Lead with What Matters: 5 Steps to Actively Engage Your Team
by Jean Marie Johnson
Gallup’s 2018 poll revealed that employee engagement is on the rise in the U.S. That’s worth celebrating because employee engagement measures how enthusiastic and motivated people are about their work and reveals how connected they are to the vision and goals of their organization.
Work Matters Deeply to Us
Service leaders know that engaged employees are the heartbeat of a great service culture, translating into measurably better customer engagement, productivity, retention, and profitability.
Enthusiasm, motivation and connection are the fuel behind discretionary effort and exceptional service experiences. The work that people do matters to them on a deep level. Professor Barry Schwartz, in Why We Work explains: “When you ask people who are fulfilled by their work why they do the work they do, money almost never comes up…. Satisfied workers are engaged by their work… have a measure of autonomy and discretion in their work, and they use that autonomy and discretion to achieve a level of mastery or expertise. They learn new things, developing both as workers and as people. And…satisfied workers are satisfied because they find what they do meaningful. Their work may make a difference to the world. It may make other people’s lives better.”
Every service interaction has the potential to make a customer’s life better in some way. Here’s how you can guide and nurture your service team to high levels of engagement and ownership that benefit them, your customers, and your company.
Five Steps that Build Engagement and Ownership
1.) Co-Create – Request employee involvement
Think in terms of your service vision and your barriers. When you craft your service vision together, you cultivate pride, commitment, and focused energy. Employees often leave service vision sessions so pumped up that one leader asked: “What did you do to them?” It wasn’t me. It was the co-creation. Already have a vision? Hold a vision refresher. Go back and see if it still compels your team to do their best. You also co-create when you explore how to break down barriers to great service. When employees have a voice in addressing what is in the way of reaching their goals, you reinforce buy-in while generating solutions and increasing employee engagement.
2.) Make it Theirs – Include their contributions
Ownership is akin to a fire in the belly, a deep sense of responsibility for a result or outcome. If you think your team may not want all that ‘ownership,’ invite them in as true partners in achieving service excellence. With your vision, goals, and measures in place, ask “How do we do this?” Then, keep asking, listening, drawing out. On that note, see the article Four Sure-fire Ways to Better Listening for concrete tips that work! The wealth of ideas you hear, and the enthusiasm you perceive will be nothing short of priceless. It’s not a once-and-done. Be consistent in your actions so that your team makes the service experience something they own. We had one client who got the entire service culture buzzing around the word “revolutionize” because they were in Boston. It created a unique sense of ownership in their employees by making it local and part of their contribution. Everyone got engaged and measurably “revolutionized” the quality of service they contributed.
3.) Create a Sense of Belonging – Invite them in with clarity of purpose
Ciara Trinidad, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Blend, a consumer lending company, observed: “When you build a culture where people can be their authentic selves, they’re going to bring their best work, their best ideas and their best people to your company.” Build from that foundation by referencing what makes them and their ideas unique. “Todd, with your food service background, what did you learn that might help us here?” “Brenda, can you share that awesome story about how your customer made you cry?” I don’t know what your questions should be, but you do. Think about helping your team to feel that they are creating great service - individually and together.
4.) Align, Align, Align – Contribute professional consistency
When we understand our part in something that is bigger than us, our understanding creates ownership. Then, when we expend our time, skills, and emotional energy on serving others, we know why we are doing so and why it matters. A key responsibility as a service leader is to ensure that each individual on your team understands how their skills, strengths, and specific work output contribute to fulfilling your vision and achieving your shared service goals. Don’t assume that they already know. Be clear, repeat yourself, and update what you convey to keep your team aligned, head and heart. Make sure your team understands just how much they matter to your shared success.
5.) Empower – Share the wins with them
Leaders say their team is empowered and employees say “Really?” You empower effectively when you set clear expectations, agree upon goals, and ask your employees what they need from you to reach them. Let your team know that you are always available to help them or to listen if they want to run something by you. Also, by posting results, customer survey data and customer compliment notes from email or recordings, you show them the effect of their work, how it matters. When you empower in these ways, you respect the autonomy, intelligence, and commitment of your team.
*Gallup findings are based on a random sample of 30,628 full- and part-time U.S. employees working for an employer from January to June 2018.
Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives. And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage.