This article outlines a key engagement building activity for all line managers and team leaders. It focuses on how to develop an understanding of what motivates and engages individual members of your team.
Like most employee engagement professionals, I spend a good amount of time speaking to groups of managers and HR teams about how to build engagement in organisations and teams. I also spend time on social media forums. Frequently, conversations and discussions are about the ‘killer’ engagement building activity, as if this single event is all that is needed to increase employee engagement and all will be well afterwards.
It all comes back to people like people
This can never be the case. There is no silver bullet engagement building activity. It seems that we have all succumbed to the digital age we now live in and expect immediate results from almost everything we do. People are not like that. Yes, we can do many engagement related activities on-line but to truly increase employee engagement requires relationship building beyond a ‘killer’ engagement building activity and beyond cloud based platforms.
Technology platforms, like ours, can enrich the workplace as long as people are having real conversations and building relationships.
People like people. We engage with people. Our direct line manager is usually the main reason why we engage in a job or leave.
The Activity – ‘Success Stories’
So, here it is. The closest thing to the silver bullet engagement building activity everyone seems to be looking for.
Engagement Building Activity – Part 1
Prepare to actively listen to each team member. It is important here that you focus on individual team members. It is best to have these conversations one-to-one, though not essential for strong listeners/communicators.
When you understand the passion, interests and personal strengths of each individual team member, you will be in a much stronger position to engage that person. S/he will also be more prepared to be engaged.
To achieve this understanding, you will need to prepare to explore each team member’s success story. This can be an informal activity you complete while chatting to individual team member over coffee, at lunch or in that short period of informality that usually happens after a formal meeting is completed. You simply show an interest in learning about each person’s accomplishments.
Or, you can set it up as a formal ‘getting to know you better’ exercise within your team. This way, you can include it at the start of each team meeting where each team member, you included, listens to a new person’s story each time. So, everybody gets to know everyone else a little better (email me to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to share some resources with you).
What are you listening for?
You will want to find out the following information (so, you might have to ask some of these questions):
- Your team member’s success story – preferably an accomplishment from outside the workplace.
- How did s/he do it?
- How did s/he become interested/involved in this activity?
- What did s/he work with the most (data, people, IT, paperwork, organising, finance etc.)?
- How did s/he learn what was needed (observation; manuals; reading; trial and error; discussions etc.)?
- How did s/he prepare (by setting goals; organising; visualising; practising; strategising)?
- What would others have seen him/her doing?
- How did s/he build relationships/relate to others?
- What did s/he find most satisfying?
Engagement Building Activity – Part 2
This part of the exercise is simply exploring your team member’s success story…..one at a time. Make sure you set some time aside so you don’t rush the story. This will be time very well spent.
While the team member is sharing his/her story, you need to listen out for some key words or phrases that will give you insights. You should listen out for action and feeling words:
- I arranged
- I analysed
- I built
- I organised
- I weighed up
- I calculated
- I loved the feeling of…
- I felt….
- It made me feel….
Encourage your team member to tell the whole story by probing for specifics and showing that you are genuinely interested.
What will you achieve from this exercise?
- You will build a stronger relationship with each person as you are discussing, exploring and showing interest in something quite close to them.
- You will develop a deeper understanding of each person’s motivations and behaviours in the workplace. Much of the information you pick up will be transferrable. You now have a better understanding why a person reacts or behaves like they do in specific situations.
- You will know how to motivate and engage them in work by learning what motivates, excites and engages them outside the workplace.
- Each team member will feel listened to. Listening to your team members and getting to know them are the most underrated skills in leadership. When we feel listened to, we also feel valued by the listener. We engage with people.
N.B. Don’t fall into the trap of doing this once and thinking, that’s it. Job done. People will be engaged and motivated now. It is not a one-off event. It is not a ‘silver bullet’ activity. Like all relationships, you need to keep working at it. Keep the conversation going so you can continue to build an engaging relationship with your team. Remember, people like people.