Fusing engagement and leadership to increase productivity

By Tomás H. Lucero

Leadership and engagement are the major impediments to higher productivity, according to a Morneau Shepell survey of 442 Canadian human resources (HR) professionals. The challenge for employers is figuring out how to address these issues effectively in order to increase productivity.

In his article “10 Steps for Engaged Leadership,” writer David Zinger proposes fusing together leadership and engagement to create an “engaged leadership.”

According to Zinger, in the past, HR departments have been burdened with creating “buy in,” from senior leadership, into engagement. This transactional metaphor, however, makes HR professionals into sellers and senior managers into buyers. In Zinger’s view, though, in today’s organization, “engagement resides more in partnership than in selling” and we should move towards “transformational engagement, where employees are transformed through engaging work.”

Central to Zinger’s thinking, and his proposal for dealing with the static state of leadership and engagement in the workplace, is the idea that “In 2015, leadership resides everywhere. No longer does leadership reside at the top of the pyramid. Good leaders manage and good managers lead. Leadership is found more in daily actions than a strategic retreat away from the organization.”

As a result, engaged leadership asks you to take the following ten steps as you proceed in your work.

  1. Ask: Don’t be afraid of mystery. Don’t pretend like you’ve got it all figured out. Ask compelling questions to draw people into the work.
  2. Invite: “As a leader, do not become an agent of coercion. Frame all your leadership work and contributions as invitations. Strive to make these invitations both engaging and compelling.”
  3. Join: Encourage collaboration to solve problems and tackle projects. Don’t lead in the traditional sense of mapping the whole journey yourself. Invite those around you to figure things out together.
  4. Experiment: Abandon certainties for hypotheses. “Be willing to disconfirm your cherished leadership beliefs. A good start is to read, The Discipline of Business Experimentation by Stefan Thomke and Jim Manzi, which appeared in the December 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review.”
  5. Weave: Engagement is not “an HR thing,” it’s an “everybody thing.” Don’t allow your office to work in isolated silos. Put individuals, departments and work together.
  6. Read: You need to think. Reading is the best environment in which to do it. “Reading good leadership blogs and business books can open up new vistas on how to engage fully as a leader.”
  7. See: “Attention is a powerful and natural way to engage others in the organization.”
  8. Fly: Don’t stagnate atop your hierarchical perch. “It is easy for people to disengage when they are disconnected from leadership and believe that leadership does not have a clue about who they are.” Visit people and check in with departments.
  9. Narrate: As leader, you become, in important ways, “the keeper, creator, and teller of the organizational story.” Use stories to inspire and teach those around you.
  10. Lift: “Know your own strengths and use them in the service of others every day.”

Related Story: Study turns notion of business leadership on its head, but do the ideas have any legs?

Related Story: 5 Leadership Tips from Chevron CEO John Watson

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