Meaningful Leadership: A New Model For Employee Engagement

3 minutes   |  BUSINESS & MANAGEMENT

Become a manager with a difference

Do you remember how you felt on the first day of your first job?

When first-time employees join your company, they’re passionate, eager, excited and perhaps a bit overwhelmed. These early levels of stress-induced productivity have been proven not to last. According to a study of 1.2 million employees, 85% surveyed experienced a sharp decline in morale after the first six months of work, with a steady decrease in the years to follow.1

What can you do to foster employee engagement?

Implement research-backed techniques

Stanford Professor, Jeffrey Pfeffer, who is considered one of today’s most influential management thinkers, attributes the responsibility of this employee unhappiness to management:2

“Workplaces in the United States and around the world are, for the most part (as there are obviously exceptional places on best-places-to-work lists), filled with dissatisfied, disengaged employees who do not trust their leaders; leaders at all levels lose their jobs at an increasingly fast pace …and the leadership industry has failed and continues to fail in its task of producing leaders who are effective and successful.”

You have the opportunity as a leader, to challenge this assumption, by implementing research-backed techniques that will not only ensure an engaged and productive team but will grow your abilities as a people manager.

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Show your employees appreciation and recognition

Taken from Dan Ariely’s book, Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, Ariely speaks about an experiment conducted at Intel in Israel.3

Employees at Intel received one of three emails at the beginning of the week, each saying something different:

  1. You’ll get a cash bonus.
  2. Your boss will give you a rare compliment.
  3. You’ll get a voucher for free pizza.

After the first day, those who received the pizza email showed a 6.7% increase in productivity, and those who received the email about getting a compliment increased their productivity by 6.6%. The monetary bonus only saw a 4.9% increase in productivity.

By the end of the week, the recipients of the monetary bonus had a drop in productivity, as that group of employees performed worse than those in the other groups.

So what can you learn from this case study? People are not motivated by money alone. In fact, 81% would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.4

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Use communication to build a strong team

A study from MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory revealed the most important element of predicting the success of a team is how well the team communicates with each other and with their manager.5

Three simple communication strategies you can implement right now include:

1. Listen
Make sure when you set aside time for employees, you’re giving them your full attention. Let them speak without interrupting, even if you disagree with their opinion. As you develop your skill of being a good listener, your employees will become more comfortable with and better at communicating to you, and to each other.

2. Meet regularly with your team
Many managers like to hide behind emails and online feedback. Your employees are not robots – they’re humans. If you want to be a successful people manager, you need to build trust, mutual respect, and shared experience. Be physically available for your team, not just text on a computer screen.

3. Check your attitude as a manager
Employees won’t speak up or ask questions if they perceive their manager discourages risk-taking or shows hostility towards queries and concerns that challenge company policies. You don’t have to implement all of their input, but you need to create a space where they feel safe knowing they can speak up.

Dissolve “micro-cultures” within your team

It’s vital for you as a leader to ensure every single member of your team feels they are contributing to a unified cause – especially in multidisciplinary teams where it’s easy for the different functions to break into smaller subgroups.

Researcher Doris Fay found that multidisciplinary teams outperformed uniform teams, but this was only if the team didn’t fracture into cliques or rivalries.6

This tendency towards subgroups is a lifelong habit, according to Amy Hoover, president of Talent Zoo:7

“People are creatures of habit, and the habits you pick up early in life often carry through to adulthood. One of those habits is to group with others who are like-minded or similar to ourselves. It happens at work, at parties, at networking events–any place where there are groups of people.”

This is not to say team members cannot have private friendships within the team but those friendships shouldn’t affect the output and sense of unity of the team as a whole.

As a manager, you need to set the tone of the culture in your team. You could achieve this by:

  • Encouraging a culture of inclusivity during team meetings
  • reshuffling seating arrangements to mix things up a bit
  • Creating projects or tasks that require the whole team to work together
  • Sitting with the clique during a lunch break and invite someone who’s often excluded
What does successful people management look like?

If you, as a manager, step into work every day with the primary goal of contributing to the organisation’s success, your first point of call should be to head straight to your team: establishing a unified culture, engaging with them, meeting with them and recognising their contributions.


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