How Transformational Leaders Inspire Engagement

Of all the components of transformational leadership, the #1 most difficult challenge I hear from the leaders I advise and coach is employee engagement.  (Execution is a close second – I will post on that next Monday.)

If envisioning answers the “What’s Next,” engagement answers the “Who” – who needs to be involved, their roles and goals.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines engagement as an “emotional involvement or commitment” and as a“a hostile encounter between [military] forces.”  Obviously, our goal is to increase the former and eliminate the later!

Leadership engagement means to lead through people – not around, over, or in spite of.  Engagement is all about the people, those both internal and external to your organization.

Here are the four key skills every transformational leader needs to fully engage all those around them.

Four Skills of Leadership Engagement

  1. Connecting. Connecting is the skill of creating clear and powerful bonds between four key groups (colleagues, customers, constituents, community) and to demonstrate how everyones’ role impacts the company’s vision, goals, and ultimate success.
  2. Team Building. Team building is indeed a leadership skill, not a retreat or seminar or ropes course. All of these activities can illustrate the necessary pieces of a strong team, but any leader must understand how to grow and sustain positive relationships and drive productivity throughout their span of influence.
  3. Modeling.  Leaders must be positive role models of what they expect and the convictions they espouse. If a leader does not model excellence, they risk losing not only their integrity but the passion and commitment of everyone around them.
  4. Talent Maximizing.  Potential is nothing. Performance is everything! Transformational leader equip all colleagues (including themselves) with the skills, knowledge, and freedom they need to reach their personal potential that in turn helps the organization fulfill its purpose and vision. As I have said to hundreds of audiences, “Organizational improvement is impossible with unimproved people.”

How to Jumpstart Transformational Engagement

Here are the two critical keys to jumpstart transformational engagement.

First, ensure Line of Sight for everyone involved (the “Who”) by specifically demonstrating how their unique skills, efforts and roles contribute to the overall success. If a colleague or constituent (vendor) does not understand how their work impacts overall success, do not expect anything above their minimal efforts.

Second, celebrate individual and team Progress toward achieving the goals. Progress celebrations could include everything from:

  • a personal thank you to someone taking a small step in the right direction;
  • a good decision made at any level, anywhere;
  • a team that worked around/overcame a tough issue (and didn’t kill each other in the process);
  • an individual or team’s above and beyond effort to move the dial forward;
  • any number, stat, or financial improvement being made;
  • …and hundreds more.