Engaged Team Members

Engaged Team Members

In the book The 8th Habit, Stephen R. Covey cites a Harris Interactive poll surveying 23,000 US employees about their engagement with their companies’ goals and priorities. The following are some of the survey highlights:

  • 37% of employees said they did not have a clear understanding of what their organization was trying to achieve and why.
  • 1 in 5 felt enthusiastic about the organization’s goals.*
  • 1 in 5 clearly understood his or her responsibilities and the organization’s goals.*
  • 15% felt their organization fully allowed them to execute key goals.

To illustrate how concerning these statistics are, if the two “*” points applied to a basketball team, which has 5 players on the court, it would mean only 1 of the 5 would actually care if the team won or lost, and only 1 of the 5 players would actually know what he or she is supposed to be doing. This means 4 of the team members would be jogging or walking around the court aimlessly. Can you imagine watching such a game?  Can you imagine the team taking the court and 4 of the players discussing with each other, “Which end is our basket?  Do I play Center or Guard?” And then concluding, “Who cares!”?

While The 8th Habit was published in 2005, this is still an issue in Corporate America, and you likely have team members who are not fully engaged, who don’t understand your organization’s goals and who aren’t sure how his or her role supports that overall mission.

What can you do to ensure your team is different?  Spend time with them in coaching sessions. Give them some performance feedback and listen to their opinions. Here are 4 suggestions to help you start.

  1. Keep it simple. Ask to meet the team member for 45 minutes, and explain the purpose of the meeting is to help him or her develop. Ask them to be prepared to share with you what they’re currently working on, what is going well, challenges, and how you can help. Stay curious throughout the conversation and continue to ask questions, listen, take notes and recap what you learned at the end. You can then set goals you can both work on until the next meeting, as well as set the agenda and date for the next session.
  2. Frequency. Most leaders meet with individual team members once a year for performance evaluations. Annual sessions end up being focused only on opportunities for improvement, compensation, and future promotions. On the other hand, monthly sessions allow you and the individual to identify goals, opportunities for growth and performance progression more regularly. This means the team member always knows where he or she is in her performance progression and is never guessing about what you think of him or her.
  3. Focus on performance and the future. It is easy to get off track in these sessions. They can become employee complaint sessions, mired in some past problem or focused on compensation. These all take away from the purpose of developing the team member, aligning goals, and improving performance. Compensation and listening to complaints are important, but they should be done in a separate specific scheduled session.
  4. Keep the individual involved. In First Break All the Rules, authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argue, “In many companies, ‘performance appraisal’ is something that happens to an employee.” Individuals show up to the session ready to listen, but not much else. It shouldn’t be this way. The individual team member needs to be actively involved and help manage these sessions. Have the team member be responsible for keeping track of performance, accomplishments, lessons learned, and skills developed. Make it a requirement for the employee to be ready to discuss these as well as their progress during each session. By keeping the team member involved, you will eventually find that he or she leads the session discussing future goals, what he or she wants to learn, and opportunities for improvement. You serve more as a coach and guide.

Make individual coaching and people development a priority. It may be hard at first, and you may not see immediate change. However, if you are patient and consistent, you will develop engaged team members and see a difference in both individual and team performance.