Whether you are arranging your own life for success, or rallying the energy and enthusiasm of a team, it is important that you and your team are fully engaged in the process. According to Wikipedia, Engage means: 1. occupy or attract (someone's interest or attention). 2. Participate or become involved in and 3. (With reference to a part of a machine or engine) move into position so as to come into operation.
As a leader focused on achievement of a vision, you will require yourself and your team members to be interested in the vision, you will require them to participate or be involved in the active achievement of the vision by moving into an operational position that will make them fruitful. Engaging people is no easy task as approximately 77% of people are disengaged from their own lives and careers. Getting people interested and involved is the single hardest task for a leader that never stops. The six steps to Engaged Leadership is a looped process that will allow the leader to continually develop his or her own engagement and that of the team.
The Six Steps to engaged leadership include:
1. Evaluate: Functioning blind is of no benefit to any leader. Know where you have come from, know who you are and know where you want to go! These are the 3 K’s of successful evaluation. Evaluate yourself, your vision and the team. What should you evaluate?
a. Evaluate who you are: Know who you are, know your communication style, know your strengths and weaknesses, and know your values. Be able to identify when and how you need help. Being a leader doesn’t mean you must do all the work, it means that you know when to let go and recruit help. Leaders are learners, and part of that learning is discovering your own identity and abilities.
b. Evaluate your vision: Know your vision. Put it through its paces. Know it inside and out. This intimate knowledge will allow you to sell it to your team with passion and confidence. Few things get engagement like passion.
c. Evaluate your Mission. Are you going about achieving your vision in the right way? Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to mission and goals in order to smooth the path to success.
d. Evaluate your team members. Know who they are. Evaluate what they bring to the team. Know their strengths and weakness, communication style and values. Know how to inspire each person in your team.
Even though Evaluate is Step 1 in the process, it is important to evaluate frequently, all through the process, even in the middle of other steps. Effective evaluation will give you important insights and feedback about progress. Constantly evaluate if you and your teams efforts are still aligned to the vision. Few things destroy engagement like wasted effort.
2. Enlist: If you are working on your own engagement, you need to recruit your own abilities and efforts in order to achieve your desired goal. If you are working with a team, you will have to recruit team members, you will have to evoke their commitment to the cause. As a trainer and lecturer, a friend with many years of experience gets course participants and students to sign a Declaration of Commitment at the start of each course. He uses this Declaration to enlist people’s efforts and focus onto the course. When people are tired or without motivation and distracted, he reminds them of the Declaration of Commitment.
Commitment is the sense of responsibility that kicks in when the novelty of a new opportunity or the excitement disappears. Commitment says ‘I have bought into the process and will complete it no matter what the cost.’ My lecturer friend says he gets their buy-in to commitment at the start of the course when energy levels are still high, as it is impossible to get buy-in when energy is gone. He then simply reminds them of their commitment by getting them to look at it again. As a leader you want to enlist your own commitment and that of the team as soon as possible.
3. Equip: During the evaluation step, you will uncover weaknesses that need to be addressed. These weaknesses may be lack of skills needed to achieve the vision. It may be a lack of resources. The equipping phase is to make sure you, your team, have everything needed for a successful outcome. As the leader, it is your duty to ensure that all the resources required are provided. If you are engaging in your own life, equipping yourself is vital.
Knowledge, skills and abilities is an investment, whether you are gaining them for yourself, or imparting them to your team members. The greatest investment a leader can make is to equip team members or him/herlself. Here is a small list of universally required skills to train and equip yourself with:
a. Self Awareness
c. Collecting, Sorting, Analyzing and using Information
d. Working in a Team
e. Understand and use Science and Technology
f. Organising and Managing Oneself
g. Cultural and Aesthetic Awareness and Appreciation
h. Understanding the World as a set of related systems
4. Enthuse: Raise the energy levels. Get people excited about the vision. Your team needs to start as a group (See Group Vs Team), by sharing a common passion. Inspire people to achieve. Tickle their interest by expanding on the value of the interest. Elaborate on what is in it for them – what will they gain, how will they be rewarded at the end of the journey.
Inspiring people with no internal motivation is difficult. Connecting people to values shared with the leader or with the vision is easier. Use this intrinsic motivation generated by values to inspire and energise yourself or your team. Be aware, you want energy levels raised before the hard work begins, to help carry the team through difficult times.
5. Effort: Success is not easy and does not appear by chance. If this was the case, more people would be successful. Achieving goals and dreams takes work! There, I said the four-lettered word of success – WORK!
Have goals set to achieve that provide quick feedback on route to accomplishing the vision. Breaking the work up in smaller chunks allows opportunity for feedback and evaluation. You want to be sure you are on the right path. You are going to have to put the effort in. You will be required to make some sacrifices along the way. You may be required to put long hours in to achieve your dream. Surely the outcome is worth the effort?
Eliciting engagement is one of those draining and ever ending tasks a leader must carry out. However, when successfully carried out, engagement is the most rewarding task a leader can be involved in. Sure, you are fighting the odds considering so few people are engaged in their own lives, not to mention in their careers, but when the recipe works, and you as leader stand at the Reflection and Recognition party, knowing people have been equipped, people have connected with their potential, knowing people have achieved – it is all worth the effort. Engagement is the greatest effort, and the greatest reward of leadership.