If you want to lead change effectively, there are three "E's" you must attend to – from the inception of a new idea or initiative to its implementation. Paying attention to these E's ensures both success in the end result and satisfaction along the way. Who doesn't want more success and satisfaction? Let's dig in.
Let me introduce you to the three E's:
These are not new terms. And you may say it makes perfect sense that engagement, enrollment and empowerment are essential to team and organizational success. But for many leaders, these words have come to evoke frustration and discouragement.
Because while such leaders have witnessed what is possible when even one individual is fully engaged in their work, enrolled as an owner of the results, and feels empowered to make things happen, all too often, these individuals seem to be the exception rather than the rule.
What do engagement, enrollment and empowerment really mean?
Rather than try to define each of these as concepts, let's look at how we know we have achieved them – in other words, we can consider the outcomes of being effective at engagement, enrollment and empowerment .
When employees are engaged, they generate ideas and solutions, are proactive, demonstrate that they care about their work, and always seem to just do what needs to be done with or without direction.
When you have successfully enrolled others, you know with certainty that you can count on them. In other words, they reliably follow through on their promises to you and others in both word and deed in service of your shared commitments and goals.
And when people experience being empowered, they take action and make decisions independently to deliver on what they promise to you and your organization. They don't just identify what can be better, they make things better. They don't wait to be told what to do, but rather take initiative on what needs to be done and make it so.
When someone is engaged, enrolled and empowered, they take pride in their work, they bring positive energy to those around them and they are accountable.
Simply said, they take ownership. They act as owners not only of their results but also the results of their team or organization. And they act as owners of the quality of their relationships, taking personal responsibility for building the level of trust required to achieve excellence.
In change management scenarios, are the engaged, enrolled and empowered born or made?
It's can be easy to explain poor employee engagement, weak ownership and/or a lack of empowerment as a function of personality or a bad attitude. Perhaps it's reasonable to believe that only a few have the commitment and maybe even the courage to rise to the call to be engaged, enrolled and empowered.
But to accept this explanation would mean that as a leader you lack something important: the power to cause a shift in the relationship your employees have with engagement, enrollment and empowerment. Of course, you don't really believe that, which is why you would read an article like this to begin with!
Yet it is admittedly hard work to truly engage, enroll and empower people to perform at their best and do great work individually and together. So if you are feeling frustrated or discouraged in this work, you are not alone. However, the good news is that there are things you can focus on that can make an immediate difference in your ability to engage, enroll and empower those you lead.
Two strategies for quickly increasing engagement, enrollment and empowerment
What follows is an exploration of two strategies you can apply immediately to increase engagement, enroll people in taking ownership and empower them to act as if the future was up to them.
1. Replace presentations with conversations
Consider this scenario: Your leadership team has just invested a week at an offsite to craft a new vision for your organization. You're excited about the possibility of what you have envisioned and are ready to get to work on making it a reality. You return to the office the following week and prepare a presentation to roll out the new vision to your entire organization.
It is a well done, beautifully crafted presentation. The images and the words convey just what you want to say, the way you want to say it. You schedule a company-wide event for the big reveal and can feel the excitement brewing.
The day of the big event comes and, by all accounts, it is a huge success. The enthusiasm is palpable. You get tons of positive feedback. The conversation continues to buzz at the afterparty. The future is alive and well... at least in this moment.
A few months later you conduct your annual Employee Satisfaction Survey and you are astounded to learn that more than 50 percent of your organization believes you have no clear vision. You wonder, how can that be?
Believe it or not, this happens more often than you might imagine. And it happens for one simple reason: When you present your vision, it will belong only to you until those you lead have a chance to engage with it and make it their own. This is true of a company vision. And it is also true of that project you start because you have a great idea.
A presentation can be a great start to a conversation, but it takes a great conversation to engage, enroll and empower others to take ownership with you.
Of course, people expect their leaders to set the vision. They expect you to be smart and to present your ideas well. But for them to take ownership you need to actively give it away so it can become theirs.
The way to do that is to design a conversation every time you see a need to give a presentation. Go ahead and prepare the presentation. But recognize that the most important part of that presentation will not be the information you provide, but rather the conversation you stimulate among those you lead.
- Why does it matter to them?
- What possibilities do they see for themselves and those they work with, lead and serve?
- What questions do they have?
- What would success look like?
- What could their part be in making it a reality?
These questions are just starters. There are many other questions you could design to engage others in what you present. Just make sure the questions are created to help employees find their way to making a personal investment in whatever future you have imagined. As long as you are as committed to and excited about listening to them as you are about what you have envisioned and what you have to say, you will undoubtedly cause a breakthrough in their level of ownership to the future you envisioned.
Remember that until YOUR vision is personal to THEM it will remain your vision alone.
2. Guide people to make choices vs. giving answers
The more choice people feel like they have, the more empowered they will feel. Few people really like to be told what to do. Nonetheless, a major complaint I hear from executives and managers is that too many people want to be told what to do. I'll suggest the reason for this is that it's is a very effective way to limit your risk. If you do as you are told and it doesn't work out, then it's not your fault. Yet if you are only doing what you are told, you are probably not engaged, enrolled or empowered either.
If you want to shift this dynamic, start by getting clear about the outcome(s) you need people to produce and start requesting outcomes vs. activities.
Here's an example: Say you need to better understand the risks your company faces in entering a new market. You could ask someone to prepare a report by giving them the exact specifications which would be telling them what to do. On the other hand, you could ask them to design and prepare a report that will help us to understand the risks in this new market. Which approach do you think would empower someone to think and make choices on their own?
There are, of course, times when you will need to ask specifically for what you need. Yet even then, by giving people some level of choice when you make a non-negotiable ask, you empower them. When making a request for something to be done, is there a part of the task that is negotiable such as the date, or the resources that they can access?
Do you have an under-performer? Try to use this approach of guiding someone to make a choice instead of giving them an answer. Instead of telling them specifically what they need to do to turn things around, try being specific about the outcomes they need to produce and ask them for a plan for what they are going to do to turn things around.
For example, your team needs to meet its next three deadlines. What will you do to make that happen and is there anything your team needs from you to deliver as promised?
When people make choices for themselves, their ownership naturally increases.
- Tell people what to do and they may do what you ask, but they will never own the outcome
- Tell someone how to turn around their performance, and they may do what you suggest yet it will probably make little difference because they didn't choose their own path.
- Give people your idea and they may do their best to implement it, but engage them in making that idea their own and they might just take your idea to a place you hadn't even imagined.
An essential skill for being an effective leader is the ability to bring people to make their own decisions. By shifting presentations into conversations that engage people's minds and hearts, and enroll them in a possibility for the future, you give people a choice to own the future with you. And by guiding people to make choices in everything they do so that they increase their results ownership and embrace the opportunity to generate the pathway forward, you empower people to do their very best work.
What strategies have worked for you in creating engagement, enrollment and empowerment among those you lead?