Leading an Engaged Organization

“Engagement doesn’t really matter in the workforce today”

That’s not a real quote. I’ve never heard a leader say that. But something doesn’t add up.

Gallup reports that only 30% of the U.S. workforce, and only 18% of the world’s workforce, is engaged
Gallup’s Employee Engagement Survey shows that only 30% of the U.S. workforce, and only 18% of the world’s workforce, is engaged. Leadership awareness has not led to any meaningful improvement in these numbers, as they’ve been flat for years. Gallup estimates a $300 billion cost to the U.S. economy due to disengagement, and the human costs are staggering to me. The large majority of working adults spend the large majority of their lives doing work that is emotionally draining, lifeless, and without real meaning.

Ugh. We can do better.

Fortunately, we have good research and encouraging case studies of what it takes to lead an engaged organization.

“Primed to Perform”, describe(s) the key factors [for engagement] as Play, Purpose, and Potential
Leaders create the condition of Purpose when they always “Start With Why” as Simon Sinek elegantly describes. Sharing the vision of the organization gives clarity for decision-making. However, without the next step, it is only marginally helpful.

Leaders create the conditions for Play or Autonomy when they grant all employees the freedom to act in accordance with the Vision. No permission needed, no approval, but complete responsibility for the outcomes that they create. These three conditions work to strengthen each other.

Finally, leaders create connection when they practice deep listening. The Coaches Training Institute describes three levels of listening.

  1. Internal Listening: where I’m actually paying most attention to my internal talk track, thinking how to respond, thinking of similar situations I’ve been in. The focus is me.
  2. Focused Listening: where I’m really locked into what the other person is saying, noticing when I drop to Level 1 and dismissing it, and refocusing on the other.
  3. Global Listening: where I’m tuned into body language, the emotion behind the words, and the surrounding environment as it impacts the message.

When we can stay at Level 2 or 3, our listening creates a profound impact on the person being listened to. In my Certified Agile Leadership workshops, we practice the different listening levels in pairs. In nearly every case, when we get to levels 2 and 3, several pairs are impacted deeply by the simple act of someone listening deeply to them without interruption or problem-solving intent. Simply being listened to by an empathetic witness caused things to shift for them and created strong, lasting connection.

Leading from a place of deep listening, being in tune with and always communicating from a vision-driven perspective, then granting freedom and responsibility to act in accordance with the vision creates a workplace where engagement is not just a platitude, but a living, breathing culture. These skills aren’t easy, but when practiced consistently, can help us flip those Gallup engagement numbers in our organization.

Share this information, and let’s create a snowball effect of engagement in the workplace. Imagine a world where the large majority of adults spend the large majority of their waking hours doing work that is engaging, meaningful and propels them to be better people at home–that’s the kind of thing that I get excited about. You too?

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Peter Green

Peter Green led a grass roots Agile transformation at Adobe from 2005 to 2015, starting with his own team, Adobe Audition. His influence includes the teams behind such software flagships as Photoshop, Acrobat, Flash, Dreamweaver and Premiere Pro, as well as dozens of internal IT and platform technology teams and groups like marketing and globalization. His work was a major factor enabling Adobe product teams to make critical business transition from perpetual desktop products to the subscription-based service, Creative Cloud. His hands-on Scrum and Agile training and coaching at all levels of the organization including executives, helped lay the groundwork to shift teams from two-year product cycles to frequent delivery of high-quality software and services. He is a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST), instructional designer, coach, facilitator, and a popular speaker at Tech, Agile, and Scrum conferences.

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