Employee Engagement: Great Leaders Inspire & Expect It

One of the more recent workplace concepts is employee engagement. Wikipedia notes, Employee engagement can be seen as a heightened level of ownership where each employee wants to do whatever they can for the benefit of their internal and external customers and for the success of the organization as a whole.

Most everyone would agree that the business results of engaged employees are positive. The question is: How much time and energy should businesses spend to ignite this employee engagement and do you expect employees to keep the engagement going once you light the fire?

Employee Engagement: Light the Fire Image by:OddBod

Great leaders inspire. They have engaged employees. Yet great leaders also expect engagement from employees. They avoid the mistake of becoming the perennial entertainer who sees lapses in employee engagement when they are not entertaining.

As a consultant, leaders bring me in to help light the fire for employee engagement. Often they ask me when engagement is low. My success in re-igniting the fire in various organizations for 20 years includes the steps noted below. As a leader, you can use this approach to do the same.

  1. Highlight unique talents. Have the employees identify their unique talents. Share your view of it as well. An employee initiates and sustains engagement when s/he believes they make a unique contribution or difference.
  2. Identify the impact of their efforts and their lack of effort. A common problem among employees is limited sight distance. They fall into the rut of daily routine and become more and more detached from the big picture. Use specifics from the business instead of generalities.
  3. Handle the chronic complainers (aka perennial naysayers). There is nothing wrong with intelligent disagreement nor with venting some negative emotion. Employees are people not robots. Yet chronic complainers and naysayers have a strong erosive effect on employee engagement. They do not contribute ideas, innovation, nor solutions. Over time they stop others’ who would otherwise engage yet who no longer want to engage and interact with the complainers.
  4. Focus on and recognize learning. When you build a learning culture, you breed long term employee engagement and long term organizational success. Learning from mistakes. Learning about customers. Learning about themselves and each other. Learning how to deal with seemingly unfair conditions and turn them into huge successes. Build pride in doing tough jobs well!
  5. Have a zero tolerance for lack of engagement. An employee chooses to work for you and get paid. Engagement is expected. Great leaders quickly address lack of engagement with a clear statement of what is expected and with openness and discussion on how to make it happen. They do not debate if it should happen and don’t get sidelined with endless discussions of obstacles, barriers, and complaints.

What other steps are in your critical plan for employee engagement?

©2010 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, is widely known for her success inspiring zealous employee commitment and engagement in diverse industries. See this site for what leaders and other session participants have said and accomplished with Kate’s contributions.

4 Responses to “Employee Engagement: Great Leaders Inspire & Expect It”

  1. Joe Williams says:

    Kate – I enjoyed your treatment of engagement. I do have a question about item 1: what if an employee does not identify to a unique contribution or difference? I can envision a subset of employees who support the nuts-and-bolts of an organization yet perhaps don’t see that through the lens of uniqueness or difference-making. What have you done when you encountered such a situation?

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Joe,
      Interesting that you ask me that question because I work extensively with support staff and they are often the ones that don’t see your contribution. I do an exercise with simple S hooks you can get at the hardware store. They are in that chain — whether it’s keeping the chain connected, or communicating the info across that chain, or ordering the materials that keep that chain working etc…

      EVERYONE plays a part and as the old saying goes “Support Makes it Work”. I have even used buttons to remind them of this.
      Thanks for your question.

  2. I love all five points here.

    The thing that struck me the most is how a great leader achieves employee engagement by moving beyond entertainment into pure inspiration.

    And you are SO right: Purpose drives performance. When the leader can provide purpose, the team will respond and rise.

    Terrific post, Kate!

    Thank you,


  3. Skip Bieber says:

    Hi Kate,
    this reminded me of a quote from Steve Jobs when he first returned to Apple –
    “Managers can not mandate productivity – they can only provide the tools for others to excel ”

    Many managers either don’t realize that people skills are just as, if not more important then just the basics ( ie paper based aptitude “tests”)

    Take care!


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