What’s the Key to Full Engagement?

“Engagement” has been a hot buzzword for quite a while now. Everyone is looking for the key, the secret, the silver bullet. In my view, engagement is an outcome of doing a lot things right. There is no silver bullet. But there are things you can do to increase the engagement of your team members.

Select the right people

  • Nothing is more important. When thinking about a candidate, ask these questions:
  • Does she have the right strengths to perform with excellence in this role?
  • Is she a natural fit for my leadership style?
  • Is she a natural fit for my team culture?
  • Is she passionate about this kind of work?
  • Is our mission important to her?
  • Do you think you’d enjoy spending a lot of time with her?

If you answer, “No” to any of these questions, keep looking.

Put them in the right seat on the bus

  • Understand each team member’s unique strengths.
  • Assign responsibilities that align with their strengths AND their passions.
  • Maximize the time they spend doing things they’re good at and enjoy.
  • Ensure that team members understand and appreciate each others’ unique strengths and how each person makes the team better.

Demonstrate passionate commitment to your mission, vision and values

  • Passion and engagement are closely related.
  • Passion is contagious.
  • Passion generates positive energy.

Promote a positive environment

  • Celebrate successes, large and small.
  • Express appreciation for others.
  • Make sure people are having fun.

Serve your team members’ individual needs

  • Understand each person’s unique set of needs and preferences.
  • Demonstrate a sense of urgency in meeting those needs.
  • Understand what kind of recognition is most meaningful to each person.

Ensure that each person is learning and growing

  • Strive to mentor each person.
  • Remember that growth often comes from new responsibilities.

Inspire people with challenging goals and expectations

  • Remember the Pygmalion Effect. People will strive to live up to your expectations.
  • Goals should require people to stretch and grow.
  • Only challenging goals create pride in the achievement and build self-esteem.

Hold people accountable to fulfill their responsibilities

  • This definitely drives a person’s focus and their level of engagement.
  • Accountability demonstrates that their work is important, and that therefore they are significant. Customers and associates need their contributions.
  • Other employees don’t want team members who don’t carry their weight.

Empower people to make decisions

  • If you’re holding people accountable, you must empower them to decide how they’re going to accomplish their goals
  • Empowerment increases self-efficacy, and leads directly to growth

Cultivate close, positive relationships

  • Think about how engaged and enthusiastic a person is when contemplating spending time with friends. Nobody has to pay them to do that.
  • Cultivate true friendships with your people. Foster friendships among team members.
  • Demonstrate that you care deeply about each and every person on your team.
  • Be both trustworthy and also trusting of others.

There’s nothing new here. I get that. There are no secrets to engagement. There’s no lack of understanding about how to do this. It’s about execution.

Steven Covey uses the metaphor of farming in his best seller, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” You don’t get a harvest unless you do the hard work of farming every single day. If you want the rich harvest of engagement, you have to do your farming.

Thanks for reading. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Larry Sternberg

5 thoughts on “What’s the Key to Full Engagement?

  1. Following the Steven Covey farmer metaphor: one does not control where the roots of the plants grow, each plant reaches out for nourishment in different ways. The same for the organization, the senior decision makers (the farmer) needs to ensure all the ingredients are put together to allow the organisation (organisms) to grow in a healthy way. In organizational terms it’s people issues: communication skills, emotional intelligence, trust, vision,… the many things listed in your article.

    One of the points you offer, ‘Put them in the right seat on the bus’, I offer a refinement to. Rather than ‘Put..’ I propose ‘Allow them to find..’ as a way to find even deeper engagement. Putting someone somewhere implies ‘I know better than you what work here inspires you.’.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Best wishes,
    John T


    • Hi John, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Your point is well taken. In fact, now that you’ve stimulated my thinking, how about, “Help them to find..”? I think this way of expression implies more pro-activity and the leader’s part. Allowing a person to explore possibilities is one very important aspect of helping someone identify the right seat. In addition, a leader might see potential that the individual has not considered as a possibility.


  2. Great article with many useful insights. I am in a new role as a supervisor and eager to do what I can to support and guide my team. Fortunately, my team is already functioning at a very high level of performance and satisfaction so my focus can mostly be on keeping them engaged. I had to look up the Losada ratio and found that this concept has been rather thoroughly debunked, so you might want to reconsider including this suggestion. See this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_positivity_ratio.


    • Kent, thank you very much for enlightening me about the debunking of the Losada ratio. I have removed all references to this in my posts. I look forward to learning about your insight as you continue your journey as a leader. Thanks again.


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