Stuff We're Reading
  • Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
    Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
    by Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
    Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
    by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics
    The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics
    by Michael Maslansky, Scott West, Gary DeMoss, David Saylor
  • The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
    The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
    by Gretchen Rubin

Engaging Employees Through Their Mind, Emotions & Bodies

Engage! Its a powerful word we use in the Human Resources and Talent Management work we do each day. Employees engaged at work are passionate about their jobs, committed to their organization’s success and will go above and beyond to meet expectations. This extra effort leads to increased productivity, creativity, loyalty and happiness for employees. And these outcomes are better for the organization’s customers and ultimately the bottom-line.

How do organizations engage individuals to get these outcomes? When coaching leaders, I focus on exploring their development needs from three perspectives – their mind, their body and their emotions. When all three are in sync, there is a much better chance of achieving the desired outcomes. Looking at employee engagement from these three perspectives is crucial.

A basic condition for engaging employees is to ensure individuals are in jobs well suited to their skills, knowledge and abilities and are provided with challenging work. Employees need to make decisions, solve problems and take on increasingly more difficult assignments. Employees need to know their career aspirations can be met over the long term at the organization.

When employee’s minds are engaged in challenging work, and the connection between the work and the organization’s strategic goals is clearly communicated, the employee will be more engaged. Effective hiring, onboarding, performance management and development programs can provide the elements needed to support this aspect of engagement.

Managers who consider the emotional angle can dramatically impact employee engagement. This is why so much time and effort is spent on management training and leadership development. We know a key driver of employees leaving a position (or organization) is an ineffective manager. How managers, at all levels of an organization, interact with their people on an ongoing and consistent basis will be the critical element of an employee’s engagement. Managers can dramatically increase employee engagement by demonstrating a set of behaviors that shows their commitment to an employee’s success and a sincere caring of them as individual.

This commitment is communicated to employees through words and actions representing respect, honor and trust. Respect, honor and trust are embodied in behaviors that connect managers emotionally with their employees and include 1) sharing gratitude and appreciation for work well done, 2) spending time and being fully present to listen, have dialogue, and provide positive and constructive feedback, 3) taking time to mentor, coach and teach, and 4) ensuring support and guidance can be counted on through good times and tough times. Leadership development programs need to teach these behaviors and organization’s need to hold leaders accountable by valuing and rewarding these behaviors.

Lastly, considering physical elements can create additional support for employee engagement. It is important to provide programs for employees to learn how to manage the ongoing stress of working and simultaneously managing responsibilities outside of work. Telling employees they can achieve work life balance isn’t being realistic, nor honest. A better message to send is that there will be ups and downs with the demands of work and life, and learning how to be organized and manage stress is critical over the span of a career. Teaching employees how to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing is critical to enable them to persevere.

Providing incentives and support through Wellness and Benefit programs can be effective but these are now expected by employees. Going beyond and offering training programs on meditation, organization and time management, and using technology to increase work efficiency can impact the levels of stress experienced. Other programs that address physical needs can include flexible schedules, work space design and ergonomics.

Solutions for increasing employee engagement are not fast and easy. Solutions that promote engaging employees holistically are the solutions we need to advance and advocate in our work. Only by engaging an individual’s mind, emotions and body will authentic and lasting employee engagement be achieved.

How do you engage employees holistically? 


Assessment: Discover Your Blind Spots, Increase Performance! 

Assessment is the process where one participates in a series of exercises to better understand their behaviors, interests, beliefs and values related to relationships, work, and life. The assessment process is one of discovering ones internal belief system and how they present those beliefs to others.  Parker Palmer wrote an article titled “Leading from Within.” The title indicates that to be a better leader in the world one needs to understand who they are and the role their belief system plays in how they lead and get things done. It is striking to me the number of leaders who are hungry to be better acquainted with themselves for the purpose of being better leaders. Individually we know a lot about ourselves, we really do, but we all have blind spots! 

