Leading Change by Firing Up Engagement

acceleratekotterHas your organization learned how to manage through the environment of constant change, but is challenged by employees who have become fatigued in the process?  The 2013 Gallup Report on the State of the American Workplace concluded the following about employees:

  • 30% are engaged and inspired at work
  • 50% are not engaged, they are just present and not inspired by their work or their managers
  • 20% are actively disengaged and are spreading discontent

After reviewing this data, most of my clients quickly sent out employee engagement surveys to assess how their employees lined up.  The engagement surveys typically indicated that the primary reasons for unengaged employees are poor leadership, and employees lacking accountability (which is often a result of poor leadership).

To have engaged employees who know what they are supposed to do every day and are motivated to do it well, you need engaged leaders who are compensated for developing employees and holding them accountable.  Engaged leaders hold themselves accountable for balancing the need for change agility with the need for efficient operational performance.  They implement engagement practices such as these:

  • Communicates change so that each employee understands the strategic business reasons for the change.  Communicates and insures that each employee knows how the change impacts their job and honestly discusses the pros and cons that come with the trade-offs of change. 
  • Schedules one-on-one meetings with direct reports to “listen” to their ideas, concerns, and what is important to them.  Allows the employee to feel seen, heard, and respected. Shares the employee’s useful ideas with senior management and gives the employee credit for their thought leadership.
  • Provides ongoing performance feedback so that the employee knows how they are on target and how they are falling short.  Coaches the employee on ways to improve performance.
  • Provides developmental mentoring to help the employee move forward on their career goals.  Discusses ways to make work fun and fulfilling.

Beyond employee and leader engagement is the need for every organization to evaluate the way the organizational structure aligns with the requirement to be change adaptive around market demand. In his book, Accelerate, John P. Kotter describes how organizations have been structured by management-driven hierarchies which are systems designed to create efficiency; consequently, they also built silos that have limited information about the big picture.  He suggests the need for a secondary system of volunteers to operate as a strategy acceleration network which communicates and drives the strategic initiatives across the silos.  The volunteers serve as a critical mass of change agents, they are self-directed with no hierarchy, and they appreciate the chance to collaborate with a broader array of people than they ever could have worked with in their regular jobs within the hierarchy.  They view being a volunteer in the strategy acceleration network as a way to develop professionally and to increase their visibility across the organization.  Click here to read more about Kotter’s “dual operating system” and the eight accelerators for embracing the bold change necessary to lead an engaged workforce today.