Effective Leaders Drive Employee Engagement

Look to effective leaders to make the difference!

From The Conference Board to Towers Perrin, every bit of research we read about these days tells us that organizations that are successful in driving higher levels of employee engagement generate better results. We see things like:

  • More satisfied customers
  • Higher profits
  • Lower turnover and absenteeism
  • Fewer safety incidents
  • Higher quality/fewer defects

Yet when industry giant Gallup conducted its most recent State of the Global Workplace study, it found that only 31% of employees in the U.S. and Canada are engaged at work. While the report acknowledges that U.S. employees, in particular, agree more strongly than others around the world that they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day, the data continues to indicate that more than 2 out of 3 workers are giving less than their best effort at work—meaning, there is plenty of room for improvement.

So, the question is this:

If we know that engaging employees can have such a positive impact on customers and stakeholders, why is employee engagement so elusive?

Engagement Enables Operational Success

Popular techniques like Balanced Scorecard, Net Promoter Score, and Lean Six Sigma can significantly impact organizational results. In organizations with high engagement ratios, these methods are welcomed by the workforce as tools they can use to perform at a higher level. But for the majority of companies where most workers are not highly engaged, pursuing such initiatives is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. And the result of such attempts can often be heard around the water cooler with employees suggesting that the approach called “Lean” is simply an acronym for “Less Employees Are Needed” and management’s way of instilling more control.

Structure Will Set You Free… If You Let It

As Jim Collins explained in his best-selling book, Good to Great, high performing cultures enable employees to operate with freedom within a framework of responsibilities. The structure that comes from formal initiatives can positively impact employee engagement if leaders use that structure to set a framework of responsibilities—and then get out of the way. This is where most organizations stumble, and it is where The Leadership Challenge®, the world’s most trusted source for developing exemplary leaders—can offer the greatest value.

Leadership behavior is at the root of employee engagement

When defining the drivers of increased employee engagement, most studies cite four specific factors time after time:

  1. Respect…Leaders who treat members of their team with dignity and respect
  2. Empowerment…Leaders who are willing to listen to other’s opinions, and empower rather than control or restrict the people on their team
  3. Clarity…Leaders who provide a strong strategic narrative about where the organization is heading
  4. Values…Leaders who build trust by aligning daily behavior with organizational values

These drivers of employee engagement correspond directly with the leadership behaviors that leadership experts and authors of The Leadership Challenge , Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, have been researching for more than 30 years. And over 3 million people have been using The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® framework and the model’s accompanying Ten Commitments to improve their effectiveness as leaders.

Consider how closely The Five Practices and Ten Commitments align with what the various research studies report:

five practices icons

Model the Way

  • Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared ideals.
  • Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.

Inspire a Shared Vision

  • Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities.
  • Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations.

Challenge the Process

  • Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve.
  • Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience.

Enable Others to Act

  • Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.
  • Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence.

Encourage the Heart

  • Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.
  • Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community.

New research confirms that effective leaders = improved employee engagement

Ongoing research by authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, plus data gathered from hundreds of research studies conducted each year by scholars, academics, and others, continues to validate a direct correlation between The Five Practices and positive employee engagement. In one recent study, for example, the authors gathered data from over 2 million respondents to their 10-question Positive Workplace Attitudes (PWA) survey and reported the findings in their e-book, Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces.

Leaders who more frequently exhibit The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® have employees who are more committed, proud, motivated, loyal, and productive than those whose leaders exhibit these practices less frequently. Overall engagement scores are 25 to 50 percent higher among the groups with leaders who exhibit exemplary leadership.

The data clearly demonstrates a positive correlation between employees’ self-reported levels of engagement with their opinions of how frequently their direct managers behave in accordance with The Five Practices.

In conclusion, people are more engaged in the workplace when they witness their direct manager practicing the behaviors associated with The Leadership Challenge.

Learn more about how you can get started engaging leaders and employees to achieve the extraordinary. Download a sample LPI 360 Individual feedback report today.

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