Engage Me: Strategies from the Sales Effectiveness Source
I have believed for quite some time that doing the basics right will go a long way towards the realization of goals, whether they are individual or collective goals. I see the manager to subordinate relationship being a misused key to success in information management projects at companies of all sizes. To that end, I was particularly interested in Kevin Higgins focus on the term “engagement” in his book “Engage Me: Strategies from the Sales Effectiveness Source”, Fusion Learning Inc., 2013.
I spoke to Kevin, CEO of Fusion Learning, about his book and concepts that we can all use.
He emphasizes “coaching” as an operative term in the manager to subordinate relationship. Coaching is about questioning and listening a lot more than sharing your knowledge. Questioning is quite important in the relationships. Kevin said to use questions to drive the conversation but don’t be the friendly interrogator. The book lists 5 coaching skills that need to be selectively deployed: acknowledge, question, confirm, respond and check.
When we get too enamored with the answer, we miss the process. If you only give answers, you are not empowering others and you will be really busy giving answers forever.
We shifted to the one-on-one meetings between manager and subordinate. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything written to guide this important interaction I’ve had with staff for many, many years so I was particularly eager to find some nuggets on this activity that many of us will spend a collective hundreds of hours a year on!
The thing Kevin emphasized is structure in these meetings. They should be documented and commitments from prior meetings reviewed. Usually time is disproportionately spent on topics of less importance. Kevin said to collect topics up front and talk about them later in the 1-1, being sure to cover the items of importance first.
What’s important is that the employee is not only performing, but they are engaged and feeling good about the work. One important metric Kevin refers to several times in the book is unforced turnover of staff. These 1-1s, for which each manager should prepare 5-7 minutes, are opportunities to assess engagement, a key factor in keeping unforced turnover down.
I am attaching Kevin’s One-on-One Form here for you.
We then talked about the team meeting. Kevin said so often these meetings are 70% the manager talking, which leaves very little time, if any, for each person to talk. This is not engaging the employee. Kevin said to “flip it” to elicit employee engagement.
One item in book I found different was the suggestion that the employees actually rate the meeting in terms of its usefulness. Kevin suggests occasionally asking everyone to put a number between 1 and 10 on a post-it and give to the manager.
I also enjoyed the ideas presented around starting these meetings with an “energizer” – something fun everyone can contribute to. There is an excellent list of 20 “themed updates”, which are not “open” questions, but specific questions that require some thinking but will be short. My 2 favorites (coming soon to MCG team meetings):
- Picture Friday at 4 pm. What have you accomplished that made it a fantastic week?
- What will be your toughest challenge this week and what help do you need?
Finally, we spoke about the dreaded performance review. Kevin recommends these get more widespread input than just from the direct manager. He recommends having a list of about 8 constituents write out their feedback for the review. We also talked about how to “de-drama” the meeting by focusing on positives first and focusing it on “helping people not filling out boxes.”
In summary, Engage Me is an excellent review of what all sized technology project teams and work groups can tend to lose sight of, at peril. These ideas can be used to create a coaching culture and have more effective one-on-ones, team meetings and performance reviews.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.