AMP Up Your Team to Engage and Succeed

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Today’s workforce already experiences alarmingly low levels of engagement in work. Improving engagement—finding ways to encourage individuals to invest more psychic energy in work—is the single most powerful lever that most corporations have to improve productivity. (Tamara J. Erickson or the Concours Group in 2008 congressional hearing on the 21st Century Workplace)

AMP up your workplace to engage your people. Every individual has basic needs for Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Work fulfillment yields motivated teams. Motivated teams are made up of people who feel engaged in what they do and engagement comes when basic needs for Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are fulfilled. But why bother?

Engaged employees deliver superior results. According a to a 2009 Gallup study of over 150 organizations some of the benefits of having a highly engaged workforce include 18% greater productivity, 16% greater profitability and 60% better quality. Businesses “scoring in the top half on employee engagement essentially double their odds of success in comparison to those in the bottom half.”

In today’s world of growing complexity, uncertainty and change, managers increasingly lack the knowledge, skills and time to evaluate all decisions needed to delivery excellent results. They must rely on their employees to make these decisions. Only fully engaged employees will deliver decisions which support the corporate objectives.

In other words, every manager, VP and CEO should be striving to build a fully engaged organization. Oddly, I’ve never met an executive who doesn’t want engaged employees. I have, however, met a slew of managers who have accomplished this goal. Even smart and capable managers fail to deliver this fundamental objective. The challenge is clearly not easy. Managers need to look beyond traditional management approaches to build highly successful teams. There are a range of tools and approaches that work, here we will focus on a set of fundamental motivators which support any other methods you may choose.

So what are the characteristics of an AMPed workplace (aside from high availability of caffeinated beverages).

Autonomy addresses the basic human desire for independence. A baby will begin to crawl and ultimately to walk with little encouragement or pressure. He simply wants to explore. This basic need may be suppressed but doesn’t go away as we enter adulthood. People who feel that they have autonomy at their work will find ways to improve both their work environment and the product they work on. Managers open up autonomy by focusing on standards rather than procedures and then giving people permission to find unique ways to achieve those standards.

Some of the most rewarding experiences in life come from growing mastery in some pursuit. Most of us have a hobby of some sort. Hobbies range from knitting to hotrods. Hobbies require a great deal of personal time, money and focus. Yet we do them voluntarily. One source of pleasure from hobbies comes from the constant effort to get better at them. Shave a point off your golf handicap, build a better joint on the next cabinet or make a cleaner weld. The important thing here is to set achievable goals and then achieve them.

I once led a team of particularly independent people who had a reputation for being somewhat negative. In the end, we were truly a team and delivered some great new products. I was asked several times about how I motivated this “impossible” group. We created goals and then succeeded at achieving them. Nothing builds team spirit as well as a success.

As a leader, you want to work with your team to set achievable goals and then celebrate achieving those goals.

The last element is purpose. We all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. To be a part of a community, a company or a cause. Leaders need to create the sense of purpose which drives the team or organization. You do this by creating and communicating stories which exemplify the organizations culture and values.

Great leaders engage employees by building and environment which provides opportunity for growth through Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

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