Five Meaningful Ways to Keep Your Team Engaged

Posted 01.25.2022

There are lots of reasons for what’s come to be known as the Great Resignation or, lately, the Great Reassessment. From what I’m seeing and hearing, most of those reasons can be summed up with two questions:

  • Do I matter?
  • Does what I do matter?

Both of those questions really turn on whether or not people feel engaged with their work in meaningful ways. If you’re a leader who needs to attract and retain great talent, you have a huge stake in your team members answering, “Yes,” to both of those questions.

There are lots of ways to encourage that, but here are five basic ones that should be on every leader’s rinse and repeat list for providing their teams with a sense of meaning and engagement:

Communicate – This one covers a broad landscape, so let me narrow it to an actionable focal point – practice the Four P’s. Developed by the late William Bridges, the Four P’s is a tried-and-true framework for describing what matters and how your people make it happen. The first P is for Purpose – what are we here to do and why does it matter? The second P is for Picture – what does it look like when we’re fulfilling our purpose? The third P is for Plan – what’s the plan that will create the picture that fulfills our purpose? And, the fourth P is for Part to Play – what’s your part in the plan that creates the picture that fulfills our purpose? The Four P’s is the simplest and most effective communications framework I know to help people see how what they do matters and is making a meaningful difference.

Delegate – You may be thinking, “Delegate? My people are already overloaded!” Yes, they may be, but take a look at what they’re overloaded with. Is it high value-added, meaningful work that clearly contributes to the Purpose and the Picture of what success looks like? Or is it the same old, same old that bores them to tears and makes them ask “What am I even doing here?” If it’s the latter, help them clear the decks and then delegate some of the meaningful work on your list that would be interesting and developmental for them. The added benefit is that doing so will free you up to do the higher value-added stuff that only you can do given the leadership role that you’re in. For a checklist on effective delegation, check out my TRACK™ framework.

Coach – One of the ideas that we used to talk about a lot when I was on the faculty of Georgetown’s leadership coaching program is that great coaches coach the person not the problem. Great leaders do too. When you coach your team members, focus more on the questions that help them grow their capabilities and insights and less on providing the answer to whatever problem they’re trying to solve at the moment. When you think about the best leaders you’ve worked with in your career, they’re likely the ones that coached you in ways that made you a better professional and maybe even a better person. I offer some of my favorite coaching questions and tips in this post on how to coach the person and not the problem.

Develop – I often hear team members speaking appreciatively about how their leader “has their back.” That’s awesome for sure, but I think the leaders who really engage their teams don’t just have their backs, they have their fronts. By that I mean that they’re looking ahead on behalf of their team members to identify assignments, projects, presentations, meetings and other opportunities that will contribute to their career development. The great ones have regular and intentional conversations with their team members about the goals they have for themselves and then align the opportunities with those goals. The very best leaders are known as stellar talent developers who create the kinds of opportunities that build careers and change lives. Needless to say, they’re also the leaders who, having that kind of reputation, attract and retain great talent in the first place.

Connect – I’ve written a lot over the past couple of years about the difference between transactional engagement and transformational engagement. The first is about content and getting stuff done. The second is about connection and learning more. Work requires the first. Humans need the second. To be meaningful, connection needs to be not just a means to an end, but an end in itself. Sure, it’s important to connect with your people as people if you want to keep them engaged, but the best reason to connect is simply because you’re all people who want and need it. This post I wrote about a year ago offers three ways to up your level of connection including a list of fun and interesting questions you can ask to help everyone on your team connect with and learn more about each other as human beings and not just human doings.

So, there you have it – five ways to help your team members come up with positive answers to those two questions I asked at the outset – Do I matter and does the work I do matter?

What else helps in keeping your team engaged? If you’re reading this through LinkedIn, please share your ideas and experience in a comment. If you’re reading this directly on the Eblin Group blog, please send me a note.

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