Gallup reports that employee engagement across the country actually increased--barely--to 32 percent, from 31.5 percent in 2014. But the reality remains: Nearly 70 percent of U.S. workers have been either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" since 2000.

Who's mostly to blame? You've heard this Top 40 hit before: People leave managers, not companies.

Gallup CEO Jim Clifton said it best:

The single biggest decision you make in your job--bigger than all the rest--is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits--nothing.

So if you find yourself in the precarious position of wondering, "where do I stand as a leader?" at some point along your journey, you must face the mirror and give yourself these five reality checks.

Reality Check No. 1: Leaders Need to Inspire Their Tribe to Motivate Themselves

In the traditional top-down leadership world, bosses at the top of the food chain will cast a vision, then use positional power and control to move people to carry out the vision.

In today's relationship and social economy, servant leaders will cast a company vision and enroll their followers to express their voice as co-creators and co-contributors to the vision.

Your first priority? Pump the fear out of the room and liberate your people to collaborate, innovate, and engage.

Reality Check No. 2: Leaders Know the Core Elements Needed to Attract and Keep the Most Talented Employees

So you inspired them. They feel empowered. They are ready to be rock stars. Now what?

As you develop culture and equip your tribe for battle, you want to measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep your most talented employees by asking yourself simple questions like:

  • Do my employees know what is expected of them at work?
  • Do my employees have the materials and equipment they need to do their work right?
  • At work, do my employees have the opportunity to do what they do best every day?
  • In the last seven days, have my top performers received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  • Do immediate managers, supervisors, or someone else at work seem to care about them as people?
  • Is there someone at work who encourages their development?

Reality Check No. 3: Leaders Need to Ask, "Does My Behavior Increase Trust?"

Let's face it, if you are considering elevating your leadership skills, trust is a pillar your leadership should stand on. While trust is a somewhat subjective concept, leadership trusting behaviors can be defined, measured, and improved upon.

In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey highlights leadership trusting behaviors that are culturally ingrained in the structures of some great companies known for high employee engagement. This is how their leadership teams and employees interact day-to-day. Among those trusted behaviors are:

  • Creating Transparency
  • Confronting Reality
  • Clarifying Expectations
  • Listening First

Reality Check No. 4: Leaders Need to Develop Self-Awareness to Know and Understand Themselves

Self-awareness is one of the most important capabilities for leaders to develop. And it is a learned trait.

And a self-aware leader is a resilient leader. Instead of self-defeated victim behaviors of "why me," self-aware leaders probe and ask ourselves questions like:

  • Why do the same issues keep coming up over and over in my business unit, marriage, life?
  • Why do I respond to situations with anger, fear, optimism, or withdrawal?
  • What makes me think, act, and feel the way I do? What makes me tick? What pushes my buttons?

Having a complete self-understanding gives you an edge. You can manage yourself and your emotions, identify opportunities for development, and make the most of your strengths.

Reality Check No. 5: Leaders Have to Be Willing to Listen to Constructive Feedback--Especially the Kind You Don't Want to Hear.

Many leaders don't want to listen to the ideas, opinions, and constructive feedback of others. They operate in an ego-system, not an ecosystem. Unfortunately, if you've ever worked with this type of leader, it can be exhausting.

A leader who listens well does so with active, not reactive, listening. This helps to filter any criticism and find the facts. Then you can respond appropriately, cutting out the drama.

And if you're still filtering through your emotions and can't shake off the urge to react, probe and ask questions, and keep asking them until you get clarification. This means you listen to understand, and you listen with a focus on the future.

As you assess these truths, what resonates with you? Leave a comment, or let's chat further.

Published on: Mar 1, 2016
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