Ones I would select for the purposes of engagement, but are not the only ones, are:

  • Emotional Intelligence training – to understand the team members’ needs better through predicting underlying emotions when things happen
  • Training and Coaching – making sure that team members have the right skills and knowledge through training but then can develop themselves through the deeper thinking that the coaching line manager can give them
  • Delegating – understanding that people work better and are more interested when they get to understand the “why” of their roles through working on broader tasks and understanding inputs and outputs better. If people see how they fit into the cogs of the business machine then they will want to do better to make sure the recipients of their work are not let down.
  • Give people managers the tools and techniques to give the skills and knowledge needed and then develop their team further

3)  Finally, stretch your people, but be realistic!

It is a human trait that if you care about something you want it to succeed. If you have given your team the tools to do their job and you spend the time with them that they feel important to the success of the team and the business, they usually will understand and want to deliver that bit more for overall success.

However, be realistic! Don’t ask your sales team to deliver double next year with no additional resources. If the scanning rate on the checkouts is 35 items per minute, don’t say you want 50 without a explainable way this can happen. Yet, a stretching, just about touchable target can be a good engaging focus for a team.

  • Give stretching goals with an understandable narrative, ensuring people managers are there to support and encourage to success

I said at the start that engagement develops in layers. Part 1 was about senior leadership setting the scene by Promoting the purpose through:

  • Identifying your true company values & visibly bringing them to life in everything that you do
  • Identifying your Company’s “story” and ensure, as a minimum, all people managers have heard and know the narrative
  • Getting out into your business and having a dialogue with your people

Part 2 has been about equipping your people managers to create mini-environments where the all employees and workers see how that big picture breaks down into the chunks of daily life and, moreover, through line managers focusing attention on equipping and developing them, fosters a “pot of goodwill” that they will use doing the highs and low points of work. So, get your people engaged more by helping your managers get the most out of them by:

  • Unlocking your people managers’ potential by giving them the awareness and tools to be more personally effective
  • Giving people managers the tools and techniques to give the skills and knowledge needed and then develop their team further
  • Giving stretching goals with an understandable narrative, ensuring people managers are there to support and encourage to success

Next time we will look at the third and final Path to Engage your People by looking at the wide area of Seeking and Embracing Feedback. Thanks for reading!

Anthony Ryland is the Co-Founder of tap’d Solutions Limited, an HR consultancy and technology business in the UK. Prior to this, Anthony has enjoyed splitting his career between operational leadership and HR/Talent roles in various sectors.