How often do we look at the most engaging and inspiring leaders of the world and ask ourselves, "why can’t I have a bit of that?"
Let’s face it, there are leaders out there who are engaging, effective, and carry with them a potency that seems to almost create a class system in terms of leaders. But what is it about their potency that places them at the top of the leadership pecking order (if such a thing existed!)?
There are three characteristics consistently seen in those I regard as potent leaders. They:
1. are natural
2. can relate with ease
3. own the role of a leader
Let's explore these ideas in brief.
Potent Leaders are Natural
A potent leader comes across as natural; there is a higher degree of authenticity with what they do and how they do it. This is because for them the debate on just how much we allow ‘who’ we are to influence our work isn’t a consideration. I often hear leaders express concern over how they work hard to keep their personal and professional lives separate, or put effort into managing the balance. Little do they realise that people engage as much with who we are as much as they do the other factors such as remuneration, rewards and the aesthetics of the workplace. Years of global engagement surveys highlight this fact; but the chances are your people aren’t reading employee engagement surveys, but they are reading you every day.
Being natural is about having a strong sense of self; being aware of your boundaries and being comfortable with what you are prepared to share, and the extent to which you are prepared to allow ‘who’ you are to colour your professional life and leadership style. Accompanying this is a healthy level of self-esteem and knowing that a little bit of vulnerability and openness is demonstrating that you are human; you are real!
So how can you be more natural in your leadership approach? The easy answer is to have the confidence to be yourself. If this isn’t a strong point, then question the self-talk that undermines and eats away at your confidence to allow more of yourself into the role. Chances are the self-talk is based on messages we have picked up throughout life (many that we have brought from childhood into adult life) that are irrational and probably not relevant to who you are today. So anything you can do to raise your levels of self-awareness and learn more about what makes you tick, will go a long way. Working with a coach who can help you connect with your values, reading or working with a mentor who is acknowledged as a natural and effective leader are all ways to help develop your style.
Potent Leaders Relate with Ease
The more natural we can be within our role, the more likely it is that we will be able to relate to others in an engaging style. After all, people will know ‘who’ it is that they are interacting with, which makes it easier for the communication flow and for the other person to also relax and bring more of who they are into the dialogue. When you are more relaxed with yourself, it also means you can increase your focus on the other person. Because you aren’t so worried (consciously or unconsciously) about what the other person may be thinking of you, this means you have more energy to invest in them. Observing their body language, looking for small cues that let you understand what they are really saying. You are signalling that you are interested in them; in ‘who’ they are. Leaders who relate with ease are really quite unconditional in their approach. To relate with ease is almost always about putting who you are, and your needs, to one side and really listening.
The impact for global leaders in this regard is significant. The ability to read small cues and be awake to what is really being said is critical to bridging the cultural gap. It is how we identify the cultural rituals and understand the differences that exist between us; allowing us to engage and relate with greater meaning. More importantly though, building any relationship, intercultural or otherwise, is an extremely unconditional process, and one that requires an acknowledgement that no matter which nationalities we may be interacting with we all share the some process for how we develop relationships. That is; we all need to go through a process of building rapport (seeking to understand ‘who’ the other person is, what their rituals are, and what is important to them), as a precursor to enjoying the natural momentum and engagement that comes with a ell developed relationship.
To improve the way you relate with ease, one of the most powerful things you can do is one of the simplest. Invest time at the beginning of the relationship to understand who it is you are dealing with. Ask questions and be inquisitive. Be interested, not interesting.
You will soon realise that the idea of relating with ease has less to do with you, but more to do with how you enable the other person to relate to you with ease.
Potent Leaders Own the Role of a Leader
Allowing more of yourself into the role, and relating with ease can help you grow into the role of a leader and evolve as a leader. Underpinning this is your ability to acknowledge that you are a leader, in a leadership role. Your decisions and behaviours impact the careers and lives of those in your team directly and indirectly and in obvious and not so obvious ways. From decisions on performance review and pay increases and decisions to hire or fire, through to making off hand or throw away comments that may be in jest or only half thought through…but if taken out of context by an employee can impact their thinking and behaviours.
If you don’t understand this, then it doesn’t matter how natural a leader you are, or the extent to which you can relate with ease. You are missing the point that you have signed up for management and everything that comes with it. This means making the difficult decisions and having the hard conversations as well as ensuring you celebrate the successes.
