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Rules of Engagement

Do your gears mesh or grind?

Good leadership is not passive. It is proactive and looks for opportunities to engage people.

Think of your all your people as the teeth on a large gear. The gear is just sitting there, alone, doing nothing. It is idle and it has no hope of moving. Your people as the teeth on that gear are also doing nothing. To get this gear to move we need a stimulus. We need another gear to engage this idle one. YOU are the drive gear. Until you engage your people, they will remain at idle. But once you take proactive action to engage them, the gears mesh, and forward progress begins.

Engagement takes many forms and in the rest of this article we will discuss a few of them.

  • Get personal – Look them in the eye and get to know them. Show them you care about them. Treat them with respect and expect the best from them. Be human.
  • Planning – If you hand me a plan and it fails that is your fault. But if you get my input on the plan and we work together to develop a course of action then I am personally invested in the process and will move heaven and earth to make the plan a success. Traditionally in our society we wait for the plan from the boss and then we go do what we are told to do. Not a lot of thought involved in this process.
  • Training – Most people believe it is the responsibility of the boss to develop them. They are waiting for you to give them new skills. These skills range from the technical skills associated with the task they perform to management/leadership training as they step in to supervisory roles. One of the reasons people don’t take initiative is they have never been trained to do what you asking them to do and they are reluctant to try it and fail. Nobody wants to fail. They are thinking, “how can you expect me to do this when I have never been trained to do it.” Or they are unwilling to attempt a new method because they don’t really know how to do it, so rather than risk a mistake, they do it the old way.
  • Process Improvement – Who knows the job better than the people actually doing it? If you want some opinions on how to improve things around your place, ask the people who are doing the work, I know they have some ideas on how to do it better. Some places excel at this. Toyota is legendary on their continuous improvement process. In 2003, Toyota recalled 79% fewer vehicles than Ford and 92% fewer than Chrysler. 15 of the top 38 models over the last seven years were Toyota/Lexus. It is part of the culture at Toyota that every employee is part of process improvement. Year after year numerous innovations are suggested by employees and adopted by Toyota.
  • Strategy – Strategy development is about the longer term and senior leaders must spend a great deal of time in this area. However, once strategies are formulated, hopefully with input from all functional areas, it must be communicated and recommunicated. Just because you told them once back in August what the corporate strategy is that does not mean they remember it now. That does not mean they are maliciously forgetting it, they simply have a lot going on and are more focused on the daily execution of their work. You need to talk about strategy and link what they are doing today to the strategy and explain why it all matters. The people we lead want to know where they are going and why? When you have this conversation with them you are engaging them.
  • Reinvention– an annual process where everyone in the firm goes through a personal and work group planning session where they develop vision, strategies and tactics for the coming year. This annual enables people to set targets and then we help them work towards them. The process is invigorating and the periodic follow-up conversations are energizing. Firms that use this process are filled with people who are engaged.

What percent of any given employee in your firm or work group are you getting on any given day? Do you think you are getting 100% from the majority? They may be spinning they may not be fully engaged. Your leadership is the primary factor that will affect whether they are fully engaged or not. Use the items listed here and get the gears turning.

Wally Adamchik is President of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting. Visit the website at www.beaFireStarter.com. He can be reached at 919-673-9499 or wally@beaFireStarter.com.

"Thanks for a fine presentation at UCT. I finished your book and it was a great read! After reading, I put together several pages of key points that I will try to work into my daily thought process."

Kevin Miller
Miller Pipeline