Engage employees through trust and embrace a digital era style of leadership

July 31, 2015 - 7 minute read - Posted by

Engaging employees is not a one-time thing, it’s an everyday thing

It’s important to support the intangible resources of your organization. The people that make up a team are the most important component of building a strong company culture and highly engaged team.


Team shot!

Here at 7Geese we have periodic outings to get to know each other, share some laughs, and in this case… bond over bruises the next day 😉

Would you consider trust an element of employee engagement?

When discussing “employee engagement,” the conversation often ends up by defining an engaged employee as someone who feels valued. This is very important in keeping employees engaged, but it’s not all encompassing! There’s a lack of attention drawn to an intangible element of engagement… trust. Keeping a team high performing and engaged means that they understand what makes each other tick! But, to trust someone’s ideas, there needs to be opportunities to put the tasks down, have some fun, and really understand each other.

Apply this in your work: Here at 7Geese we have weekly lunch and learns. We’ve created habit of putting work down to eat lunch together and learn about topics the team member presenting is interested in. The result… we learn about each other 🙂 

Engage in meaningful relationships, not hierarchies

Bonding over things outside of projects or tasks instills a culture where listening becomes about learning how others learn. This builds friendships, not hierarchies. Trust is built through valuing people’s feelings and ideas. But to value someone’s ideas, you have to value who they are and how they think. This inherent understanding is why employees can accept feedback, directions, and even unsolicited evaluations from a colleague they trust without push back. When people trust you, they have confidence in your decisions.

Without a strong bonded team, organizations can lose employees to reasons that could have otherwise been prevented. A common preventable scenario includes, “I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute – I was constantly told what to do, I wasn’t trusted as a capable decision maker.”

Apply this in your work: The next time you have a problem that impacts more than just you, instead of coming up with a solution just yourself, engage your teammates to come up with a collective solution. Everyone will become more invested in each other.

A lesson from your childhood… be a coach, not a critic

Growing up, my Dad taught me how far the simple act of letting go and trusting has when it comes to believing in yourself and others. We’ve all been in a seemingly precarious situation where you questioned, “am I going to get in trouble if mom or dad find out?” Luckily, I never felt this uncertainty… here’s why!

The most valuable component of my childhood that I’ve adopted in my professional career has been valuing the ability to let those I lead decision-make, problem-solve, and experience failure without emotionally crushing oversight. Growing up, I had a coach on the other end, not a critic. As a result of having a leader figure (or in the instance of a coworker, a peer) to talk to about how things happened from my own perspective, I was able to have an honest conversation. This led to feeling engaged with my own success. I also trusted my Dad’s advice more the next time it was offered.

Apply this in your work: Next time you want to provide feedback, try starting with “How do you feel this went?” Self-reflection leads to organic self-growth.

Other ways to ensure you’re fostering trusting relationships

  1. Ask fellow team mates for input into decisions that directly influence their day-to-day. If you’re working on something, or involved in a process that influences someone else, ask for their thoughts. Working together to find a solution becomes collaborative, not just cooperative. Everyone becomes a stakeholder in success.
  2. Before delegating anything, be sure to provide learning opportunities and resources. It’s about setting people up for success, not instant failure. Before someone else even gets involved in a project, set expectations and how you will support them along the way. You can’t expect 100% from someone to if you haven’t 100% committed to them.
  3. Accept that stuff happens. If you make a mistake, took a shortcut, or upset someone – admit to your mistake and learn from it. Hiding evidence can damage a culture of accountability.
  4. Give goals instead of instructions or tasks. There’s a huge difference between being told what needs to get done and being told how to do it. Employees will trust you if you trust them. You hired expertise, let it be wielded!
  5. Have conversations, don’t give demands. Once again, you hired expertise, use it! Handing down mandates from someone that hasn’t been involved along the way in a project, no matter how clever or helpful they are, will be received with complaint. Everyone wants to be involved when they’re responsible for the outcome – so keep them involved!

Concluding, Charlene Li brilliantly sums up in this 10 minute TED-Institute talk that trust is less about control and more about empowerment: enabling employees to acquire the information they need, so they can make their own decisions.

Being serious about employee engagement means not just accepting that employees will do as their told, but letting your employees’ talents run creatively.

Have any experiences with employee engagement and trust that you’d like to share? Questions? Let us know below!

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