5 Things Great Leaders Do to Inspire Great Engagement

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Jun 17, 2016
This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.

Editor’s Note: It’s an annual tradition for TLNT to count down the most popular posts of the previous 12 months. We’re reposting each of the top 25 articles between now and January 2nd. This is No. 6 of 2016. You can find the complete list here.

In today’s disjointed world, most people say they feel disconnected and apathetic in regards to their jobs. With all the negative noise streaming in, people are often overwhelmed with demotivating and disturbing messages. These negative messages get in the way and distract people from thinking straight and staying focused at work.

Feeling a strong connection with the mission and vision of a company is one of the top global drivers of employee engagement. CEOs who are committed to strengthening employee engagement work hard to advance their ability and create buy-in.

Why do some leaders easily catalyze their teams toward new goals and achievements while others seem to struggle just to maintain the status quo?

One of the primary traits of a successful leader is the ability to inspire people around a purpose, a mission and a vision. Leaders who are most effective at this do these five things well:

1. Share and inspire a compelling mission

Great leaders regularly bring people closer to their purpose and the purpose of their work. If the vision for the organization is not inspiring — or is only to make a profit — it is pretty challenging to inspire others and get them to rally around it.

Employee engagement research states that for people to feel a connection with their work, they need to be able to envision themselves achieving purpose at work. An astute leader nurtures alignment among their workforce by linking the key performance indicators of each role in the organization to the overall key performance indicators and objectives of the business. When people are able to “connect the dots” from what they do each day to how it impacts the customer — and maybe even the world at large — they are much more engaged and concerned for what they do and how well they deliver it.

2. Institutionalize and perpetuate principles and values

Building guiding principles and core values into the culture is a very powerful way to institutionalize and perpetuate the right behaviors throughout the organization. Leaders who are serious about their core values and guiding principles discipline themselves and their organization to only hire people who are aligned with, and demonstrate those values and principles through the right on the job behavior. Behavioral and values-based interviewing is a key component of a values-driven organization’s hiring process. In these same types of companies, leadership development and succession planning programs are created and built on the foundation of the core values and guiding principles.

3. Clearly articulate expectations and outcomes

Organizational objectives and desired outcomes are best achieved when clearly articulated and repeated often. Business leaders often voice frustration because their message in its true intent is not reaching all the ranks. The reality is, most people need to hear things seven times before committing it to memory. Therefore role requirements, goals and objectives also need to be repeated frequently enough to ensure everyone involved knows the game plan and what success looks like.

Some leaders of larger organizations cascade their message to the workforce through their trusted and capable management team. Others design a communication strategy and deliver their message through a series of channels — individualized emails, the company intranet, daily from the desk of “CEO” thoughts, weekly CEO talks, or monthly town hall meetings and newsletters.

4. Foster excitement; celebrate forward momentum

Alignment happens when people are gathered together in service of a mission bigger than themselves. They are called forth by the purpose and the mission, and then measure their success by milestones and accomplishments along the way. A leader who celebrates forward movement, learns from failure, takes risks and works collaboratively to remove barriers and advance, is a leader who teaches his troops to keep their eye on the prize.

5. Build trust

One of the most important components necessary to nurture and grow workforce alignment is for the leader and all managers to have a strong relationship with their word. Trusting senior leaders and management is a critical driver of employee engagement. Integrity and open communication is one of the most crucial behaviors of highly effective leaders. People do not trust a leader who does not follow through on promises or has a reputation as someone who renegotiates agreements. Creating boundaries and agreements as well as honoring those agreements and boundaries is where the rubber meets the road with keeping one’s word.

Trust is not about being perfect and certainly not about keeping things static and steady. It is about clearly communicating when and why things need to change, and giving people advance notice of those changes and how they can best adapt.

In today’s shifting and highly competitive global talent marketplace companies and business leaders are searching for ways to reduce employee turnover, raise employee engagement and maximize returns on human capital investments. Building and fostering an aligned and purposeful workforce is a sure way to optimize, energize and retain your best people.

This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.