When a leader spends time understanding their blind spots the better they will become at delivering on the expectations and initiatives that they are assigned. A leader who understands themselves executes their responsibilities better and as a result, run a more productive organization. This is the assumption that I propose to our client companies and the individuals they present for executive coaching and career transition.

The assessment process we use for coaching usually includes an assessment of the individual to understand their preferences. What work do they like to do? How do they prefer to do it? Individuals are better at work and activities that they like to do in addition to the fact they are better producers if they have the opportunity to do work the way that uses their strengths.

The next assessment we do is a 360 degree feedback survey. This instrument is presented by the leader to their direct reports, peers and boss. This often is a scary experience in that the leader does not know what all these raters will say. It takes leadership courage to go on a hunt for our own blind spots. What the leader participant learns is how others perceive them compared to how one sees themselves. It is in this seam that one can begin to see their blind spots. It is important to remember that a blind spot might be positive, as well as, a negative that we are not aware of in our behavior.

The assessments mentioned above tend to be objective instruments that have supporting research that establishes the validity and reliability of the tools. An additional assessment idea I want to offer is to encourage the leader to assess role expectations and progress on assigned initiatives with their supervisor. In the hustle and bustle of the work day, important conversations can go missing for a long period of time. I do not suggest micro managing direct reports or continually asking the boss, “what do you want me to do next?” However, I do think it is important to touch base and check expectations. One way of doing this is very simple. Do a simple 4 on 4 comparison. The 4 on 4 is where the leader checks in with their boss on aligning expectations. The boss writes down their 4 top expectations for what they want the direct report to do and the direct report writes down what they think the boss wants them to be working on in order of importance. The two parties should come to the meeting with their answers well thought out. The discussion that follows on the top expectations for the direct report and the order of importance will be eye opening. This is another great way to discover blind spots for the purpose of improving communication and quality of work.

Questions to ponder are….

What keeps me from looking at my blind spots?
In what ways would I be a better employee and leader if I was more aware of my blind spots?
What are the barriers to me assessing my blind spots?

How would you answer these questions? 


The Talent Management Imperative

Many companies today are investing in the talent they have. They have realized their investment in their current employees will pay benefits in the long run with increased retention, loyalty and commitment which all lead to higher levels of employee engagement. Let’s explore how we got to this point.

The baby boom generation began to hit retirement age in 2011. Over the course of the next 10-15 years, people will retire in numbers never seen before in the U.S. The generations that follow do not have the same sheer numbers as the baby boom generation. Even if demand for employees stays the same, the supply will inevitably go down. Increasingly, employers are becoming more sensitive to the cost of employee turnover (costs of having the position open, recruitment, and training a replacement, to name a few). They are finding, in many respects, it is much less costly to retain your employees versus replacing them, especially since we have transitioned to a knowledge-based economy.

In addition to the pressures of increased cost of employee turnover, recent employee surveys show many companies are struggling with the lack of employee engagement:

  • Lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the US economy $370B/yr. (Gallup)
  • 78% of engaged employees recommend their company’s products/services; 13% of disengagedemployees recommend their company’s products/services (Gallup)
  • 86% of engaged employees very often feel happy at work; 11% of disengaged employees very often feel happy at work (Gallup)

Companies are focusing on talent management to improve employee engagement and development. What is talent management? It is a relatively new discipline housing the roles of competency modeling, assessments, on-boarding, career management, retention strategies, succession planning, executive coaching, leadership development and coaching.

Companies that are focused on winning the war for talent will not only focus on a strong recruitment strategy but also on a comprehensive talent management strategy. Progressive companies are investing in their current employees through talent management strategies focused on increasing employee engagement and development. This is especially important to employees of Generations X and Y who, in general, are focused on “what can the company do for me and my personal growth?” So when employers are determining where to invest, there are many compelling reasons to invest in talent.

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Finding a Link Between Emotional Intelligence and Employee Engagement

Recently, I found myself asking the question, “Why is employee engagement not a priority for many companies?”

As business owners, we are often too busy working “in the business” instead of “on the business.” It is easy to focus on the day-to-day challenges and not look at the whole picture and why these challenges might be happening.

