It's safe to say that all of the world’s most successful organisations recognise that active employee engagement with their corporate mission and strategy is critical to superior business performance. But because the engagement of employees is measured at a corporate level (conducted by a head office through a global survey), the assumption prevails that the solution to better employee engagement is also to be found in the head office.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s little wrong with corporate roadshows, chief executive blogs, social media and company-wide emails – except they don’t have any measurable impact on employee engagement and customer advocacy. (Which we define as a sense of corporate citizenship, a pride in association with the organisation, a willingness to go the extra mile, and a belief that you can build a fulfilling, worthwhile career in your organisation.)
What does make the crucial difference is each employee feeling they have a trusting relationship with their direct line manager.
Our book – 5 Conversations to Build Trust, Engagement and Performance at Work – provides leaders with a toolkit of practical techniques for building trusting relationships with their team members, colleagues and customers.
But doing this successfully entails more than just having these conversations in the first place. Leaders must have the emotional commitment and courage to ensure that they are built into their daily lives.
Here are the five key conversations most leaders forget to have.
1. Building a trusting relationship
This is an authentic conversation with a colleague which ensures that you build a two-way understanding of what gets you both out of bed in the morning, motivates you at work, and creates a great day for both of you.
2. Agreeing mutual expectations
How do you share your sense of purpose with a colleague? Not just by explaining what you do everyday, but why it matters to you as individuals – and, therefore, what you can expect of each other in terms of support to achieve your goals at work.
3. Showing genuine appreciation
This means not only saying “thank you” at work and meaning it (challenging enough), but also knowing how to understand and appreciate a colleague’s contribution when you were not there to witness it personally (relatively common in today’s world of virtual team working).
4. Challenging unhelpful behaviour
Ensure you can have a conversation – with an individual or group – that faces up to behaviour that is damaging team performance. These conversations must, vitally, secure genuine agreement over a new way forward and put any jeopardised relationships back on a positive footing.
5. Building for the future
Would you be able to hold a rich and deep career development conversation? This doesn’t just mean acknowledging someone’s expectations for extra pay and promotion, but goes deeper into their need for autonomy, a sense of purpose, and a drive for mastery at work. Interestingly, countless leaders in hundreds of organisations have told us this is the most important, and least held, of the five conversations.
Scan these conversations again. Resolve to hold at least one today with a colleague in your team, and feel the results.