By Michael Gunther

I realize this sounds like a simple concept. We as leaders can easily just say that, yes, my team is playing to their strengths. And yet, the recent Gallup study stated that 7 out 10 employees don’t feel engaged with their work. One of the main reasons employees don’t feel engaged is because they feel that their strengths are not being used in their current roles. Quite ironic isn’t it? People want to be more productive by just using their strengths and yet, they don’t believe their managers are capable of engaging them.

I’m suggesting that the recent study should be a wake up call for business leaders and managers. Want a more productive team who is just as engaged as you are in their work? Well, it may be time to begin getting to know your team. Do you care enough to learn how your team works best? You should. If you feel like you don’t have time to focus on their development, you need to make the time.

I know through my own experience that this concept is eye opening. Last year, I had numerous team members in the wrong roles. Stress level was high, everyone worked hard but no one felt very successful. Last fall we aligned some roles and adjusted some responsibilities. Then, a funny thing happened. Not only are the team members more engaged today, but their productivity and enjoyment in what they are doing has soared as well. I actually think that I would have lost two employees if the changes hadn’t happened.

The other part of the equation was getting really clear on where they wanted to develop their skills and what they wanted to learn this year. We created specific growth plans with the team and now I review the plans with the team on an ongoing basis to see where they are and check in to see how their learning is going. We are now working on a five-year vision for the company, and the team is adding their five-year vision for their roles and professional development as part of the plan.

Our work environment has gone from busy and stressful to busy and energetic. As new projects or challenges come up, we review them as a team and volunteer to handle the project or challenges. The team volunteers based on their strengths or because they want to develop skills in that area. Even potential new client projects, we evaluate who wants to be part of the project based on the learning opportunity.

The last switch I had to make was putting aside time for the team. In the past I was “too busy” working on client projects and business issues that I didn’t have much extra time to coach or mentor the team. I actually made a conscious decision to limit our client projects so that I had time for the team. Besides having monthly one-on-one’s outside the office, we have learning moment check in’s plus our “wine down” Wednesdays where we sit and chat about the week. The interesting thing is that not only is my team more engaged, but the teamwork and client work has improved. The true outcome of this employee engagement is: is it impacting the bottom line? The answer is simply yes. In fact, our bottom line will be more than double than what we, as team, had budgeted for this year.

Bottom Line

Employee engagement is crucial for every business. Don’t fool yourself – remember 7 out 10 employees feel disengaged. I always thought I was a good leader with employee engagement but I have learned so much in the last six months as a leader. In fact, I realized I was only okay as a leader. I hope that you will take a hard look at yourself as a leader, see if your team is truly engaged.

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family as well as “work to live” focus has influenced his career.  Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. 



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