A current study by Dale Carnegie and MSW Research questioned a nationwide demonstrative sample of 1,500 employees across a wide range of industries and found only 29% of respondents to be fully engaged! That means that more than 70% of respondents are just putting in time, and working with a very insignificant amount of effort to accomplish minimal results.

Businesses lose millions if not billions of dollars yearly due to disengaged employees, presenteeism, and absenteeism, which often turns into lack of employee retention. This is not only a brain drain, but also a money drain for the company.

The study found employee engagement is often most affected by an employee’s relationship with his or her immediate supervisor. I believe this is not the only factor.

In my humble opinion, the bottom line is that the immediate supervisors and leaders are responsible for the engaged employee AND the disengaged employee. If the leadership style is triggering fear in people or causing frustration or anger, it will impede intellectual brain functioning and decrease productivity. In fact, it often leads to more mistakes and less intuitive problem solving. It has been said that people join organizations but leave their supervisors.

The other factor that affects employee engagement is the emotional intelligence (EI) of the leader, the employee and the company’s culture. Real engagement comes from the employee’s emotional connection with the company’s culture, the leader and with the work itself.

A company culture that creates trusting and respectful relationships practices emotional intelligence. EI will produce leaders and employees who are less combative and more approachable. They know and trust themselves, so they don’t need to demonstrate their individual power. Instead, they work as a team, with the success of the company as the core motivator. EI is all about the ability to connect with people on a personal level – understand what drives their people.

There are 5 aptitudes of Emotional Intelligence which are important in the workplace:

  1. Empathy: the ability to sense how others feel and connect at an emotional level
  2. Political Acumen & Social Skills: our adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others
  3. Self-Awareness: the ability to know one's internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions
  4. Self-Regulation: the ability to manage one's internal states, impulses, and resources
  5. Self-Expectations & Motivation: the emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals

Emotional intelligence, and these aptitudes, is learnable. Actively, consistently developing the skills of EI is a “must do” for today’s and tomorrow’s leaders and employees.

Employee engagement is an inside emotional intellectual job. It means employees must inspire themselves to become engaged by increasing their emotional intelligence; however it is up to the company leadership to learn EI themselves and create the environments where self-engagement is possible.


CEO's take onTalent Management

From our Global Partner:
As part of a recent book project, I’ve been doing some very interesting research lately. My chapter of the book examines the CEO’s point of view on the critical issues facing organizations.

Hats off to the many CEOs I spoke to. They are all passionate about talent management and make no mistake; they are clear about the connection between talent management, engagement and career management. They have important work for their leaders and managers to do and they are worried about having the bench strength and right skill sets to do it.

I asked all of the CEOs I spoke with for a piece of advice about talent management. Here’s what they had to say:

  • It’s a complex world. We all have to be economists. We need to understand financial models, how they impact the business in terms of growth and profitability, and the potential risks global economics pose for the business. 
  • We need to be evangelists of the culture. You’ve undoubtedly heard the famous Peter Drucker quote “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.”  What people believe and value shapes their behavior. Those behaviors are critical to executing strategy.
  • Workforce planning is a critical component of talent management. Knowing the critical positions that drive the business and predicting the talent needs of these critical positions assures the organization is developing its bench strength in all the right ways.
  • Strategic communications require a common language around important values, expected behaviors and leadership expectations. These communications are consistent, constant, clear, and assure the culture is reinforced regularly.
  • Employees have choices. Pay attention to more than survey results; pay attention to what makes an employee stay. 
  • Employee and leadership development is critical to the well-being and growth of businesses around the world. There are already gaps in recruiting critical technical roles, among others. Be innovative – find ways to engage older workers, collaborate with industry and community influencers to solve these shortages, and engage knowledge transfer experts to maintain the institutional knowledge you have.

In today's complex business world, more is expected of employees today than ever before. Developing your employees and leaders is an investment well worth making.

Of course, half way through this project it occurred to me that I was hearing from those that were passionate because they were the ones that agreed to participate in the project! All CEOs should be this passionate about talent management.