This post is ironic because it’s inspired by conversations we frequently have with our clients, colleagues, and partners about their level of engagement at work.
Yet conversations are often the very thing missing, which ultimately prevents people from experiencing levels of fun, fulfillment, confidence, and purpose in their work.
Without fun, fulfillment, confidence, and purpose, teams rarely deliver the desired results consistently.
Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace report revealed only 20 percent of employees say they’ve had a conversation with their manager in the last six months about what they can do to reach their goals.
Also, according to Gallup’s report, only 20 percent of employees think their managers give them meaningful feedback, and 51 percent of employees would accept another job with another organization if offered a similar role with similar pay and benefits somewhere else.
You’ve likely spent a great deal of time, energy, thought, and money to recruit, select, hire, and train your current team of employees. No doubt that they’re a diverse group with varying levels of talent, passion, enthusiasm, and engagement. However, the one thing they all have in common with each other and with you is that people are people.
You’re a human being, and so are those on your team. Therefore, a little humanness goes a long way in creating productive and meaningful environments for people to deliver their best.
All humans crave connection and a sense of belonging. Some may not admit it, but it’s a scientifically proven principle that all humans seek, desire, and need connection and belonging. This is true at work just as much as it is in our personal lives.
Great leaders understand this principle, and leverage it to inspire, connect, and encourage others to give more, do more, and deliver more for their team and organization.
In the context of employee engagement, the most important connection for any employee, at any level, in any industry, is the connection with their direct leader.
The best leaders wake up every single day thinking about how they can inspire, motivate, and bring out the best in others. They understand that before others will give more of themselves to deliver more for the team, they first have to feel a connection to the cause, to the purpose, and, most of all, a personal, human connection to their leader.
Here are four ways to create connections with your employees with simple, casual conversations.
1. Ask questions.
When employees know you’re interested in them, not only as an employee, but also as a person, their tension drops and their engagement with you, the team, and, most importantly, the tasks at hand begin to rise.
- How are you feeling?
- What’s in your way?
- What’s on your mind?
- Where do you want to go?
- Why do you want this?
You’ll learn more about them, which will help you customize and personalize your leadership approach to each individual. They’ll feel comfortable with you because you cared enough to learn more about who they are. Ultimately, they’ll become more compelled to give you and the team their best.
2. Connect the organization’s purpose to their role.
Along with a need for connection, we humans also have a need and desire to matter. Sadly, many people go to work every day to do a job and are rarely reminded of how important and integral their contributions are to the organization’s success. The best leaders, at any level, constantly connect each person’s role to the big picture. And, when people feel their contributions are significant, they’ll continue making significant contributions.
3. Share and ask for context.
Most dissent, frustration, and discord in organizations and among workgroups stem from a lack of understanding. Whether it’s the overarching direction you’re taking or simply decisions you make that impact the team, the quickest way to reduce pain is to share context. Unpack both why you are making your decisions and the organization’s direction.
When people understand more, the more their stress, frustration, and worries are kept to a minimum. Great leaders know the ultimate purpose of communication is to create understanding among key stakeholders. When it comes to understanding, context is king. Share it and ask for it.
You’ll strengthen connections throughout your entire team and organization and, slowly but surely, build trust along the way.
4. Be human.
Many leaders believe once they’re given a leadership role or management title, they can no longer be seen, heard, or thought of as on the same level as their employees. This mindset may be the most common misconception and mistake we see leaders make, as it keeps them from engaging in conversations with employees.
Great leaders are not great leaders because of their leadership. They’re great simply because of their humanness.
Bringing it all together:
- The more meaningful your conversations become, the more you transform your employees’ jobs into meaningful work.
- The more human you become, the more fun your employees will have.
- The more questions you ask, the more you understand how to motivate each person in the way they like to be motivated. They’ll become increasingly more confident. And, with confidence, they’ll deliver their best.
- The more you connect employees’ contributions to the organization’s purpose, the more purposeful your employees will become.
If you want more out of your employees, simply devote more of your time, energy, and most importantly, your heart, to your conversations with employees.