People are not all alike. We know this. So, creative employee engagement requires you to see your employees – really see them. And to learn what makes them tick.
A manager told me recently that he often sees people flouting company rules as he walks around the office. Uncertain about the best course of action he spoke to his boss about it. And he was advised to tell the employee’s manager so that they could handle it. This manager didn’t want to step on a colleague’s toes and I understand the sentiment. Nevertheless, when we don’t act immediately a few things happen:
The person’s manager hasn’t witnessed the offence. So, if they address it indirectly it will be obvious someone else has reported the behaviour. Then the focus shifts to ‘who the snitch’ might be and deflects away from the fact that their behaviour was inappropriate in the first place.
The moment has passed. Consequently, whomever provides feedback about the undesired behaviour will have less (if any) impact. Because a lot will have happened since they committed the offence and they may genuinely not remember. Moreover, they are unlikely to recall the exact circumstances of the event as you’ve heard them.
Seeing someone do something inappropriate without acting on that gives the wrong message. Now team members have witnessed a colleague break the rules and get away with it. And watching a manager walk past and do nothing about it tells them ‘that’s okay’. Now everyone will think it’s acceptable to exhibit that behaviour.
In addition, you’ve missed a valuable opportunity to get to know the employee better. And to understand their motives for ignoring company rules in the first place. As leaders we have a responsibility to help our people to help themselves. So they get what makes them tick.
Remember, leaders are not solely responsible for creative employee engagement. And neither is the wider organisation. Rather, each individual is accountable for their own level of engagement. And we should hold ourselves to a high standard.
Sometimes people need help with that. Hence the reason breaking out of bad habits is a challenge at the best of times. And it’s made worse when we’re working in an environment that perpetuates them.
Gone are the days when ‘walking the floor’ was the sole approach to spending time with employees. Now you need to watch and listen. And you need to engage in conversation (often). Also, you must implement the ideas of others as well as distributing the results.
In today’s world our people really can give us that competitive edge. And they can take it away if they choose to represent the company in an undesirable way. Consequently, you want to help people find their own motivation and understand where those drivers result in unwanted behaviour.
And on occasion you won’t be the best person to support a team member gain that self-insight. And you won’t be best placed to help them make the change. In situations like these you may require strong external support from someone who can challenge the behaviour with compassion for the individual. As a result the employee will gain a new level of understanding. And that means they can make agreed changes in line with company culture.