Leading for Team Engagement

Published on Jan 19, 2017.

Have you ever heard a manager or team leader say these words, “I couldn’t ask that team member to do that, they would ____”... maybe cop an attitude, or threaten to do something even more drastic. You can fill in the blank. I encountered this when I suggested to a team leader that an interdepartmental process be examined to gain efficiency and improve the customer experience. This leader adamantly refused to even pony up to the table to take a look, telling me that her team member would quit before she could change the process. I was stunned.

Entitlement versus Empowerment

When leaders move their focus from the needs of the many, and of the organization, for the need of one, it creates an environment of entitlement. Ultimately, misalignment's occur when leaders do not lead in the best interest of the organization. It is the leader’s role to foster a team culture that spurs the team, and its individual members, toward the greater purpose and goals of the team and organization. The leader is to leverage talent and resources, nurture engagement, and garner support, internally and externally, to ensure the team has the greatest potential of achieving its mission. True, the leader also works to shield the team from forces that may threaten, but such forces threaten achievement and its member’s empowerment, not individual team member entitlement.

Accountability versus Engagement

Accountability is most often spoken of in relation to rules, responsibilities, and targets. A team and its members are responsible to hit their productivity goals, to comply with policies, to meet the requirements of their job descriptions or projects, etc. Yes, this kind of accountability exists, but does this type of accountability leverage optimal results? What if a truer form of accountability were less about expectations and more about potential?

When it comes to accountability, the proverbial cart has been sitting in front of the horse for far too long. Think about it from your own experience. Do you appreciate being told exactly what to do and how to do it, and to be measured accordingly? Engagement happens when the intellect is engaged and where social identity is grown toward a common purpose. Human hearts (desires) are engaged toward mutual purposes and gain a sense of belonging when there exists the potential to experiment to find solutions and seize opportunities, to live into a shared identity and destiny. The self-directed responsibility that comes from such becomes a strengthening social contract, one that serves to safeguard the best team and member behavior.

Leading for Team Engagement

Organizations have a large interest in their leaders’ abilities to leverage results. Human experience strongly supports that true accountability, rather than dictated, is best grown through individuals and groups gaining a growing level of self-directed responsibilities, a say in their future and of the shared importance of their contributions. It is the leader’s role to nurture engagement by providing the space for their teams to grow their contributions and successes, and to enjoy the challenges of moving the organization forward.

Written By Dave Covington
The Center for Professional Development

The Center for Professional Development offers workshops in organizational development as well as individual leadership coaching. Our workshops are held at the Boise Center in downtown Boise throughout the fall, winter, spring, and summer. Visit the workshops page for more information. Please contact Dave Covington for more information on personalized leadership coaching.