It's 2017, so I need to ask you an honest question. Are your bosses leading or managing? There is a difference. And I hope all your managers are leading.

You see, leading at a high level, you will find, is what releases discretionary effort in workers. And when that happens, welcome to the most motivated workforce you've ever seen!

This type of motivation is hard to beat because it's intrinsic. So, if you'd like to avoid that quick downward spiral into the abyss of employee-engagement hell, the principles I'm about to share, once implemented and enforced, can set your year off in the right direction.

Here we go...

Employees want significant contributions.

Employees get excited when they can be involved in a purpose, pursuit or cause that has lasting impact. They must see, feel, and experience that their efforts have meaning and the time they're putting in is making a difference in the lives of their customers. Case in point: I wrote about research by Adam Grant, which reveals that when employers can attach meaning to their people's work, it leads to a competitive edge. One example cited by Grant: Give your employees access to customers so they can see firsthand the human impact their work makes.

Employees want goal alignment.

People are motivated at a higher level when they can align their work with their company's larger goals. It gives them ownership of what they create and helps them to support organizational causes with more purpose. And nothing creates better ownership than allowing employees to give and share input into common goals and values.

Employees want voice

As in giving your employees voice. What do I mean exactly? Allowing employees to speak up or even challenge the status quo if it means improving the organization. Research shows that when staff don't feel involved in the workplace, they tend to withdraw. In fact, the same research finds that managers respond positively to staff who use their voice in a way that supports the organization's policies, mission, and culture.

Employees want recognition.

Give your people credit for their contributions, shine the spotlight on them, and show them appreciation. In fact, Gallup research suggests leaders do it at least once per week. They found that employees who receive it on a regular basis increase their individual productivity, receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, and are more likely to stay with their organization.

Employees want clear expectations.

Employees are motivated by communicating and knowing, as a result of communication, as much information as possible in meeting a shared goal. And great leaders provide leadership by communicating consistently about where the bus is headed. A Gallup research study that I have mentioned before measured the top reasons employees are disengaged, leading to turnover. One of the top five reasons? Not having clear goals and expectations. Every manager should be asking the question: do my team members know what is expected of them?

Your Next Step

The first thing I tell my clients in leadership roles is to self-diagnose. Use this quick, 90-second assessment, to check whether you're on your way to engaging your employees at a high level. After taking it, and you find out that you're not, it gives you a great starting point on your journey toward growing your leadership.