Rules of Engagement

“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.
Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization.
When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.”

Warren G. Bennis

“Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel.
If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

Sam Walton


According to Wikipedia, Velcro was invented in 1948 by a Swiss engineer named George DeMestral.  He patented it in 1955 and, since then, we have all become familiar with Velcro’s usefulness as a closure/fastener on clothing, shoes and countless other items.  Basically, Velcro works by bringing strips of hooks and strips of loops together to create a bond as they engage each other.

It Takes Two

The operative word here is “engage”. The individual strips do not function by themselves.  They need to come together to create their bond.  Employee engagement works in a similar fashion.  To engage its employees a company must reach out to them.   Its efforts must be intentional and occur not just occasionally but daily.  The strength of the bond between a company and its employees is directly proportional to the energy employed by the company to “hook” their employees by giving them something to hang on to.

So…What’s Your Hook?

How you engage your employees in your company will be specific to your environment.  It will combine their skills, interests and potential with the reason your company is in business.  An articulate Vision and Mission are necessary for employees to understand how they can carry out their roles to achieve their goals and those of their department and the company as a whole.  Leadership must establish a clear picture of the goals and expectations it has for your employees as well as the latitude they have in meeting those expectations.    In short, show them how they can and do make a difference.  A shared set of values is equally important so everyone understands how they will behave towards each other and customers as they carry out their roles day to day. 

Candidates and new hires need to be similarly engaged.    During the hiring process it is important to take into consideration the things about your company that will interest new candidates and utilize their skills.  Making these connections will provide them with a picture of how they would fit in and contribute as an employee.  That’s just the beginning.

Over time, as new employees settle in, they need to be continually involved in a way that gives them a sense of value.  Employees need to know they are making an impact and that their opinions and ideas are heard and are integrated into the day to day operations whenever possible.  When employees perceive they are ignored or forgotten or feel their role doesn’t matter they disengage.  This holds true from the loading dock to the executive offices.

Autocracy or Autonomy

About your expectations; once they’re set how do you allow your employees to meet and/or exceed them?  Last month we discussed the importance of maintaining a flexible structure.  It’s important to set expectations and create an environment that stresses accountability.  However, the amount of latitude you give employees directly relates to the amount of ownership they feel they have in what needs to be accomplished. 

Opportunity + Growth = Engagement + Retention

Whenever possible provide your folks with chances to stretch their capabilities while doing their jobs.  Individually as a leader, this means doing your part to help them grow professionally.   Help them acquire new skills.  Provide ongoing training and allow them to take on new responsibilities.  .  You will retain your high performers and encourage all your employees to be more productive and feel connected to your organization.  Companies with high employee engagement have lower turnover rates and, when they need to hire, their reputations for being a good place to work are already on the street.


No mystery here; remember to give credit where credit is due.  Engaging employees includes making sure they receive recognition for their accomplishments, ingenuity and innovation.  It is important that employees’ successes are celebrated and linked back to the organization as a whole.  Those in charge need not worry about their own success.  Employees who are made to feel they make a difference invest in everyone’s success.

Here to serve,

John Duba

Next month: Family Ties

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