Kevin Kruse

One Sentence Engagement? (Kevin Kruse)

Winning Well Connection

Kevin has been a remarkable supporter of my speaking and writing from very early on in my journey. His Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers has led to some amazing keynote opportunities to spread the Winning Well message. We really enjoyed his Winning Well interview in Forbes and love contributing to his LeadX Community. He’s surely a Winning Well kindred spirit and works hard to build platforms for speakers and writers to positively impact the world. 

Is it truly possible to condense the science of employee engagement into a single sentence?

It is and I’m about to convince you of that.

But first I need to explain why I’m taking this extreme exercise in reductionism. Unfortunately, employee engagement continues to be a topic that many find confusing. This confusion is unnecessary. Despite our VUCA world (characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) that has made both time and money endangered species, it’s never been easier to drive massive engagement throughout your organization. It’s never been easier to engage your own direct reports. It doesn’t require a high IQ, high-priced consultants, long-term planning or even a lot of time or money.

The idea of a one-sentence employee engagement course is intended to cut through this noise. To make things as simple and as actionable as possible. Just 20 words. Words that I’ve seen work miracles in countless organizations. The goal is to craft a sentence that all front-line managers can remember. A single sentence that can be scribbled on the inside of a Moleskine notebook or perhaps jotted on an index card and taped to a computer monitor. It’s not a sentence that one delivers to others, but rather a sentence that one remembers.

So here is my one-sentence employee engagement course:

“People give loyalty and discretionary effort to those who foster growth, show appreciation, share a compelling vision and are trustworthy.”

I hope you’ll read that sentence again. That single sentence encapsulates the “why” and the “how” based on two decades of studying and applying the principles of engagement.

  • The why: engagement results in increased loyalty and effort.
  • The how: to feel emotionally committed, we all want to: * learn, grow and be challenged * feel appreciated * work for a higher purpose, not just a paycheck * and the first three items don’t matter if we can’t actually trust our leaders.

Can it be that simple? Try to find a reliable survey instrument that measures engagement and its drivers that doesn’t include growth, recognition, vision/meaning, and trust. I don’t believe one exists.

Think about the best job you have ever had and more specifically, the best boss you ever worked for. Can you see how she helped you to grow, to feel appreciated, to feel that your work was important and was she trustworthy?

Many will dismiss this “one-sentence employee engagement course” because it is so simple and obvious. Indeed, Frank Lloyd Wright said, “There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.” I would argue the power is in its simplicity. The correct application of these simple principles can get you into the top deciles of engagement.

So, then, what should managers actually do to drive engagement, according to the one-sentence course?

To foster growth … it’s not about corporate training programs and annual performance appraisals. It’s about having career path conversations (i.e., stay interviews), and giving feedback in the spirit of a caring coach.

To show appreciation … it’s not about award ceremonies—the winners’ circle is always too small. It’s about saying thank you in sincere ways all throughout the year.

To share a compelling vision … it’s not about the mission statement poster hanging in the conference room. It’s about repeatedly connecting and aligning the weekly work with the big hairy audacious goals of the organization.

To be worthy of trust … it’s not just about ethics and telling the truth. It’s about being authentic and transparent.

With this article, I’ve tried to reduce the science of engagement to a single sentence. I acknowledge that there are many variables omitted that often drive engagement including: fair pay, work-life balance, having the right tools, having a best friend at work, quality, corporate responsibility and on and on. But my reductionism isn’t supposed to be all encompassing; it’s supposed to simplify a topic that has become way too complex. It’s supposed to be memorable and actionable. It’s an attempt to help leaders master the most basic principles of engagement, allowing other behaviors to be layered on at a later time.

Whether you find this approach helpful or harmful to the field of engagement, one thing is clear: your team members want growth, recognition, meaning and trust.

Click the image to learn more about Kevin’s book.

Winning Well Reflection

In a world where it’s all-too-easy to over-complicate and lose sight on what matters most, Kevin brings us back to the essentials of employee engagement in one sentence. “Is it possible?” he asks. We believe the answer is an unqualified “Yes.” When you interact with your team, when you have a one-on-one or even an accountability conversation, you don’t need a body of theoretical principles, you need practical tools you can use right away. Kevin’s given you the road map: growth, appreciation, vision, and trust.

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