Demystifying and Understanding Team Engagement
14 March 2013 at 9:48 am
As a team leader, how do you understand ‘Team Engagement’ and arrive at the outcomes that the team is measured on, and still ensure it remains proactively engaged and contributing to good results and well-being? asks Not for Profit leadership development coach, Martin Longden.
‘Team Engagement is a term purposely vague and opaque as a way to define the key outcomes and activities that you could point to and say, ‘We have Team Engagement happening here…”.
This was a comment from one of my clients recently at the beginning of some leadership work I was doing for their senior team. It was an accurate statement. As we progressed into our work over the weeks, he learned that ‘team engagement’ is vague due to the criteria most companies attempt to apply to measure it.
As with any ability to measure contribution and performance for results, if it isn’t grounded in empirical evidence, then it is challenging to draw correlations between cause and effect, given that subjective responses and behaviours in people are always subject to personal judgement when attempting to define absolutes to establish performance criteria.
The cornerstone of successful team engagement is developing employee and volunteer potential in their ability to foster and contribute to a team environment and culture that emphasizes personal responsibility and accountability for their contribution and results to the team.
In short, leadership now has to navigate more productivity from an existing headcount by resourcing them to demonstrate mature, adult-like responses when faced with challenges, conflict and requirements to improve behavioural responses and tangible results to the end customer of their team, whether that be internal or external.
This means a higher risk factor of creating conflict through ‘change introduction’ and then not being able, as a leader, to facilitate people development that upholds and improves tangible results and resolve conflict. The general outcome is usually fracture, conflict, tension and in extreme cases, manipulative behaviours to coerce a performance result.
This is the constant headache for all human resource professionals, executives and CEOs.
Why? Because their role is to mitigate OH&S risk in the context of unacceptable behaviour and still assist the Not for Profit organisation to achieve a performance outcome to sustain its funding model and provide a continuing service to the community it is representing.
And they recognise that ‘building a sense of community’ is the lead strategy to promote an environment that encourages participation and engagement.
The trouble is, when you attempt to create culture through community participation, and you are unaware of what guidelines and framework to use in standards, values and strategy, you could end up getting a call from your ‘People and Culture’ representative asking you to explain why one of your team members has contacted them with a discrimination or harassment complaint.
A main challenge then, is how to navigate the different beliefs, values and standards
that individuals have to govern their thinking, their communication and behaviours, and begin a process of ‘change introduction’ to build a team culture.
A New Model: Transformational Leadership
The only way to create sustainable and lasting team engagement is by employing
Transformational Leadership. This is leadership that focuses on developing working
relationships into maturity that is evidenced by individuals accepting responsibility for their actions, and leaders who know how to create a community within their team to promote participation and engagement.
The emphasis is on quality communication strategies in leadership and team work to promote quality levels of team interaction, standards of behaviour, and performance results.
How do you best define team engagement that is as universal and replicable as possible, so that you can maintain a consistent approach, regardless of the function of your NFP department or team?
Using ‘quality’ as a definitive benchmark to measure Team Engagement, the leadership model I train and coach leaders to use to emphasises quality, promotes engagement, and still achieve a result as a community.
ESIP. This is a brilliant leadership structure that focuses primarily on Team Engagement and supports any business strategy.
E = Environment. This is your vision, mission, manifesto, your company values, your company characteristics, your company behaviours. This is the life blood of your community. Get these right and you organisation will function like a committed cause with your team’s hearts engaged along with their heads.
S=Structure. These are the strategies you use to achieve your vision, your mission and manifesto, what you stand for and a description of how you do business with your internal and external community. These strategies must be ‘transformational’ in their nature, meaning that they must place an emphasis on leading your company and teams to be ‘at cause’ for their results, instead of being ‘at effect’ and finding reasons to absolve the blame or be reactive, with the team member attempting to hold others responsible for the same team member’s results.
I=Implementation. This is the process and systems you employ, whether policy, procedure, IT, or simple work instructions on how to complete a job, task for function. These systems must support the execution of the strategies you have employed to achieve your vision and this is where your key benchmarks for performance and team engagement exist.
P=People. If vision is your life blood, these are your donors. People contribute their efforts to enable a vision to have a heart beat and fill the company with an environment that is ‘life giving’. Ensuring you are focusing on the skills and contribution development of your people supports the most skilled and efficient way you can assist them to complete the processes and systems.
The key to promoting engagement rests in the ability to link people to the ‘why’ (the environment) without losing focus on the ‘how’ (the implementation) and the ‘what’ (the strategies).
Some of the most common key indicators team leaders use to measure their performance and demonstrate team community participation are:
Contribution of new ideas to improve team participation in modeling the vision, mission
and values of the company Responsibility for results and developing an action plan to improvement when the team member doesn’t achieve a performance indicator. A plan for how they could contribute to the team’s goals for the quarter ahead Initiating a discussion with you on the areas they want to improve in (behaviours and/or results) and offering suggestions of what actions they could take on their own initiative Holding you accountable to the same team standards and also asking you how they could make your job easier as a leader.
By looking at the ideal behaviours and results you want to achieve as a team that come from your vision/mission and your team targets, will ensure you constantly maintain a balance between achieving a tangible result for your business, and making it a priority to develop your team in their potential, capability and willingness to participate in developing a community that is focused on each other’s development and well-being.
If you would like to access the Critical Thinking Model that supports the development of the ESIP leadership model to maximise team engagement, NFPs can do this for free by visiting http://www.achieveinfluence.com.au/
About the Author: Martin Longden is the Director of AchieveInfluence, a leadership training and coaching company delivering coaching communication skills to team leaders and promote team engagement for sustained performance within the NFP sector.