Adopt these five abilities to develop employee engagement
by Barry Banther

Being a leader isn’t just something you do, it’s someone you become—that requires a personal transformation. Roger hadn’t learned that lesson. During an interview for a new leadership position, the hiring manager asked why he switched jobs, and sometimes companies, every three to five years. He blamed the employees who stopped growing and doubted ownership’s commitment to goals. Roger blamed the environment, and not his management skills. Roger was half-right—it was the environment. But he failed to recognize that he was responsible for creating it. Lasting leaders, those who can weather economic downturns and even seismic market shifts in their employees or customers, are the ones who know how to assemble a diverse team and bring out their very best. If you’re not building relationships that will last with your associates, your successes will be short-lived. Followers are drawn to leaders who show openness, invest time, listen, encourage and show appreciation for the strengths of their employees. These qualities are developed intentionally and pay both financial and personal dividends. Leaders who are held in high esteem for their successes with both the bottom line and the people they lead epitomize the following five qualities. The result is employee engagement at the highest level. Be open to others—Every leader claims to have an open-door policy, but it’s an open mind that matters! Openness encourages employee engagement, and that is fundamental to success. The Gallup Organization’s study of employee engagement in 7,939 business units across 36 companies found that employee engagement was positively associated with performance. Invest time in others—Leaders are usually not solo inventors or lonely creative thinkers. They assemble a team of people and enable them to be more productive together. Leaders can’t create time, but when they invest it to build profitable relationships, they are multiplying the results they can achieve. Spending hours or even one day with employees is a leader’s best return on time. Listen—Trust between leaders and associates is built upon transparency. Bad culture, where listening isn’t valued, impacts businesses every day. It’s been estimated that as much as 55 percent of a leader’s work time is spent listening. But most leaders confuse listening with hearing. When a leader invests the time to hear employees, then they are more apt to understand what they are saying and, sometimes more importantly, what they are not saying. Offer encouragement—Employees can work for hours without food or water. But they can’t do quality work for more than a few minutes without hope—hope that their work matters, that they can get the job done and that their efforts will be appreciated. You have few chances as a leader to show respect for employees, so take the opportunity to give positive feedback and encouragement when it comes. Express appreciation—When a leader gives away genuine appreciation, it is mirrored by improved attitudes, stronger commitment and better performance. The gift of appreciation is not about altering your associates’ opinions of the leader; it’s about changing their opinions of themselves. Lasting leaders know how to bring out the best in others. You can be appointed someone’s boss, but not their leader. Your followers ultimately determine your leadership.