Earning the ‘I Would Follow You Anywhere!’ Accolade
I like to ask my clients, ‘who is a leader you admire?’ Perhaps, more importantly, is their answer to ‘why do you admire that person?’
During one such conversation, after sharing the leader he admired, a client declared with absolute loyalty and admiration in his voice, ‘I would follow him anywhere!’
These are words that any leader aspires to hear from their team members. How fortunate for this admired leader to have earned such high praise from my client. And how affirming it would be to be told by a team member, ‘I would follow you anywhere!’
How does a leader achieve this level of loyalty and engagement? The answers are bound to lead to success in any endeavor.
My client struggled to pinpoint exactly what it was with his leader that led to his high engagement. His answer was not about what the leader did but rather, how the leader made him feel. Those feelings included self-motivation, inspiration, and an eagerness to always do better the next time. As he reflected on this, he emanated positive energy, a genuine and deep passion for the organization and the work, and a bright optimism for the future. His engagement was ultimately due to the many subtle behaviors of the leader that when combined, made it difficult to name. But what a difference they made!
Desiring to discover what those behaviors might be, a group of leaders gathered to ponder what they or anyone could do to engage their team members. Each leader took away from the conversation a renewed optimism and something different to add or change how they lead. Themes emerged from the conversation.
This is about delivering a steady flow of purposeful and valuable information to all levels of the organization. Meaningful information includes any of the following:
- reinforcement and modeling of the desired culture,
- visibility to how the mission is being carried out,
- instilling confidence in a vision and the handling of external forces,
- offering feedback and insights about what is working or not working,
- recognizing individuals and teams for their positive behaviors and contributions,
- creating awareness of progress on business objectives,
- giving insights into the character and personality of the leaders and other team members.
Memorability of the messaging promotes further propagation through discussion and leaves a lasting impression, all of which supports stronger engagement. Memorability may be reinforced through stories, examples, acronyms, imagery, picture,s and graphs.
Unknowns and ambiguity often lead to fear and undermine feelings of confidence and security and erode engagement. Of course, some level of ambiguity is natural and necessary in business. However, much of the ambiguity can be avoided.
The clearer the ‘why’ of the business and how the business objectives support that ‘why,’ the easier it is to get behind it; likewise with expected behaviors and norms. Equally important is clearly connecting each role and each team member with the organizational objectives since research shows that team members are typically motivated in knowing that their work is making a positive difference. Clarity of strategy is delivered by being explicit about strategic trade-offs such as which products and services to which customers, in which markets, via which channels and partnerships. Clarity of authority is achieved by communicating who is empowered to make what decisions. These shape the guideposts within which team members can then self-manage with confidence.
CARE & CONNECTION
A common thread among the research on engagement (Gartner, Gallup, etc.) is the importance of the strength and nature of relationships both with a team member’s direct leader (one-to-one) and with their team members (one-to-many).
Many of us are familiar with the adage that you ‘join a company and quit a boss.’ To avoid turnover or possibly worse, unengaged team members, this requires maintenance of a positive relationship with each team member through regular interactions over time. Queue in the often underestimated or underused one-on-one. These periodic on-on-one forums lend themselves to making meaningful and frequent connections and demonstrating genuine care for the individual if used appropriately. Possible topics to include to maximize the value of that time together include:
- letting the team member know they are valued and appreciated, trusted and empowered
- offering regular and timely feedback, both affirming and corrective
- presenting challenging and meaningful assignments, as well as development and advancement opportunities
- asking questions to reveal team member struggles and celebrations that may otherwise be missed
- introduction of the human element, specifically getting to know and show interest in the human behind the role including passions, values, milestones, and highlights and reciprocating by sharing the same.
These expressions of care and connection need not be constrained to one-on-ones. Most important is the conversation itself regardless of forum.
The relationship a team member has to the other team members also impacts engagement. A leader may not be able to control this but can certainly influence this by striving to build community amongst the team members by establishing, modeling, and nurturing team norms that foster collaboration, healthy conflict, and demonstrating care for the individuals. A leader can also promote interactions through team member assignments on challenging projects and then rewarding successes around common goals.
In the end, it is the collection of behaviors, done consistently and effectively over time, which foster strong engagement in each team member because of how the leader and the organizational culture make the team member feel. Whether we recognize them or not, we all have feelings, whether they be anger or excitement, fear or inspiration. They are very much present in business and absolutely have an impact on the employee experience. As it relates to employee engagement and positively motivating team members, feelings are everything!
As Maya Angelou so poignantly stated, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Instead of producing the unengaged feelings of isolation, anger, apathy, suspicion, overwhelm, uncertainty and doubt, a leader may choose to deliver frequent and meaningful communications with clarity, and express and nurture care and connections, resulting in feelings are more likely to be positive in nature. The engaged team member instead feels feel confidence in self and courage to act; trust, respect, familiarity, safety, security for and with the leader; and pride in and support for the organization. A leader who produces this kind of engagement is certainly worth of the accolade, ‘I would follow you anywhere!’
What feelings might you be stirring up in those whom you lead? And how might this impact engagement?
If you desire to improve engagement, set an intention to close the gap. And let’s get to work! Book a Complimentary Discovery Call to start the process.
Passionate about growing amazing leaders who create great places to work and lead fulfilling lives, Angela enables transformational change in individuals, teams, and businesses. As a Certified Professional Coach, she is skilled at combining sound coaching skills with proven leadership methodologies to cultivate growth and ultimately, results.