Every leader wants their team to be successful. The good news is, it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to foster an environment where people are excited to come and crush it at work every day. It’s all about trust, maintaining good relationships and trying to keep people motivated and driving towards success.
Here are a few employee engagement ideas you can try out today.
1. Ask for a “dog and pony” show
Your team is dying to show you what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be a big presentation—simply ask them what they’re excited about this week. People love to do casual show-and-tells about challenges they’re grappling with, and the problems they’ve solved recently. They’ll be thrilled to have an audience. Be engaged, ask questions and serve as a sounding board if they are looking for input.
If someone isn’t excited about giving you a drive-by demo, then you might find that they are stuck—smart people often fail to ask for help, thinking it’s best if they go it alone and try to figure it out. There may be roadblocks tossed up by another group, or they may be struggling with a problem and they aren’t sure how to proceed (think “Penske File“). This is an easy opportunity to start a conversation about how you can clear the road, and help get them back on track. You might be frustrated if you discover someone was holding back and has been struggling and stuck for a while, but try to keep the engagement positive and use it as an opportunity to move forward. Deal with legitimate performance problems in a different setting.
2. Learn something new about a team member
This is essentially the opposite of the dog and pony. If you have a hard time connecting with someone professionally, you might find a personal approach works better (and vice versa). Find a team member and try to engage them about a non-work related topic. It sounds cliche, but for this to work, you have to be genuinely interested in what they have to say and resist the urge to attach anything work related to your conversation—because if you do that, then it’s just small talk while they wait for the “work” hammer.
You’ll find that you learn a lot about a really broad range of topics and interests. I know more about pinball machines, vintage license plates, airplanes, pontoon boats, firearms, RC cars, horses, golf, handcrafted wooden staircases, home brewed beer and owning a restaurant than I ever thought possible. Once, I bonded with a team member (and fellow gardener) over fingerling potato starts.
The point is, even more than a Dog and Pony, almost everyone will be willing to engage with you over a hobby that they love. If it is important to someone, they’ll want to share it with the world. The upside is that you’ll learn something new, and they’ll learn that you’re not just there to coax work out of them all day long—that you care and that you have interests and aspirations that go beyond the product too!
3. Get an opinion
Everyone on a team likes to think that they contribute to the greater good. And in fact, the best part about having a team is that there’s a larger pool of experience to draw upon. Don’t discount this—it’s valuable. Maybe not every team member has relevant input in every situation, but more often than not, a second (or third, or fourth) set of eyes on a problem can yield amazing results. So take a moment to ask someone on your team about a business problem that’s on your plate: “Here’s my situation. Any thoughts?”
This is a win-win approach. You might get an amazing insight, but the real win is that your team member feels empowered to give you an amazing insight. A huge amount of trust is the result. Even if you don’t use their suggestion, the action of asking for it and the consideration of it as a solution is enough to put most people in a very positive frame of mind. It might not have been the right idea to solve the problem at hand, but at least it was heard, and possibly squirreled away for future use.
4. When somebody does an amazing job, tell their manager
You don’t have to stop at encouraging just your team. Take this act to the whole organization!
If someone from another team has been a huge help to you, don’t tell that person how much you value them. Well, sure, tell them, but then take the next step: Seek out their manager and take a moment to tell them how fantastic that person has been with helping you or your team to be successful. This sincere praise reflects well on both the manager and the employee, and gives that manager the opportunity to have a really pleasant conversation with that employee—”Hey Lenny! Homer from the Safety Team stopped by to tell me that you’re doing great work! Keep it up!”
It only takes a minute, but it generates an immense amount of goodwill.
Take a few minutes to sincerely recognize a meaningful contribution, or to provide people with some level of personal interest. People who are part of something want to feel invested in it or feel that you are invested in them as a person. They want to feel like the team is benefiting from their presence—either through sharing their hard-won knowledge, or through a personal connection that can prove just as valuable. As a leader, if you can provide an avenue for either investment, you’ll find that people are more engaged, and more willing to engage, in ways that benefit everyone.