The key message is that the potent leaders don’t shy away from the fact that they are a manager. They understand that there is an inherent power that accompanies the authority of their role that can be used to inspire, motivate and help lift performance. This inherent power is a natural accompaniment to leadership. You can’t have one without the other; which means that those leaders who find it difficult to own the fact that they are a leader probably don’t realise that by doing nothing in their role, they are still influencing behaviour. But not in the way they would like.
The Final Word?
No matter who you are, your role, or level of leadership; you can start developing your potency whenever you want; it’s not something that requires permission from anyone else. You own your potency.
Be pragmatic and look for ways to practice and experiment with new ways of engaging and track the responses and results. Read books on the subject, take tests that allow you to learn more about your values and what’s important to you, be coached or mentored, and above all value the integrity of your relationships.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded and engaging leaders, teams and organisations.
Out of the many drivers of employee engagement, the one that has the greatest impact is leadership. Leaders influence engagement within an organisation both horizontally and vertically, and as identified in many research reports over the last ten years, engaging leadership is a non-negotiable when it comes to shifting culture and engagement.
And as if it wasn't already important, with the introduction of COVID-19, and a 'new normal' that has disrupted the way we work, it seems that now could be the time to rethink the way leadership development occurs from an engagement perspective. And there is a very good reason for this that doesn't need research - it's something we all know. Ask most leaders and they will be able to tell you ‘why’ employee engagement is important. They will most likely be able to tell you ‘what’ they should be doing as well; after all most leaders have at some point completed some form of management or leadership training that has provided some great ideas on what to do. But, as we also know, it's often the 'how' that lets a good leader down.
The secret to really good leadership engagement lies in ‘how’ we choose to deploy the skills and tools learned in the courses that teach 'what' to do, and in this respect the answer has been in front of us for a number of decades without realising it. Eric Berne, in his work with Transactional Analysis, identified a series of hungers that drive our behaviours, and they are integral to employee engagement:
In the simplest of terms - hit these markers in your leadership approach and you are building engagement for your people. If your personal cup is at a healthy level or overflowing, then you are most likely also engaged!
For over 25 years now, I have often found myself working with actively disengaged employees and teams. In this time I've worked with many underpinning causes of disengagement, such as, lack of challenge in the role, no vision for the future of the employee, lack of trust, psychological safety. inability to connect and integrate with new teams. The reality is that they are all related either directly, or indirectly, to each of the hungers mentioned above. Or rather, they are related to a lack of fulfilment of these hungers.
'How' we choose to create engagement as leaders should therefore look to address these basic hungers:
With the large-scale and sudden introduction of remote working, each of these factors play a much more important role when you consider the constraints of isolation. Despite this you can easily construct a personal leadership engagement approach around these three pillars despite distance, and in fact it's because of the basic hunger aspect of these elements that we need to address them more than before.
However being remote does make it harder to create stimulation, to provide recognition and to feel connected in the same way as we do in an office environment. So your challenge is to find ways to help your people feel involved; they may be geographically distant, but they don't need to be psychologically distant. So the key here is frequency of connection points, and then the quality of how you connect when you do come together. On the simplest of levels you can:
The engine room of engagement is often perceived as a complex beast; but it doesn’t have to be this way; and it probably never has had to be this way. If you can keep it simple and focus on the above three elements, then you are making it easier to lead in a naturally engaging and potent manner.
You are leading to engage.
Author: David Morley
David is a developer of global-minded and engaging leaders.
The future of leadership is always being questioned and explored and yet the reality is that successful leaders today, and into the future, will most likely carry the same core qualities as those from years gone by. They will be leaders who have vision, leverage disruption and encourage constructive risk taking. Above all, they will get that the relationships they create with their people will continue to be the beating heart of their success as a leader.
And in the context of the biggest disruptor to business that we've experienced in recent times, Covid-19, I believe that this aspect will come more sharply into focus. It's what I call the Relational Leader. And I believe it will be a non-negotiable.
To put this in context let’s look at leadership through a couple of lenses that matter today, and will increase in importance exponentially over the next couple of years.
Engaging Generations Y and Z
It’s too easy (and lazy) to write off these generations with broad-brush strokes that categorise them as superficial and being the ‘me’ or the ‘I want it and I want it now’ crowd. Yes - I still hear those statements. The reality is that this is a generation connected to values, to each other and to the world as much as the generations that came before it – if not more. It goes without saying then that the most successful leaders will be those who take the time to connect with and genuinely understand what drives them. You can’t discover this unless you build a relationship that is more than chatting about what you did on the weekend or the task at hand. The world is changing and we are well and truly in the Involvement Age. As the name suggests, the people we are leading will increasingly expect to be involved at work. They will want to be:
So the more you understand, and really know the people you are leading, the more you will know how to direct their energy, and engage them in ‘why’ they are working with you. Of course this doesn't just apply to Generations Y and Z, but in many respects these are the generations who are explicitly seeking more than just a job. I know there are plenty of Boomers and Generation X'ers out there who also want that same deeper connection with their job; but unlike with Generations Y & Z, we often need to work harder to tease this out of them, to understand what this means and looks like. With Generations Y & Z you don't need to look too hard to learn what's important to them, and this is ok; but does require a more Relational style of leadership to engage and optimise the energy in the moment.
This is very important in the context of the following point; we can't take for granted that if work is happening in a remote setting that it must be because my team is engaged. And this one applies to all generations!
Engaging in Virtual, Complex & Global Environment
Everyday the world is becoming smaller, and despite the events of the last 6 months, globalisation is not going away. It may happen differently, but it will still be around. We all know first hand of the virtual nature of working; at some point in the last six months all of us have been touched by this - even employees who still had to come to the office or a plant would have had colleagues or managers working remotely. In any of these circumstances, embracing a Relational approach to leadership is a non-negotiable for ensuring genuine engagement. And don't be fooled by the talk that is seeping out saying that teams have never been so engaged!
What I'm really seeing when I drill down in these conversations, is that the teams are more productive than usual...and that is not the same being engaged.
In a recent post I spoke of the necessity for leaders in highly disruptive times to lean on their management skills as much, if not more so, than their leadership skills - which fits with the narrative that our people will be more focused on getting their jobs done, and of course this equals productivity. Hence the confusion. For years we've known that one of the key outcomes of engaging leadership is productivity. But don't confuse survival driven productivity with engaged productivity. Chances are you've had a mix of both over the last six months, and it's important that you start to look beyond the work that is getting done to understand why it's getting done. (...this almost feels a bit like the classic X & Y Theory coming to life!)
What we think we know is that in the future there will continue to be an element of remote working. For leaders this is an ongoing piece of complexity that will bring challenges. That's a fact, and let's face it, there are many leaders who struggle with leading in a traditional co-located environment let alone with a team that is spread out. But through the Relational lens, it doesn't have to be as difficult, and you can bring a style of leadership that engages and motivates in such a way that people feel like they belong – irrespective of where they are located.
So what does this mean for the future of leadership?
Probably the same thing it’s always meant; that we are leading people who at their core desire acknowledgement for who they are, and recognition for what they bring. People who, as Maslow suggested, like to belong. Factors that have never changed; but are about to become just a little more important to the leadership success equation. Perhaps it will become the era of the Relational Leader.
Author: David Morley
Over the past couple of weeks, despite the Covid-19 impact on our world, many organisations are still going ahead with plans to build engaged and winning teams using virtual means rather than face to face.
And that is great news! What this means is that there is still a mindset in organisations and amongst leaders that getting your team on the same page, connected and engaged is still a priority.
In fact, I’d go one step further and suggest that these activities are more important today for the most obvious reason that we are forced to be physically distant. But just because you can’t be physically in the same space doesn’t mean you can’t go a good way down the track to building an engaged team. The quality of online sharing technology is such that there is almost no excuse for not being able to check-in on each other or share and create rituals that are good for you and the team.
However if you are looking for something that operates at a deeper level, that you would normally get from an in-person event where there is the ability to be in the same place to workshop your rules of engagement and shared values over a couple of days, you may come up a little short. The reality is that part of our decision making when it comes to building trust and closeness is driven by our ability to see, hear and experience each other in a group context. We only get part of that picture when we are seeking to do this virtually; we get it in snapshots from the waist up and in individual contexts without being able to see and experience the interplay and dynamic between people. As we know it’s the dynamic that we are working with to create the foundation for resilient and sustainable relationships.
So, what can we do to build engaging teams in this era of remote working?
