Energize And Engage Your Team

Energize And Engage Your Team

I read an interesting article in the New York Times by Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project. I recognized the name and recalled reading a great book of his many years ago on how to manage personal energy called, The Power of Full Engagement.

In the article, Tony states, “The way we’re working today isn’t working. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep.”

In 2014 his organization partnered with the Harvard Business Review to conduct a study of more than 12,000 (mostly white-collar) employees across a broad range of companies and industries to find out which leadership practices increase employee energy and engagement.

The study found that employees are vastly more energized, engaged and productive when the following 4 core needs are met. Here’s my take these 4 findings with my own recommendations added:

1. Able to take breaks. Work smart, not long.

The more hours people work beyond 40 total hours, and the more continuously they work, the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become.

Employees who take a break every 90 minutes to stand up and walk around for 5 minutes report a 30% higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or who take just one break during the day. Those who take these frequent breaks also report a nearly 50% greater capacity to think creatively and a 46% higher level of health and well-being.

Being encouraged by one’s supervisor to take regular breaks increases by nearly 100% people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Interestingly, studies documented in The Economist have shown that working up to 49 hours per week, employee productivity is proportional to hours worked, but once you exceed 50 hours, the output starts to diminish. Sure, there might be the occasional week where you need to burn the midnight oil to complete an important project or deal with an unanticipated problem; but on a long-term basis, if you are consistently working more than 50 hours per week, the research suggests you not actually being any more productive.

For more information on this topic, see “How many hours should we work?” and “Are you overworked and overwhelmed?

2. Feel Valued.

Feeling cared for by a direct supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they work for supportive bosses are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67% more engaged.

Here’s how to praise your people the right way.

3. Able to Focus.

Unfortunately, only 20% of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time without being distracted or interrupted at work. Those who did have space and freedom to focus without interruptions were 50% more engaged.

The study found that employees have a deep desire for flexibility about where and when they work and have far higher engagement levels when they are given more choice. But many employers remain fearful that their employees won’t accomplish their work without constant oversight

For more information on this topic see “The pros and cons of open plan offices” and “How to manage highly productive virtual teams

4. Aligned With Core Purpose.

Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than 3 times as likely to stay with their organizations, the highest single impact of any variable in the survey. These employees who were aligned with the company Core Purpose also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

For more information on this topic, see “Core Purpose – why does your company exist?

Suggestions to implement right now:

– Ensure meetings run for less than 90 minutes

– Encourage people to get up out of their seats and walk around for 5 minutes every 90 minutes or so

– Provide healthy, high-quality food and snack options on-site

– Create distraction-free spaces for people to focus on their important tasks without noise or interruptions

– Provide clear guidelines for how quickly people are expected to respond to emails, instant messages, and phone calls during work hours. I recommend you create a “user manual” to clarify these communication expectations for your staff

– Set clear after hours boundaries when people are not expected to send or answer emails, instant messages, and phone calls

Most importantly, managers need to set an example. The study showed that when the managers themselves model a sustainable way of working, their employees are 55% more engaged, 53% more focused, and more likely to stay at the company.

You see, staff are unlikely to leave work at the end of the day until they see their manager leave. Staff are unlikely to take regular breaks throughout the day unless they see their manager doing so. If managers send messages after hours and during weekends staff can feel obligated to respond. If some staff members do respond to these communications after hours and are made to feel like “heroes” by their manager, the rest of the staff feel coerced into communicating after hours as well. If managers don’t take their allotted vacation days, or they come to work during public holidays, staff can feel pressured into doing likewise. Employee resentment and disengagement is the likely result.

I’ve always liked this quote from Peter Drucker. “You can tell a great business by how calm and boring it is. A dramatic business full of heroic endeavors is invariably poorly managed.”

If you are a manager and feel like you always have to work beyond normal business hours to “save the day” and get projects done on time, and you expect your people to do likewise, this is a sign of poor management. YOU are the problem!

Yes, there may be occasions when we need to burn the midnight oil and pull out all the stops to deal with an unexpected issue, but if “performing heroic deeds” becomes a recurring pattern, this is not a badge of honor. It is a sign your organization is poorly managed.


Until next time…