How to Successfully Lead, Engage and Show Appreciation For Your Staff

It’s a fact: Employees who are engaged in their work—who like what they’re doing, believe their work is important, are included in “big picture” decisions and feel true appreciation for their efforts—perform far more effectively than those who don’t.

One of the basic tenets of humanity is the desire to be appreciated. This comes in many forms, yet the function is the same. In most companies, the energy of employees follows the energy of the leadership, starting at the very top. Employees’ energy levels can only be as great as that of the leader they have the most interaction with.

Here are just a few examples of how you can demonstrate your excitement through your actions and inspire your staff:

In my own case, I take a group of five or six employees to lunch every month outside the office to a popular place close to work. Generally, because they’re waiting for me to speak, I’ll get the conversation going. If someone asks me a question about the company, I try to answer as honestly as I can. However, in this casual setting, I’ve found that we rarely talk about work. We discuss family, movies, sports, pets (lots of pets!) and I get to know two things. One, I get to know the amazing group of employees I have on a more personal basis. And, two … I get to find out how woefully behind I am in my television and streaming life!

Seriously though … the lunches also allow my employees to see me as a person and not just the boss. I believe this is crucial to the two-way communication all successful companies have between management and employees.

Tools for basic appreciation 

  • Never overlook the power of a simple thank-you
  • Keep a supply of thank-you cards handy. A hand-written note of thanks from management is often cited by employees as a significant way to keep them energized and engaged.
  • Make appreciation a standing agenda item on all regular meetings
  • Require leaders to track thanks given and to whom—create and keep a central spreadsheet or database of this information
  • Offer a means for employees to thank one another—peer-to-peer thanks is very powerful
  • Provide a means for customers to thank employees whom they believe do a great job

Rounding with employees

Rounding is a simple and highly effective leadership tool. It has its origins in health care, as in “Doctors making their rounds.” In business, rounding involves leadership informally visiting different areas of the company and informally asking questions to gauge what is happening. It should be a regularly scheduled task for leaders at all levels of the organization.

Benefits of rounding

  • Easy way to stay in touch with employees
  • Allows early problem identification
  • Demonstrates caring and appreciation to employees
  • Shows involvement of leadership in daily functions of company
  • Breaks down normal barriers that can come between management and staff

Rounding questions you must ask

What’s working well?  It’s important to start off rounding with something positive. While you may want to know what’s not working well (and, it IS important) starting off that way can often put employees on the defensive and will sabotage your discussion. They’ll think you’re looking to place blame.

Do you have all the resources and tools you need to do your job? Sure, budgetary constraints often come into play here, but if you have someone in a critical position working with outdated resources (“You mean that Windows95® isn’t working out for you anymore??”), you’re doing them and the company a terrible disservice. If nothing else, this question will help you prioritize future investments in equipment, staffing or services.

Is there anything that’s not working well that we can try to fix? If you’ve started off on a positive note, your employees should feel that they can open up about what’s not going right. This is where all the employee engagement techniques we’ve talked about previously come into play. You’re not just “the boss”, but you’re “MY boss that knows about my kid getting the lead in the school play and who cares what I think about my job and doing it the right way so I can actually speak my mind without worrying about blowback on me because this procedure just doesn’t work for us anymore!” Run-on sentences and thoughts aside, this employee will likely tell you exactly what you need to hear.

Build rounding into every leader’s schedule and make it a performance requirement for leaders at all levels of the organization.

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