Servant Leaders Engage People

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One of the exciting aspects of the servant leadership transformation is the realization that you play a part and are accountable in some way in every situation. We know one of the biggest issues for organizations today is lack of employee engagement. Here are some tips you can institute to create an engaging work environment for those you lead.

Involve employees in decision-making. Ask people their opinions; you may be surprised at how knowledgeable they are. Even if they don’t have the answers, it’s just as important that they see you care about what they think. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean their recommendation will be the final solution.

Let them chose their tools. Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks, has a great saying in his book, It’s Not About the Coffee. He states, “if you want someone to mop the floor, let them choose the mop.” That seems very simplistic, but in reality, who would know better what tool is necessary than the person actually doing the work? 

Ask for their input in difficult situations. Having conflict in the department or group? Is it apparent to everyone? Talk to them. How do they think it might be resolved? You may need to judge whether this is a group conversation or best done one-on-one. Keep your values in mind. It is not honorable or respectful to just gripe about other people. You are looking for positive ideas to resolve the situation. And again, you will be acknowledging that you value their ideas, and they will engage.

Ask for their ideas. Asking for people’s ideas is something you can do each day as you lead. One of the most direct ways you can foster this concept is to teach your team members that they are welcome to bring any problem they have to your attention, but they should be prepared to present possible solutions when they do. Then, it’s not just a matter of pushing the problem off on their leader; they become engaged as part of the solution.  

Communicate business results honestly. One of the most impactful things an organization can do is share business results with its employees. During these meetings, senior leaders review financial results with all their employees. They do this whether the numbers are good or bad. As a result, employees feel they’re respected enough to be included in this sharing of information. Because trust is extended to them, trust is granted back to the leaders. Employees become engaged!

Acknowledge them. When you walk down the halls of your workplace or go out on the production floor — whichever is applicable — do you look people straight in the eye and acknowledge them? It sounds so simple, but one of the biggest complaints we’ve heard from employees is that certain leaders don’t say “Hi” in the hallway. This is such a small thing, but it has huge impact and can pay enormous dividends. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, force yourself! It will become easier.  

Spend time with people. Set aside time each week for one-on-one meetings with each member of your team. Depending on how many people there are, perhaps it’s once every two weeks. The important thing is that you take the time to focus on relationships before tasks. Someone said, “People don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care.” This activity can reap tremendous dividends in trust, loyalty and productivity.

Ask them to step out of their comfort zone. If your team members feel they are victims of other groups around them, ask them to step out and build a relationship with that group. Find out what could be keeping them from receiving what they need to do their jobs efficiently. Perhaps the two groups together can find a solution. Now everyone is part of the solution, not part of the problem. They all become engaged!

Carol Malinski