The Engaging Leader: How Do you Become One?

Nick Starritt

Managing Director, Europe, Middle East, & Africa

Isn’t it curious how peoples’ engagement varies inside an organisation? Why do some teams become evidently more committed and productive than others? The graph below shows the distribution of team engagement (how people feel, think and act towards the company), across 500 teams inside a very large FMCG corporation, as measured by a consistent set of questions. Remember – this is the same company, with the same policies and procedures; the same overarching business strategy and the same set of values.

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In some teams, engagement levels could hardly be higher: 90% saying they feel proud to work for this company; that they would recommend it to friends as a place to work and that they willingly commit discretionary effort to help it succeed. Yet other teams can barely muster half that level of enthusiasm and commitment. Why is that? Our research1 suggests that the biggest cause of the variance is down to a single source: the team’s manager. And let’s remember – multiple research studies have shown the strong and enduring relationship between engagement and how the organisation performs. So, building an engaged and committed workforce is the best way to drive organisational performance – and immediate managers have the biggest influence on employee engagement.

Most HR people understand this link. Many managers intuitively ‘get it’, too. So why do we hear that it’s so difficult to improve survey results? In part, the answer may lie in systemic issues which need to be fixed by senior management. For example, maybe decision making is slow because authority levels or risk assessment procedures are skewed inside a company. But we often find that individual managers lack an understanding of the effect their behaviour has on the team: they see the consequence via their survey results, but don’t know how to fix the issue.

If you take the case that exceptional performance is a function of exceptional leadership, then the job of each manager is to provide context, direction and guidance. They need to provide leadership which creates trust and sparks engagement. Knowing how to do these things requires several insights. You need to understand who you are, in terms of your own values and personality. Equally, you need to understand how you occur to your team, as a manager. And finally, you need to see the evidence for how engaged/disengaged that makes them feel, and how effective they are as a result. Over the past year, Sirota and Hogan Assessment have been studying the manager: team dynamic and have found a compelling pattern of correlations between manager personality and outcomes like team turnover (via analysis of voluntary exit data.)

From that initial research, the two companies joined forces to produce a unique instrument: The Engaging Leader Assessment & Report (www.theengagingleader.com). The tool combines the acclaimed Hogan personality profile, with Sirota’s team effectiveness and engagement questionnaire, and presents the manager with a clear data set, linking who they are and how they behave, with how the team feels.

For the first time, we can easily link personality and behaviour to engagement – to move beyond a classical 360 assessment into a more insightful instrument. The online tool enables HR, or other qualified coaches, to quickly set-up data-driven interventions with the manager and their team. In the coming weeks, we’ll show how various personality types affect engagement, and what interventions may be practical.

Meantime, if your organisation is looking for valid ways to help low-scoring managers move out of the bottom quartile of engagement, take a look at how this tool enables it.

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For further information, go to: www.theengagingleader.com.

1)  Three Factor Theory of Human Motivation in the Workplace, or ACE Model (Sirota, Mischkind, & Meltzer, 2005). The Enthusiastic Employee – How companies profit by giving workers what they want  (Sirota and Klein, Pearson Business 2013)

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