The good news is that we can still build fantastic rapport in the team. We can still lay the groundwork for resilient relationships and an engaged team. And if your team has been together for a while before having to work remotely, then there’s a pretty good chance with the right guidance that you can maintain the momentum and levels of engagement that exist in your team.
Below are three principles to apply when thinking about your next virtual teaming event. They are principles I apply and that I’ve seen others apply to good effect:
Accept that it’s just going to look and feel different.
-This may be more targeted towards facilitators and those who lean towards being perfectionists, who love an event that looks and feels a certain way and delivers a known outcome. Accepting that it will be virtual and still yield good outcomes is a perceptual hurdle to get over, but once you do you will be glad you continued down this path.
Put time into your planning and communications for the event.
-You will need to plan more than you do for a face to face event. Contrary to popular belief, virtual does not mean less effort. Put the time aside to thoroughly plan your event and to rethink your event through a virtual lens. Once you have your agenda and the activities, a great idea is to visualise how you see the event playing out. Run through the agenda and activities with a colleague – test them out – do they work in a virtual sense? Do they deliver what they are designed to achieve?
-You will also need to communicate more than usual. For many people, teaming events can be uncomfortable under normal circumstances, coupled with the fact that you are doing this in a different way which represents change. Think through how you communicate this event, how you engage your participants before, during and after the event. You may even need to apply some of the principles of change communication given that we are not only asking people to do something they may not be comfortable with, but they may also be resistant towards as well.
Apply the Formula: 2 Days F2F = 2 Months PTT
-As mentioned above, we don’t expect that a virtual activity will deliver the depth of connection that a day or two in person will. But it can if you reframe it and apply the following formula:
1 day F2F = 1 months PTT (Planned Teaming Touchpoints).
For every day you would spend in a face to face teaming event, plan one month of team touch points beyond your virtual teaming activity. Design them so they link back to the initial teaming event, and so they build on from each other.
I hope this has been a useful piece of guidance for those who are designing or facilitating virtual teaming events for the first time. I will also leave you with a personal mantra of my own that I find very useful in these circumstances:
In January I wrote about the importance of taking the time to engage with your people. And that was just before our world was tipped upside down by Covid-19!
Upon reflection, the suggestions for taking the time to engage with your people are probably more relevant today, even though it feels as though one hand is tied behind your back in terms of freedom to connect. But it is still very possible to maintain the quality of your relationships despite the enforced distance; in fact ask any leader who has successfully led a high performing virtual team and they will gladly tell you it's possible.
Now, we know that not everyone signed up for being a remote leader, and I'm sure there are some who find it difficult enough being a leader of people when you are in the same place! We've all been there at some point, so you aren't alone. But the reality is you're not alone now either, because we are here, only a phone call or email away for a chat and the opportunity to pick our brains. You have the experience of the Ponte Valle team at your fingertips to help guide you through this interesting leadership time.
But there are some things you can be doing right now that are reflective of that article I wrote back in January. They are:
Value your 1:1’s with your team and what they represent. You can still have meaningful 1:1's with your team even though there is distance. In fact right now, your ability to maintain your 1:1's and to have meaningful conversations may be a lifesaver for your team members as much as it is for you.
Be interested in your team members. Not everyone will be coping well with social-isolation, and we know that for some people the ability to connect with others is critical; not just because they may be a 'people-person' and more extroverted, but because they may also be prone to depression when they are cut off from social connection. At our very core all of us like to be acknowledged for for 'who' we are and not just 'what' we are doing. So make your 1:1's or team member touch points frequent, and really do check in on them - ask how they are doing - don't just ask what they are doing.
Create opportunities for connection in the team. This point remains the same. Create those opportunities that allow the team to come together and share on a values level. Most people are comfortable sharing about the things that give them enjoyment; and this is the level of sharing that removes the superficial layers and boundaries and opens the door to genuine connection.
If you’d like to know more about the ways in which you can build a more engaging 'remote' leadership style, view our Engaging Leadership Resources, or join our next Lead 2 'Remotely' Engage leadership course.
Is it really possible for every leader to be as vulnerable and authentic as we think they need to be to create a safe space for us to work and play in? And will our people always naturally respond to the efforts of leaders in encouraging 'authenticity' at work?
The short answer is no. If you have managers or employees who are having challenges being as open and ‘real’ as we’d like them to be then in some respects that’s being vulnerable as well. They are letting us know that they either don’t know how to be more authentic, aren't ready for it or that they are unwilling.
