Sprint Engagement – Part Two

Sprint Engagement - Part Two

Part 2 of 4

Happy First Day of Spring (one day late)! I love this time of year because people are excited. Winter is on the way out, it's staying light longer, and there's a special energy in the air. Down here in Orlando, the First Day of Spring was accompanied by a ton of outdoor activities including a Country Music Festival, the Arnold Palmer PGA Tournament, and the Flower & Garden Festival at EPCOT. Everyone is excited about spring and ready for peak season.

As part of our preparations for the upcoming season, we must include a plan for keeping our staff engaged. The fact is that when people are more engaged at work, they're happier, they perform better, and it shows in the quality of their work. Investing in staff engagement pays off!

In their book, Twelve: The Elements of Great Managing (Gallup, 2006), Rodd Wagner and James Harter present compelling data that shows a direct correlation between twelve specific elements and staff engagement. Last week, we covered the first three elements which are:

  1. Knowing What's Expected
  2. Materials and Equipment
  3. The Opportunity to Do What I Do Best

This week, I am excited to share with you the fourth through sixth elements:

Part Two - Elements Four, Five, and Six

Element #4 - Recognition and Praise

Great job!

I like what you've done here.

You're really making an impact.

Nicely Done... Thank you!

When was the last time you received some kind words of encouragement on the job? If you're a leader, when was the last time you gave someone the same kind words of support? The Fourth Element of Great Managing is measured by the statement "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work." Of all 12 elements, providing your team with regular recognition and praise seems to get ignored the most. Instead of rejoicing in the accomplishments of our team, we justify our failure to recognize this way:

"We don't have time for that-we're in fire drill mode!"

"It's their job to get the work done. If they don't like doing it, they can go somewhere else."

"We shouldn't have to reward this...after all, it's their job!"

Twelve Elements authors Rodd Wagner and James Harter write:

Businesses could write off this issue as a collection of sad but irrelevant emotional deficits if reinforcement were not so important to motivation on the job. But it is. The effects on the company begin with intentions to quit: Employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they will leave their company in the next year. There are even more profound consequences for outcomes short of quitting that reflect the energy the employee brings to work each day. Variation in the Fourth Element is responsible for 10% to 20% differences in productivity and revenue and thousands of loyal customers to most large organizations.[1]

The key is to recognize your team and to do so consistently. The question that Gallup asks employees in order to measure this element is specific - "In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work." The beginning of the question-in the last seven days-seeks to identify a consistent pattern of recognition and praise. In order to best answer the needs of the employee on this element, recognition and praise need to happen on a consistent basis. They must become a part of your culture. Below are some of the better practices that I've experienced over the course of my career:

  • Require your team leaders to document and submit a weekly accounting of all positive and corrective documentation.
  • Add a segment to your morning lineup meeting that includes recognizing and praising team and individual accomplishments.
  • Create an awards program that incentivizes positive feedback and rewards it with small prizes or motivational pins.
  • Ensure that we, as leaders, are practicing what we preach--if we expect our supervisors and leads to be providing timely recognition and praise, we must do the same.
  • Talk about the importance of this initiative regularly--from your weekly staff meetings to your one-on-one sessions with your direct reports. Consistent recognition and praise must become a part of the culture.

Element #5 - Someone at Work Cares About Me as a Person
Have you ever worked in a job where you didn't feel valued? I recall feeling that way during my college internship with The Walt Disney Company in Anaheim. I felt like a small fish in an immense ocean. Being one of thousands of college students who were hired to staff seasonal roles at the theme park, I felt small and insignificant. I knew my leads at my specific attraction and, to their credit, they knew me but I am certain that none of my managers could say the same. They didn't know me by name or take the time to care about me as a person-I was just another number to them. At least that was how I felt at the time...

I never forgot that feeling and I made sure that wherever I went in my career, I needed to get to know the people that I worked with and that worked for me. It's more than simply learning their names too. Caring about someone as a person mean that you get to know a little something about each member of your team and that you show interest on an ongoing basis. For example, one of the ladies who worked for me at Universal Orlando had a daughter on the local swim team and so from time to time, I made a point to ask her how her daughter was doing with her swimming. Her face would just light up when she spoke about her daughter as she shared her experience. By showing genuine interest in the topic, I was building a stronger relationship with her and demonstrating that I actually cared.

Element #6 - Someone at Work Encourages My Development
When I was a Sophomore in college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I recall sitting down with my advisor in the later part of Spring quarter in order to plan out my path to graduation. We went through each of the courses that I needed in order to satisfy my degree requirements and we customized my schedule in order to align it with my own interests and passions. I remember how engaged I was in school after that planning session. I felt as if I finally had a real path to the future and I was excited about it. My advisor continued to work with me throughout my college experience, helping me to make adjustments to my path and to keep focused on the future.

Development isn't the same thing as training. Training is, for the most part, skills-based and job specific. Development, in contrast, is an investment in the individual and focused on the future. It's about planning a path for growth and providing support as a mentor as the individual progresses along the path. Support might mean providing guidance to a staff member on the kinds of technical skills that might be needed in order to advance upwards. It could also mean providing very candid feedback on job performance and behavior that must change or adapt before the individual can move up.

In order to meet an individual's desire for personal and professional growth, leaders should intentionally schedule one-on-one development sessions with each member of their team. During these sessions, leaders can ask questions like "Where do you see yourself in a year from now?" and then, as a follow up, "how about in five years from now?" Leaders can also ask other questions like "How can we help you to get there?"

Development is about taking the time and investing in others. When we do this, we find ourselves playing the role of mentor, teacher, and cheerleader and it can be incredibly rewarding.

[1]Wagner, Rodd, and James Harter. "The Fourth Element of Great Managing." Gallup. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. <>.

Click here to purchase 12: The Elements of Great Managing on Amazon. More next week!

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

- John Maxwell