It’s been fascinating to watch the Michigan Wolverine football team’s dramatic transformation over the past couple of years. Following several lackluster seasons with high-profile coaches in Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, Michigan hired former Wolverine quarterback Jim Harbaugh. Coach Harbaugh had previously seen enormous success coaching the Stanford Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers.
When Coach Harbaugh took over the head coaching responsibilities at Michigan in 2015, the team was mediocre at best and failed to reach a bowl game for the first time in five years. In his first year as the new leader, Coach Harbaugh led the Michigan Wolverines to a 10-win season, with practically the same team as the previous year’s 5-win team. It is incredible to see how an inspiring leader can influence those around him to elicit such a high level of performance.
Read the book: The Employee Experience
Organizations around the globe spend millions of dollars annually measuring and attempting to improve employee engagement, all in hopes of increasing revenue and profitability. Understanding employee engagement is imperative to implementing practices that will drive engagement throughout an organization. DecisionWise defines employee engagement as “an emotional state where employees feel passionate, energetic, and committed to their work. In all interactions, employees give their hearts, spirits, minds, and hands to deliver a high level of performance to the organization.”
While employees must both learn and choose to be engaged at work, management directly impacts the employees’ desire and ability to be engaged. In his book,What made Jack Welch Jack Welch: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders, Stephen Baum suggests that “Leadership boils down to some very simple-not rocket science-ideas: character, confidence, critical thinking and the ability to engage other people.”
Below are five key practices executives and managers can implement that will help transform themselves into inspiring leaders.
1. Meaning and Purpose
Develop and communicate a strong sense of meaning and purpose with employees. When an organization defines its purpose through the eyes of customers, employees, stakeholders, and the world—employees engage. According to Deloitte’s Culture of Purpose research, mission-driven companies have 30% higher levels of innovation and 40% higher levels of retention. Passionate individuals who want to engage are attracted to employment which offers a greater purpose than mere financial compensation. Top-level leadership must engage employees in creating and communicating the organization’s meaning and purpose. Merely using a boardroom slogan or an executive retreat mission statement will resonate as hollow and meaningless.
Engender an environment where every leader has the autonomy to excel in his/her specific situation. Inspired leaders at all levels should have power to assert themselves to overcome obstacles, flourish in an environment of defined accountability, and galvanize their teams by building trusted relationships with their direct reports. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink suggests autonomy is a key motivational factor for human beings; give them control over how they work.
Invest in the organization’s future success by investing in employees and fueling their personal growth. Executive leaders who invest in learning, regularly meet with teams (of all levels), create a culture of feedback, and take a genuine interest in employees will set the example for all leaders to follow. The organization’s future success depends upon a commitment to develop employees and create a culture they will not want to leave.
Energize employees by creating a sense of direction and impact for them, as well as excitement and momentum for change. Words, vision, goal-focused communication, and energized action speak to the employees’ hearts, spirits, and minds. Inconsistent messaging, lack of vision, and negative communication are significant road blocks employees face when trying to advance their own engagement.
Enhance internal connection by creating a positive psychological contract with each employee. The “psychological contract” is the unwritten, implicit set of expectations and obligations that define the terms of exchange in a relationship. A psychological contract flourishes with transparent, genuine communication. This transparent communication is key to creating a culture of trust between leaders and employees. In a world of constant information, message-doctoring fails, and employees see through the fabricated statements. Trust is built by being genuine and transparent with your employees at all times. A culture that values transparency in the workplace breeds engaged employees.
Transforming managers from tacticians to inspired leaders starts with the CEO and permeates throughout the organization. Believe in and communicate the purpose and meaning of the organization. Provide an environment where managers have the autonomy to transform from tactical managers to inspired leaders. Invest in personal growth at all levels of the organization. Diligently find opportunities to impact employees through inspirational messages and actions. Lastly, genuinely connect with your employees through transparent communication.
An irresistible organization, where managers are transforming into inspired leaders by implementing these five key practices, will create an environment where a positive employee experience will flourish and employee’s hearts, spirits, hands, and minds will deliver high levels of performance throughout the organization.