Creating and Maintaining Engagement with Your Team featured image

Creating and Maintaining Engagement with Your Team

By: Jerry Rutter

~ 5 minute read

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Engagement

Are you caught up in an endless loop of repairing relationships, resolving conflicts, and convincing people to stay? Your team used to be a well-oiled machine, with everyone in sync, harmoniously yin-yang-ing their way through projects. But lately, things have changed. The vibe is off, the energy’s flat, and you’re left wondering how to fix things. It’s not about wanting a “kumbaya” moment; it’s about getting the team humming again.

Some leaders are a natural at connecting and motivating others, but it’s a learned skill for many. Maybe new team members or those with different viewpoints are draining your energy. Maybe you’ve transitioned from individual contributor to leader and haven’t been given the skills to coach and develop others. Or maybe it’s simply that there’s some people you work with you just don’t understand.

Motivation Reboot

How do you reignite a once-motivated team member who’s now just coasting along? How do you maintain the excitement and energy of a freshly onboarded employee?

The villain here is lack of connecting with the right kind of motivation. Your team members are asking themselves, “Does my boss even get how tough my job is? Do they understand what I do, or what I need to do for this job?” In a 2018 survey, Predictive Index researchers found three key components that differentiate a great manager from just a good manager:

  1. A great manager “listens well
  2. A great manager “cares about my career and personal development
  3. A great manager “understands what drives/motivates me, personally

These three traits go hand in hand (in hand… you get the point). When a leader understands what drives and motivates their employee, they will listen and communicate in a way that resonates with the employee, which will display care about career and development. The key is hitting that “personalize” button and employing the right kind of motivation. 

Even if you used to be in their role, their motivation is probably different than yours. Now, what’s the right kind of motivation, you ask? Great question, I’d love to tell you.

Tailored Management

In the world of management, the golden rule does not apply. It’s time to bring out the platinum rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated. 

Using a behavioral analytics tool like the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment is the greatest shortcut to understanding motivating needs and what to do to fulfill that need. You’ll need to personalize these strategies based on your employee, their position, and your organization – but here’s our collection of some quick-win strategies. 

Extroversion: Wolf pack or Lone Wolf?

Some people on your team are more productive when they have connections with others. Not just virtual happy hour or water cooler chats, but seeing your body language when they talk with you, seeing your reaction and nodding. They are more productive if you can hop on a video call to talk through a project. 

  • Don’t cancel one-on-ones. Instead, ask them, “How often should you and I connect on this?”

For the other folks on your team, they prefer to work in private and talking does NOT make them more productive. They have a symphony playing in their head as they puzzle solve internally – you don’t want to interrupt that music with “pop ins”, noncritical meetings, or even small talk. 

  • Provide independent thinking time and ask them, “What’s the best way for us to get updated on what you’re working on and what method of communication would be best?”

Formality: Structured or Abstract?

Some people on your team prefer to follow specific guidelines. They want to know the right way, the wrong way, and how to avoid mistakes. For these team members, clarity is key and they appreciate thorough answers. When they know they’re on the right track, they will be more engaged and efficient. But ambiguity slows them down. 

  • Give clarity of expectations and ask them, “What questions do you have so far and what else do you need from me to move forward?”

For others, they have zero interest in an instruction manual. These team members do not want detailed examples of what you’ve done in the past. They like to work in the gray and they will actually be more productive and engaged if you let them figure things out on their own and get out of their way. 

  • Describe the outcome and non-negotiables, then ask, “Can you play back to me what the outcome of this project is to make sure we’re aligned on what winning looks like?” then step back and let them get it done!

These four strategies are just dipping your toe in the water. You can find more specific strategies (to be faster and more effective) by looking at Predictive Index tools such as the Behavioral Report and the Management Strategy Guide. Identify your employee’s strongest drives, then pick one strategy as your focus and have a purposeful conversation with your employee.  30 days from now, when you see a marked difference in their engagement– give yourself a pat on the back!

Purposeful Conversations

Create a plan for each team member. You don’t have two or three years to get to know someone, so use your PI cheat sheet (see above!) to accelerate understanding and connect their strengths to their roles. These interactions should be simple, yet impactful. 

Okay, but what does this conversation look like? It’s best to keep things simple using this format:

  1. Describe strengths. You’re good at starting new projects and bringing ideas to the table, here’s how that applies to your job. 
  2. Ask how to motivate. What makes you feel inspired at work?… Your work style indicates that you need more autonomy to be successful, what might that look like for you?
  3. Pick one action item. As your leader, I’m going to take a step back and let you take the reins, to give you that independence you said you were looking for. What that means is you’ll get fewer step-by-step instructions from me, but we’ll continue regularly checking in on your progress and I’m available to support you when you ask.

Ta-da! You’ve just had a development conversation! It took about 15 minutes. Your employee now knows that you understand them and care about their progress. Congratulations on the engagement boost.

Diverse Needs, One Team

Not clicking with someone doesn’t spell failure. It may simply mean they have different motivational needs than you. Be curious, explore what helps them, even if it’s different from your style. Remember, understanding your employee’s perspective, especially if it differs from yours, is key to unlocking their potential.

Some people are like you, which makes this whole job easier. Then there are people that are NOT like you, but you can’t throw the towel in. Shift your attitude to, “I don’t get them right now, they have a different lens than me. If I spend a little time, I can get closer to understanding their perspective, and then I’ve got it.”

Before that nervous twitch becomes a permanent feature, figure out what truly motivates your team members. What drives them? It could be the desire to contribute, to leave a mark, or to see projects through to completion. And then, fulfill that need. Often, these solutions don’t cost a dime. 

From Firefighting to Fostering Engagement

We need to escape the frantic cycle of dashing from one crisis to another. How? By investing time in understanding and nurturing each individual. This approach fills their cup, making them more engaged and positively charged. They, in turn, infuse this energy into the team. The secret to getting your employees to fill their own cups lies in great leadership.

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Jerry Rutter

Unique blend of Sales, HR, Kaizen, and improv skills, Jerry excels in building high-performing teams. A family camper and chicken farmer, he's dedicated to making workplaces joyous and effective.