If you're wondering how to motivate your employees so they are performing at the highest level, the sweet spot for that to happen is found in their emotional commitment to the job.

This is important because when your employees are emotionally committed, they give discretionary effort. As a result, people will go above and beyond and they will do things that exceed expectations.

If you're in a leadership role, think about what that looks like in your respective companies, teams, and departments. How are you setting the stage for your employees to feel empowered, valued, and appreciated so they go the extra mile?

Let me offer you some guidance. The first step is to assess your own perception of how your employees feel. You can start with this simple self-diagnosis.

Your Employee Engagement Self-Assessment

This will only take 90 seconds. Answer each of the following questions or statements with a "yes" or "no." If you can check at least 10 with a "yes", you passed the engagement test and may be well on your way to helping to release discretionary effort across the organization.

  1. Do your employees believe that you want to hear their ideas and will value them?
  2. My employees understand how their daily work helps accomplish the organization's goals.
  3. My employees follow my requests and commands because they "want to," as opposed to because they "have to?"
  4. Do others communicate their ideas and vision for the organization when you are around?
  5. Do you frequently acknowledge and recognize each employee for his or her contribution -- in ways that matter most to each?
  6. Do people believe that you are committed to helping them develop and grow?
  7. Do people feel a strong sense of community in the organization that you lead?
  8. Do you regularly offer career path guidance to your people?
  9. My employees would say that they never receive any surprises during formal performance reviews.
  10. I help my employees understand how they can better serve the organization.
  11. At work, my employees have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.
  12. At work, people's opinions seem to count.
  13. In the last seven days, an employee has received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  14. You regularly talk to your people about their progress.
  15. I help build confidence in my employees by communicating how their work matters.

Forwarding the action.

So how did you do? If the "no's" dominated, be brave (and humble) enough to consider that the problem may start with you.

For further validation, pass these questions around to other leaders at different reporting levels to test out perceptions of problems in their own departments or across the enterprise.

Finally, if these questions confirm what you already know to be truth, it may be time to bring in a company like TinyPulse or OfficeVibe to conduct weekly pulse surveys of your workforce to improve leadership and the workplace. Tell them I sent you.

Closing thoughts.

Know that engaging your employees is not a top-down method used to manipulate them into performing a certain way so you get business results; it isn't a program or "corporate initiative" that you hope will drive productivity (they aren't cattle, they're people).

Effective engagement stems from a mindset of wanting to best meet the needs of each employee so they are equipped to succeed. In turn, they will give you their best work. This can only happen when mutual trust, respect, encouragement, and affirmation are clearly displayed along the way.