As leaders we have a role to play in making it ok for people to relax and engage with what they are doing on a daily basis and who they are doing it with. This article explores how we as leaders can start to shift our approach in making this happen.
Being vulnerable happens differently for all of us...there is no cookie cutter approach
Not knowing ‘how’ to be vulnerable can be remedied through learning and experience. We know that coaching, mentoring and specialist courses in this area can certainly help. However, the unwilling aspect is a bit different. If they are unwilling does it mean we give up on them? No; but the workplace is not a therapists couch, so we can’t dive into the role of counsellor. Yet the reality is, people show up for work each day who are not so open (or completely closed) to the idea of vulnerability. Have they had a bad experience playing with this idea at work before? They opened themselves up and were ridiculed or it was used against them? Or is it their belief system learned from a very young age? Another reason related to this is national culture…in some cultures being more emotionally restrained is considered appropriate, whilst in more collectivist cultures (eg; Asian, eastern European, Middle East) sharing occurs over time as a relationship genuinely develops, because for these groups the door to trust is opened based on ‘who’ you are and not ‘what’ you do. And then there is organisational culture. Is your culture open and supportive of this way of being? There is a whole different article on that alone waiting to be written; but for now we will stick with who we are as leaders and what we can be doing.
Enabling vulnerability means acknowledging and using your potency
As leaders this means that our role is to be thinking about how we create the opportunity for vulnerability to grow. And the solution evolves around psychological safety, which applies to all aspects of work life around the world.
Leaders have a certain potency that comes with their role that can be overlooked. That is, our ability to create a safe place where people feel ok to bring ‘who’ they are into the role and the workplace. I remember when I started my working life, this was an optional and largely unknown aspect of leadership, and if you had a leader who did this then you really had landed on your feet! Today is different. We know more about human development and motivation, and the links between performance, culture, engagement and happiness at work. We also know more about the role that we play as leaders in making it ok for our people to bring as much of themselves to work as possible, and not just a persona shackled by a strong defensive boundary.
How do we make it ok? It’s simple to understand in one respect and at the same time, depending on our own frame of reference, can be difficult to do. We lead by example in making the environment inclusive and non-judgemental. We give people time to colour their role with ‘who’ they are, and we don’t enforce a time limit on the development of trust and engagement. In fact, by expecting that trust or engagement should be occurring by a certain time could be saying more about our personal needs as a leader than it does about the people we are leading.
Unconditional Leadership - The key to vulnerability
Really, the key to this is about being unconditional in your style. Accepting that as a leader you may be creating the opportunity for rapport to build, but it may not be reciprocated, or it could take time before others start to relax and share. Others may be ready for it and it happens quickly and naturally.
But being unconditional in your style is a central pillar to building a psychologically safe and enjoyable place to work. It's easy to understand...not necessarily easy to do...but highly rewarding. For everyone.
In the western world we never believe we ever have enough time; we squeeze as much into our day as possible, we want to get to work, maybe grab a coffee and just get on with things. Yes, there are of course those who are cultural outliers and have a more longer-term relationship with time and a more relaxed approach to how things are done (because there is plenty of time!), but for most of us it’s about just getting on with the task at hand.
Which happens to be one of the biggest detractors from building healthy and engaging relationships at work!
To build engagement amongst peers, or between the leader and their team you need to know ‘who’ you are working with. To know ‘who’ you are working with takes time and effort…the time to build rapport and a depth of safety in the relationship that makes it easier to really relax with each other.
Let’s face it, we don’t drop our personal boundaries and defence mechanisms and let just anyone in; nor do we naturally do it quickly. So when we come to work and just get on with things we are preventing the development of rapport and resilience in our relationships.
If you are a leader, then this is one of the most effective and simplest things you can be doing to develop more engaging relationships in your team. Simply put:
If you’d like to know more about the ways in which you can build a more engaging leadership style, view our Engaging Leadership resources, or enquire about our Lead2Engage program.
I’ve just finished watching a short documentary on the making of the Brian Wilson album 'No Pier Pressure'. Anyone who knows me even moderately well will know my deep connection with his music from the time of the Beach Boys through until today. His eclectic style and ability to continuously learn and produce outstanding music is simply amazing.
What stood out for me most though is listening to the much younger artists he brought in for this album talk about their experience in working with him on this album.
