Just the other day I bumped into a friend of mine who works as a scrum master, we’ll call him Eric (his real name is Simon) and he was beside himself with frustration. He needed a developer for about 2 weeks worth of work. The work itself wasn’t particularly difficult, was well spec’d out and the developer would have all the support she needed to complete her task. Conveniently, there were about three developers on another team who had capacity… in fact they were sitting around waiting for work to start on another project. However, when Simon approached their manager for some of their time he was met with a ‘no’. The only way he could get the work done was to give the whole piece of work over to his entire team. If you’re reading this and scratching your head and thinking I’m making this up and thinking that is ridiculous and thinking no-one in their right mind would say that, I fully agree! But this is the scenario Simon found himself in. Although this is an extreme example, little things like this occur in our organisations every day and it’s these little things that slowly, over time, suck the life out of an engaged employee.
Generally organisations get engagement for free. It seems to come as part of the package when you hire someone into a new role. Research shows that people tend to be at their most engaged during the first year of their employment. Unfortunately, this tends to dip after that until about 5 years in when it increases a little before leveling off. That is shocking! So what’s the cause of the disengagement. The answer lies in people’s sense of lack of enablement. Fresh, enthusiastic employees are met with, “No, you can’t do that,” or “We need to get approval from [INSERT YOUR OWN BLOCKER HERE].” It doesn’t take long before our initial enthusiasm for the role starts to slip away. We may last another couple of years fighting the good fight but then most people move on. The others who do remain generally develop coping mechanisms to get by and gain some level of comfort in their role.
So what can we, as leaders, do to ensure there are high levels of engagement and enablement? Here are a few things to think about:
- Align your goals (and your team’s goals) with the “must-wins” of your organisation.
- Help your team create specific and measurable objectives and give feedback and praise on their performance.
- Address poor performance in a timely manner.
- Help your team understand which decisions they control.
- Ensure there is clear decision-making accountability.
- Create a climate where your team can openly and freely share thoughts, opinions and ideas.
- Ensure your team has the resources it needs to do its job effectively.
- Make it a priority to replace team members when people leave (rather than expect those who are left to take up the slack).
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – especially when changes may impact your team.
- Don’t skimp on training – although it may save a few dollars in the short-term it’s a huge cost to organisations in the long run.
I hope you find this useful. Remember, it’s always possible to turn a frustrated employee around. They’re frustrated because they care and they want to do a good job; help enable them to do it and you’ll get the engagement for free.
If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.
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