How engaged are the members of your team? Of the many “roles” you play as a Manager, where does “coaching”, “developing” and “engaging” sit as a priority?

Most managers I come across simply do not appreciate the true significance of their role. They get so caught up with chasing results and delivering outputs and applying their skills and meeting their personal needs (either to assuage their egos or deflect pressure on them) that they miss out on the key measures of their success as a leader – their ability to develop the self-esteem of their team members, and in the process create other leaders. This is the key to sustained high performance.

So what does create a highly-engaged workforce or project team? Are people solely motivated by salary, promotions, better working conditions, company policy, status etc.? A cross-cultural study conducted by Herzberg (HBR: “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?, 1987) indicates that whilst such “hygiene” factors are important to avoid staff “dissatisfaction”, they do nothing to create staff “satisfaction” or motivation. On the other hand, the stuff that motivate include “sense of achievement”, “recognition”, “growth”, “responsibility”, “the work itself” and “advancement”.

Dan Pink articulates this powerfully in his talk titled “The Surprising Science of Motivation” (the 20 minutes required to view his presentation is well worth it if you’re at all interested in this topic). He notes interestingly that “carrot-and-stick” (extrinsic) incentives at best works well for a very narrow band of activities and in most cases, have a detrimental impact to human performance! And that the three true motivators of high performance are Autonomy, Growth and Purpose.

To get the best out of your team, recognise that the most powerful motivators are “intrinsic”, not “extrinsic”. “Extrinsic” factors like financial reward, promotion, better working conditions etc. may push or pull your team member into “motion” but they don’t motivate andare never “sustainable”. True motivation needs to come from within – and goes beyond satisfying our lower level needs for “security” or “certainty” and instead satisfy our higher order needs of Growth, a sense of Achievement, and Purpose.

Patrick Lencioni, in his book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” provides three powerful and practical steps to help your team perform at their very best.

  1. Measurement – for your staff to perform at their very best, they need to be able to gauge their progress and contribution for themselves. Imagine playing a game of tennis and not knowing what the score was. People love to compete and win and are driven by a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Design, communicate and get agreement with each staff member meaningful and relevant measures to help both you and them know they’re succeeding. Such measures need to be something they know they directly have an ability to impact. Then regularly review this with them to celebrate wins and highlight areas of improvement.
  2. Relevance – your staff will give you the best when they know what they’re doing is Purposeful and makes a difference. Help them understand and emotionalise for themselves how important their role is and the difference they make, not just to the team’s outcomes but to the people whose livelihood and working enjoyment is impacted by their efforts and contributions!
  3. Appreciation– People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. Or if they feel like they’re just a number, anonymous or “generic”. Take time out to truly get to know your employees or project team members. Show a genuine desire to know about the “person within” – their hopes, aspirations, fears, and background. And to acknowledge the contribution they are making to the team.

Remember that Success is a Journey, not a Destination. At the end of your journey, how would you most like to be remembered as a manager? As someone who got the results, climbed the ranks and worked long hard hours or someone who helped shape lives, who made a difference and through whose efforts the organisation prospered and was a far better place to work in? Savour the Journey and be the very best you can be!