All of them, Kasey Musgraves, Nate Reuss, Sebu, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward – a new generation of performers, all established in their own right, describing what it means to be engaged in the creative relationship with Brian Wilson. And all of them spoke about Brian’s desire for getting things right. Really right. Perfect even? And at the same time they spoke about Brian learning as he understood their voices, and folded that into his style to allow for a co-creation and perhaps an output that was better than what he originally had in mind from a production perspective. One of them also spoke of how Brian draws in the best musicians because he can get them to lift more than they normally would.
Then it hit me. What I was watching was a masterclass in engaging leadership.
He certainly has his ideas for how something should be, and the creative process is a high-risk environment. The risk being that your creativity can be trashed at the whim of the consumer and critics.
And leadership is no different.
Really good leadership is often about having an idea about where you are going and articulating that. At the same time it is about listening to your team and those around you, and being prepared to fold in their ideas to make the journey and outcome more effective than it was going to be. But where’s the risk in that? Well, anytime you are prepared to create a strategy, a plan for the future, a blue-print for a new product or service; you are putting your creative self out there for criticism. Show me anyone who has done this and I’ll bet that they can list at least one person who criticised what they proposed.
Beyond this, all of the younger musicians spoke about being inspired and lifted despite his drive for perfection. In fact, I would say a big part of the inspiration was because of his famous drive for perfection…for wanting to get things just right. How often do we hear the message that there is no such thing as perfection; and that’s true when it comes to ‘us’. As humans, we are only perfect whilst ever we are growing, developing, learning and seeking to do things better than we may have done it before. That is what I saw in that documentary; both from the actions of Brian Wilson and in the reflections of the younger artists.
I am a believer that an important part of leadership is not being prepared to settle for second-best; firstly in myself, and therefore in others. This also implies a wonderful thing. It means we believe that even when we do and celebrate great work, we also believe that the team can still lift some more. It means that when things don’t work out so well, we believe that our team can learn, grow and give it another go. That is a wonderful and inspiring belief to have as a leader. Belief in self and belief in others.
The minute we stop believing this, I think we start to reduce our impact as leaders; we commence the gradual erosion of engagement. So perhaps Brian Wilson brings something to the table when it comes to learning about engaging leadership? Perhaps a motto for being an engaging leader (and for life in general) can be found in the words of Brian Wilson...
"Beware the lollipop of mediocrity…lick it once and you’ll suck forever!”
When it comes to fostering engagement, the role of a leader is central, and for leaders themselves, it can seem quite overwhelming. We know that the level of engagement is the result of a number of factors, two of which are leader-critical. They are the ability of your leaders to understand and articulate your:
Let’s explore these ideas in brief.
Whether you are a first time supervisor or a seasoned leader, your ability to make sense of where the company is headed and wrap your head around the strategy and objectives as they relate to your level of leadership is a pivotal activity when it comes to building engagement in your teams. The reason for this is simple. People like to know where they are going and what they are investing their energy in. Sure, there are some people who are just happy to turn up each day, do what they have to do and then go home. But for a majority of your people, they like to know why they are turning up each day and just how their role is contributing to the achievement of the bigger picture. Part of this is psychological, as we all have deep hungers for being informed and acknowledged. At its very core, sharing what you know of how your team’s objectives contribute to the function or company strategy will feed those hungers and prevent your people from making their own sense of where the ship is headed. So, if you know where the ship is headed, share it.
This one can seem a bit harder than sharing on direction as culture can seem like such a big and impermeable beast. But the reality is that as leaders we are custodians and champions of our organisations culture. If you’ve not gone down the path of capturing and optimising your organisational culture, you can still nail this one. What are the company values? These are usually derived from processes that distil what we believe are the important ways to think and act around here. If you don’t have clearly stated values, what is the vision? This is another way of getting in touch with the culture of an organisation. It’s certainly not the whole picture, especially if you find yourself in a situation where the stated vision or values are not demonstrated by the leadership of the business. Between your vision and values, you have some important guide posts for ‘how’ you should be leading. Whether they be values such as ‘passion’, ‘entrepreneurial’ or ‘customer-focused’, find a way to bring these to life in the way you lead. Talk with your team about what they mean for how your team does what it does on a daily basis. From first time manager to experienced leader…this one can be easy to do as well. From a psychological standpoint, by having this conversation your people feel involved in the business. And when you walk the talk, and carry out your role in the spirit of the vision or values you let your people see what good looks like. Some people need to see it to make sense of it whilst others will just get it.
