I write a lot of articles about employee engagement. Why it's important, what the benefits can be and how many companies can do much better given that on average only one in three employees are engaged.
Engagement ensures that you now have everyone pulling in the same direction which is really going to help you make progress in that direction.
The challenge I see with many companies is that it's often the direction that people are pulling in is not the right direction.
To create high-performance teams you need to have everyone pulling, not only the in the same direction, but also the right direction.
Often when I see disengaged teams, people are disengaged not just because they lack interest, but also because of the lack belief that the direction is the right direction.
I read an interesting statistic on project failure, "Fuzzy business objectives, out-of-sync stakeholders, and excessive rework" mean that 75% of project participants lack confidence that their projects will succeed.
People are not afraid of hard work they are afraid of failure, and when people lack confidence, this not only has the opportunity to become a self-fulfilling prophecy that will lead to failure, but it can also be the cause of their disengagement.
When we can get teams engaged, and increase their belief and confidence that they can be successful, not only are the pulling in the same direction and the right direction, but they will also pull much harder.
Here are four things that you can do to ensure that you have everyone pulling in the right direction, so that you not only increase the effect expended but that you also increase effectiveness which is crucial for achieving great results.
Ensure you have a clear picture of what success looks like and that it is communicated clearly and simply to your teams so that your teams know where they are going.
2 - Have a clear and simple plan for how you will achieve your goals. Complexity kills understanding, it kills execution, and it kills any chance of success.
Simple doesn't mean the same as easy, but people need to be able to understand clearly how the goal will be achieved.
When I ran my first marathon, two people joined me on the journey because they could see how by increasing the amount of time we ran by 5-10 minutes per week would lead to us being able to run for 4-5 hours in just 26 weeks. Which is what we needed to be able to do to complete the marathon. The plan didn't make the task any easier or shorten the distance we had to run, but it did create the belief that we could do it. And yes 26 weeks later, three nonrunners did complete their first marathon.
3 - Keep goals and targets to a minimum, ideally no more than three. Because when you give people too much to do at some point they need to make a choice, and now they could end up pulling in a lower priority direction. Too many goals and targets can lead to confusion which is just as bad as complexity.
At one company where I consulted, they had five departments, each of who had five goals each. Overall this meant that they were looking at achieving 25 goals. This confusion and complexity created overwhelm. The teams didn't know where to start or how things fit together. Initially, 13 strategy documents were created to explain how it all worked but this just compounded the situation.
During the first consulting session I asked them if we had just one goal for the company for the next two years what would it be.
In unison, the five department heads said that "we would be in the top 10 companies in our sector".
We wrote that goal down, and as we started to look at it in detail, we realized that the majority of the goals that they had would be achieved by this one big goal.
The difference was, now they had clarity, now they could prioritize their work, and they knew what needed to be done to achieve success.
Just changing to that one goal lifted the mood and optimism of the entire leadership team, which had a direct impact on the engagement of their teams.
4 - Just ask your teams if they think the initiative will succeed. This is such a simple question, but too many leaders shy away from it.
It's a great question because if there is a misunderstanding, it gives you a chance to clarify it. However, if the concerns are valid, it gives you a chance to address them early which then gives you a confident team.
When your teams are pulling in the right direction, and they can see how they can become successful, they become excited, and when you add that to engagement, it sets you on the path to becoming high performing organization.
So make sure your organization is pulling in the right direction!