Employee Engagement: 9 Tips to Help Employees and Leaders Achieve More

By Timothy R. Clark

Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer conducted an interesting study that looked at what employees are thinking and feeling as they go about their work, and how leaders can use this information to help job performance.

Their research concluded:

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The most important managerial behaviors don’t involve giving people daily pats on the back or attempting to inject lighthearted fun into the workplace. Rather, they involve two fundamental things: enabling people to move forward in their work, and treating them decently as human beings.”

Tips to help leaders enable employees

Leaders can have a big impact in helping others achieve by taking those principles to heart. Listed below are tips to help leaders do that very thing and enable their employees to achieve more.

  • Ask yourself the following questions about how your employees achieve:
    • Do I know the goals my employees are working on in their achieving cycles (personal and professional)?
    • What are the roadblocks getting in the way of their progress? What am I doing to remove those roadblocks?
    • Is there a clear connection between their professional work and the important work of the team? How can I strengthen that connection and help them understand it clearly?
    • Are they overloaded with minutiae or busywork? What can I do to eliminate this type of work?
    • Do I know how each employee is motivated? What actions can I take to enhance their motivation?
  • Set clear goals with employees. People make more progress when leaders are clear about the link between what they do and what matters to the organization. And successful teams are those that have clear goals, and where people know how their work affects those goals. Help your people gain lineof- sight visibility from their work to the team’s goals.
  • Help employees break projects, goals, and work assignments into small victories. Small victories tap into motivation. Achieving is fueled by making small amounts of progress, such as accomplishing a task or solving a problem. Help those that work with you jump into an achievement cycle and experience the benefi ts and rewards of moving through all five steps.
  • Teach people how to manage time and energy wisely. Coach employees to fully engage in the task at hand, focus on the important rather than the urgent, avoid distractions, and create balance and renewal in the achievement of the goal. Help them learn to say no to urgent requests or terrifi c ideas that aren’t aligned with the important work of the team.
  • Commit resources and remove roadblocks. Enable people to move forward in their work by committing appropriate resources, removing obstacles, helping them work across boundaries, and aligning processes, structure, and systems.
  • Help employees engage others. Encourage those you work with to reach out and engage others with similar goals. Remind them that goals can be created independently, but achieving them almost always requires help and support from others.
  • Identify specific motivators and adjust accordingly. Discuss with employees their extrinsic motivators, and identify opportunities and implications to bolster the achieving cycle. If they are motivated by recognition, identify ways to give meaningful praise, show approval for their work and team behaviors, or commend them for achievements along the way. Find ways to acknowledge them in front of their peers and express appreciation. If they are motivated by rewards, identify both economic and noneconomic rewards that you can give as a consequence of achievement.
  • Discuss achieving opportunities outside of work. Have conversations with employees about what they want to achieve in their careers and in their personal lives. Highly engaged individuals fi nd sources of motivation inside and outside of work. Talk about all aspects of achieving, knowing that the organization still benefi ts whether an employee becomes more engaged from working with an outside volunteer organization or from working on a project to solve one of your biggest customer complaints. Genuine interest and a little fl exibility on your part can go a long way toward increasing motivation, achievement, and ultimately engagement.
  • Adjust motivators over time. Stay connected with your employees. Remember that people’s motivations can, and often do, change over time. Have achieving conversations with employees regularly, preferably outside of the annual performance review process. Adjust as they adjust.

Excerpted from The Employee Engagement Mindset, by Timothy Clark. © 2012, McGraw-Hill Professional. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Timothy R. Clark is founding partner and CEO of TRClark . He is considered an international authority in the areas of leadership development and large-scale organizational change. He advises leaders and organizations around the world. A former two-time CEO, he writes the weekly column “On Leadership” for the Salt Lake City Deseret News. He' s also the author of the critically claimed book, "Epic Change: How to Lead Change in the Global Age." You can follow him on Twitter, or contact him directly at trclark@trclark.net..


4 Comments on “Employee Engagement: 9 Tips to Help Employees and Leaders Achieve More

  1. Timothy, nice reminder that driving engagement doesn’t require a lot of time or budget. I agree that “growth” is one of the major drivers of engagement and front-line managers can activate this with stay interviews that focus on the employee’s career goals and how to achieve them. Best,

    Kevin Kruse
    Author, Employee Engagement 2.0

  2. Great article.  You
    mentioned extrinsic motivators, but what about intrinsic motivators? 
    Based on research in the area of intrinsic research, AchieveGlobal believes leaders should
    focus on three internal needs to boost productivity:  competence,
    relatedness and autonomy.  Ultimately, good leaders understand that
    motivation lies internally with employees – not in rewards or punishments – and
    creates an environment that supports those three needs.

    1. As Daniel Pink in ‘Drive’ clearly illustrates.  The Carrot & Stick approach doesn’t (usually) work!

      What I really liked about the above was ‘What are the roadblocks getting in the way of their progress?’.

      These roadblocks can be quite simple things (such as policies and procedures) or wider behavioral situations.  Either way, for us in our experience, removing these roadblocks actually touches on a lot of the other areas.

      In terms of employee engagement – don’t make it difficult for your people to get their job done!!!

      Gary Cattermole
      Partner – The Survey Initiative

  3. Great reminders and tips. I agree with Sharon and Gary that the INTRINSIC motivators will trump the extrinsic motivators for most knowledge workers, as mentioned in Dan Pink’s and others’ work. That’s why you are so spot-on about the value of the sense of accomplishment and achievement. It is interesting to note that in his recent presentation at ASTD ICE 2012, Jim Loehr drew a distinction around ‘achievement’ of extrinsic vs. intrinsic values that shows that the former kind fails to engage in a meaningful and sustainable way while the latter creates a renewable source of motivation to succeed and fulfilment from the journey.

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