The Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Engagement (and Motivation)

A “Winning Business” is built by having talented, well-trained and engaged employees. To that end, multi-billion dollar industries exist to help companies find the right talent and to teach, train, coach, and develop employees and managers.

Unfortunately, less time and money is spent ensuring that these same employees are engaged and give their best day in and day out. In a recent study by TowersWatson, an international HR consulting firm, fewer than 21% of employees surveyed described themselves as highly engaged, down from 31% in 2009.

Would having only one-fifth of your employees highly engaged be a hallmark of a Winning Business?

As an overview, employee engagement derives from three different factors:

  1. Alignment of the employee with the goals and vision of the company
  2. Faith of the employee in the competence of management and their commitment to realize the goals and vision
  3. Trust in their direct supervisor that he or she will support his or her people and help them to succeed

While many companies do a poor job of aligning their employees with a clearly stated and well-communicated vision and a few companies have incompetent and uncommitted management, the overall cause of employee dissatisfaction and lack of engagement rests with the inappropriate behaviors and actions of employees’ direct supervisors.

It has often been said that employees rarely quit companies. Instead, employees quit their managers or supervisors by leaving the company. Mark Herbert, a consultant focused on engagement, says: “engagement lives and dies on the front line of your business.”

Increasing positive managerial behavior and reducing negative managerial behavior will go a long way towards improving employee engagement. When your talented employees are engaged, they are able to perform spectacularly and build and improve your winning business.

Here, I offer a short list of Do’s and Don’ts to get managers and supervisors started in figuring out ways to improve engagement (and to be better managers).

The list is not exhaustive. I welcome additional thoughts and ideas from you.

  1. Don’t
    1. Don’t Get Angry
      1. “Getting angry is easy. Anyone can do that. But getting angry in the right way in the right amount at the right time, now that is hard.” Mark Twain
      2. As one who has tried to use anger to make a point and failed, please trust me that what Mark Twain says is true; anger does not belong in your managerial kit bag.
    2. Don’t be cold, distant, rude, unfriendly
      1. Especially in difficult times, employees take cues from their immediate supervisors and need to hear from them.
      2. Remember that as a manager, you are “on a stage.” As such, your team will judge you by your action, moods, and behaviors, not by your intent
    3. Don’t send mixed messages to your employees so that they never know where you stand
      1. Keep your message simple and focused and prioritized on the most important things
      2. Too many messages, too many initiatives, too many programs just confuse and alienate people
    4. Don’t BS your team
      1. This includes saying things that you don’t believe in
      2. This includes hiding information and just plain lying
      3. By the time each of us is in our early 20’s, we have all developed very well-tuned BS detectors, especially with people in authority. Your employees may nod their heads and not tell you that it is BS (you are after all their boss), but they will definitely know it for what it is.
    5. Don’t act more concerned about your own welfare than anything else
      1. Your success will come through the success of your team which translates into the success of your business which will then translate into your success.
      2. “Self-serving detectors” are also very well-tuned in most employees.
    6. Don’t avoid taking responsibility for your actions
      1. You are the boss. As such, you are accountable and the buck stops with you.
      2. You are trying to develop accountability throughout your company. So, lead by example.
    7. Don’t jump to conclusions without checking your facts first
      1. A few years ago, I watched in horror as a colleague of mine approached an employee of his who had missed an important meeting that morning. The colleague was loaded for bear and started screaming at the employee (so much for “Don’t Get Angry”). After several minutes, the employee responded: “I apologize and should have contacted you. But, I just got back from the hospital as my mother has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.”


  2. Do
    1. Do what you say you are going to do when you are going to do it
      1. There is no better way to communicate the message that you are accountable for your promises and that everyone in your company should be accountable as well
      2. As a leader, the key to developing trust and showing your integrity is to make and keep promises.
    2. Be responsive (return phone calls, E-Mails)
      1. As a manager, your team can be considered to be your customer. You want your sales team to punctually respond back to customer requests, so you should do the same.
      2. Further, by being responsive you avoid becoming the bottleneck and preventing your team from getting their job done.
    3. Publicly support your people
      1. Your disagreements and disappointment with your employees can be communicated later and in private
      2. Nothing appears so hollow as your attempt to blame your team for failures
    4. Admit your mistakes and take the blame for failures
    5. Recognize your team
      1. “You can never underestimate the power of simple recognition for a job well done.”
    6. Ask and Listen
      1. “The manager of the future will know how to ask rather than how to tell.” Peter Drucker
      2. Some of the most dangerous words for a manager to ever say include:
        1. “But, you just don’t understand…”
        2. “Because I said so…”
    7. Smile and laugh
      1. Have some fun.
        1. But, be genuine; programmed fun and faked laughter is worse than doing nothing.
      2. When appropriate, laugh at yourself; it will humanize you


  3. Summary

Employee engagement is a pre-requisite for a winning business. By addressing the actions and behaviors or the managers and supervisors throughout your organization, business leaders can go a long way to enhancing the dedication, commitment, and engagement of their most important asset: their good people.

Until Next Time.


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Perform / Execution, Team / People and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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