Motivating those who report to you to enhance performance levels and ensure 100% contribution at all times is the biggest challenge all managers face across the world. Unfortunately, most management practices and leadership development approaches recommend action on self or self-improvement/change as the best strategy to enhance motivation and engagement levels of your teams. This is not wrong, it's just incomplete and not good enough.
Gallup's global research of more than five decades around workplace health and managerial excellence clearly establishes that 'engagement' of direct reports is different from 'satisfaction' or 'general happiness.' Engagement is about building an 'emotional' connect with your direct reports and ensuring the highest levels of psychological commitment to your work unit. Engagement necessarily leads to higher levels of performance and longevity of your direct reports. This information unfortunately is turned into a complex 'theory,' and managers all over the world get lost in "fix them" approaches to get the best out of their direct reports.
Let's simplify the process, while still understanding the key elements of managerial excellence, which are as follows:
- Always remember that your direct reports are unique human beings and cannot be treated the 'same.' So don't have general strategies to motivate and engage them.
- Spend time one on one with each of your direct reports, at least once per month.
- Try to capture the unique 'emotional' and 'rational' needs of each one of them. The golden rule is to "ask' and not "assume."
- Spend time in the first meeting to ask sharp and clear questions on:
- Their understanding of the role and clarity regarding expectations.
- The materials, resources, etc. they would need to succeed in the job.
- Skills and knowledge they would require to build on to attain success in the role.
- The unique talents they possess and that can be harnessed to achieve success.
- What motivates and excites them the most?
- How do they like/prefer to be recognized?
- What kind of learning and career goals do they have?
- Capture this data and document it to ensure you don't lose this vital information, and also to demonstrate your seriousness to your direct reports.
- Build a quarterly action plan that addresses each and every data point (as above), in consultation with the direct report. Remember this is an expectation mapping and success set-up process and cannot be uni-dimensional or one-way.
- Agree on a review frequency and meet up for these course correction/progress assessment meetings religiously. Ensure you never miss these meetings and are fully prepared for the same.
- Make sure you recognize each of your direct reports at least once in seven days, for doing 'good work.' Good work benchmarks should again be set up differently for different team members and these are different from Key Result Areas and could include extra-curriculars, learning goals, etc. Make sure that you use the information captured during the dialogue (as above) and cater to individual recognition needs. Gallup's multi-decade global research establishes that the 'timeliness' and 'style' of recognition are the most critical factors in building employee engagement.
- Build and leverage your direct reportee's strengths, rather than trying to fix their weaknesses. This positive psychology based approach has a very strong impact on emotional well-being and performance levels of employees.
- Make sure that this dialogue and action-based approach is ongoing and robust. This is not a one-time activity and needs to carry on right through the life cycle of the manager/direct report relationship.
By following these simple steps, you can get into the zone of world class managers who are able to 'engage' and not just 'satisfy' their direct reports. And, as Gallup world polls indicate, "Engagement has predictive linkage to productivity, profitability and employee turnover." So embark on this journey toward managerial excellence now.