Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Maintaining Employee Engagement in Difficult Times

I am struck by the number of amazing leaders I hear lately saying "there is nothing I can do to make things better for my team given the climate in which we work today."  Times are difficult, particularly in the federal sector where employees are facing furloughs, an increased workload, or both.  But how can you expect to maintain or increase employee engagement when you yourself are slowly disengaging either through burn-out or personal advancement disappointments?

Albert Einstein said, "Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means."

If you expect your team to weather the storm, you better be the first one in line with an umbrella and a raincoat.  Seriously.

When leaders say there is nothing that can be done, they convey that they have given up.  Why would an employee keep pushing forward when their leader has given up?

Does this mean that you should start pumping the soundtrack from the broadway musical Annie through the office?  Not at all.  But don't be playing Les Miserables either!

So take a moment each day to sit down and write down one thing you CAN do.  It doesn't have to be complex and it doesn't have to cost anything.  I'll even give you your first one - "I CAN ask my employees if they have any ideas on how we can operate more efficiently and avoid burn out going forward."  And then REALLY listen.  Don't start thinking before they even finish about why that idea will never work.  Ask questions like:

  • How would that work?
  • How would that affect other operations?
  • What else could we do?
Encourage the rest of the team to ask non-leading questions as well but enforce the one rule of not allowing anyone to say why something won't work.  Fight the urge to reply immediately, just take notes and promise to follow up with everyone by a certain point in time.  Find at least one thing in the list you can do and in the follow up announce what you are going to do as a result of the team recommendations and make sure everyone knows that you are open to receiving future suggestions as well.

What things are on your CAN DO list this week?