These are a couple of small actions that any leader can deploy that will start to have a positive impact on engagement. Seriously, they are not time-consuming nor do they need to suck energy…rather they will most likely generate energy…and we know that when we feel energised we also start to feel engaged.
Having a sense of purpose is central to effective employee engagement, and there are three dimensions to this, that if understood, can contribute effectively to organisational engagement strategies. I call these dimensions:
Below is a short descriptor of each type of Purpose.
Intrinsic Sense of Purpose
This is really about those fundamental questions like; Who am I? or What are my values? We may never fully know the answers to these types of questions, but for most people there tends to be a sense of what the answers are, especially on the values side of things. I like to think of this as being our internal compass and life vest all rolled into one. It gives us direction, and in those times when the direction isn’t clear, or we lose our way, our values can act as our life vest to keep us afloat until we regain traction. If we are unable to access, develop or acknowledge our Intrinsic Sense of Purpose, we aren’t in the best position to optimise our Extrinsic Sense of Purpose.
Extrinsic Sense of Purpose
This is the part of us that the rest of the world can see when seeking to fulfil our Intrinsic Sense of Purpose, whether it be in our career, our personal activities or the way we engage with family and friends. Ideally, in a professional context, we would like to think that what we do for a living is an extension of ‘who’ we are and the reality is that this is true for all of us, no matter what our country or culture. In Asian and Middle East cultures, for example, our work team really is an extension of our family on many levels with individual purpose being reinforced through acceptance of, and belonging to, the group. This of course relies on knowing ‘who’ our colleagues are and what they stand for and is as important, if not more important, than knowing ‘what’ we are here to do. Whilst in cultures, like that found in Anglo countries, there is a continuous need for organisations to understand and express its Intrinsic Sense of Purpose in an effort to attract and retain employees by demonstrating that what it stands for is good for the Intrinsic needs of the people it hopes to attract and for those who already work there.
So our Extrinsic Sense of Purpose serves the purpose of being fulfilling on a practical level (I enjoy what I do) and reinforcing our Intrinsic Sense of Purpose (I enjoy how I do what I do and why I do what I do).
Adapted Sense of Purpose
This is an interesting place to be as there are times when our Intrinsic and Extrinsic senses of Purpose aren’t in alignment. This can be when we aren’t sure of ‘who’ we are but we are finding ways to sustain ourselves externally with the hope that this will provide clarity on who we are. This can be caused by a major life event which creates the need to re-evaluate who we are, and can sometimes seem like it’s always a work in progress.
There are also those times when we are sure of who we are, but our Extrinsic activities are out of alignment. For example, when we are starting out in our career, there is sometimes the need to take what we can get to build up experience. There are also those times when we are caught up in a restructure or major organisational change; and then there is the more stark situation that comes with expats moving from one country to another. In all of these situations we are required to adapt temporarily until we can find that common ground, or reconcile between who we are and where we find ourselves.
The Challenge and the Opportunity
It is in the Adapted space that we can lose people…no matter the circumstance. It is in this adapted space that we see the largest turnover of expats during the assignment and upon return due to culture shock, reverse culture shock and a lack of planning to support effective return of the expat. In change management, we lose people because the change plan didn’t take into consideration how people will feel, react or perceive the change. In restructures, it is more obvious because who we can often be wrapped up in what we do.
This challenge also represents the greatest opportunity for both the individual and the organisation. It is in the Adapted space when there is the greatest opportunity for personal and professional growth.
If you are able to identify those moments in your organisation when at either an individual, team or functional level, there is likely to be gap between the Intrinsic Sense of Purpose and the Extrinsic Sense of Purpose, that’s where the work is to be done. That’s precisely the place where concerns are planned for, fears are addressed, excitement is harnessed and progress can be created.
We often miss this piece as we are focussed mainly on the external factors, for example, what I want you to be doing compared to what you are doing today. And our change plan supports this in a structured and behaviourally focussed way.
However, if we are prepared to explore the space between who our people are (and therefore the reason why they likely joined your organisation) and what we are asking them to do differently, (and therefore the intrinsic impact this will have on them), we are in a better position to drive genuine engagement.
Author: David Morley
David is developer of global-minded leaders, teams and businesses.