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Getting Your Team Emotionally Engaged Is Half The Leadership Battle. Here's How To Do It

One big misconception otherwise promising managers have is the self-limiting belief that they have to choose between results and people. But fully half of great leadership is learning how to engage people emotionally—and it's something that can be learned.

For leaders to be effective, they need to be able to be able to organize, direct, and focus people's efforts toward the goals of the organization.

But that's only half of a leader’s job.

The other half is being able to engage people emotionally in the goals of the company. In studying highly effective organizations, we've found that the best leaders are the ones who can create self-direction and self-motivation in their people.

Warren Bennis, the highly regarded leadership author, has identified that one of the attributes of great leaders is that they have a profound understanding of themselves. This lets them look at how they can apply themselves effectively to engage other people’s hearts and minds.

In our work with leaders, we recommend taking this a step further and actually sharing what you know about yourself with others. We call this identifying your leadership point of view—taking an inventory of who you are as a leader and how you got there. The goal is to create a leadership story that you can share with other people.

This can be a challenge for some leaders—especially those who are concerned about any display of vulnerability. But we’ve found, as Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines told us, "People admire you for your strengths, but they love you for your vulnerabilities."

Sharing the complete picture of who you are as a leader helps people understand you and better anticipate what they can expect from you and what you will expect from them. It's a blueprint that helps to build trust.

Building engagement and buy-in also requires a paradoxical mindset. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." This is the attribute leaders need when it comes to balancing a focus on people and results.

The best working relationships are partnerships. For leaders, this means maintaining a focus on results along with high levels of demonstrated caring. These actions build the deep levels of commitment, motivation, and positive regard that are required for people to have a positive sense of well-being with their team and manager.

But remember: The relationship foundation has to be in place first. It’s only when leaders and managers take the time to build the foundation that they earn the permission to be aggressive in asking people to produce results. The best managers combine high support with high levels of focus, urgency, and criticality. As a result, they get more things done, more quickly, than managers who do not have this double skill base.

The best executives have a deep passion for their business, for their people, and for what they do. They are phenomenal relationship builders, can crack the whip when they have to, and can get people to think about their work in the long view rather than just as a workaday job.

One of the big mistakes we see among otherwise promising managers is the self-limiting belief that they have to choose between results and people, or between their own goals and the goals of others. We often hear these people say, "I'm not into relationships. I just like to get things done." Cutting yourself off, or choosing not to focus on the people side of the equation, can—and will—be a problem that will impact your development as a leader.

In today’s hypercompetitive work environment, we need the best that everyone can bring. It’s a full-time job that requires a comprehensive approach on the part of leaders—one that includes a focus on results and people. If this is an area you haven't explored much in the past, challenge yourself in the coming year to take yourself out of your comfort zone and strengthen this capability. It will be good for you and for the people you lead.

—Scott Blanchard is the cofounder of Blanchard Certified, a new cloud-based leadership development resource and experience. Ken Blanchard is the best-selling co-author of The One Minute Manager and 50 other books on leadership. You can follow Ken Blanchard on Twitter @KenBlanchard or @LeaderChat and also via the HowWeLead and LeaderChat blogs.

[Image: Flickr user Hindrik Sijens]

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  • Łukasz Kowalczyk

    Świetny artykuł, zwłaszcza następujące stwierdzenie " 
    fundacja relacja ma być na miejscu pierwszy. 

  • Lloyd

    I don't think leaders chose so much as they are compelled to act in certain ways by deeply engrained procedural learning reflected in their attachment (in this case mostly those who are avoidant) and from their control needs.  Results oriented managers who, as you say, are limited in their capacity to attune to people are capable of engaging but not in disengaging because many are not aware of the threat of loss of control mediated by their reptilian brain (stem). This neurodynamic and mostly unconscious process predisposes them to oppressive behaviour and the driven personality of the 'get it done' manager as opposed to a supportive leader.  In order to get leaders and managers to choice you must first get them conscious of their underlying patterns of behaviour and most importantly, help them become socially engaged.  This is a psychophysiological issue steeped in the latest research in neuroscience as well as leading edge clinical modalities. Choice is a top down process mediated by the 'thinking brain'.  Transformation, (including real transformation leadership) is a long process of self organizing change that occurs emotionally from the bottom up once the social engagement system is on line. There are no instant gratification solutions when it comes to leadership or real and lasting change simply because the brain doesn't work that way.

  • Michelle Pokorny

    The article reminded me of great work from Dr. Paul Zak and his writings in "Neuroeconomics and the Firm".  His studies are based on the measurable, chemical release of oxytocin, which signals a trusting, bonding encounter or experience.  He talks about a formula for trust building:  PAD-TEAA.  Praise (recognition), Anticipation (rewards), Delegation (freedom and mastery), Transparency (nuf said), Empathy (listening, perspective taking), Autonomy(delegation on steroids), Authenticity (real caring and connection). When we trust, it frees us to have feelings of cooperation, compassion, empathy, collaboration.  If we don't trust our leaders, we will never emotionally engage in the work asked of us.

  • Nate Regier, Ph.D.

    Thanks for keeping our focus balanced between people and tasks. The evidence is clear that leaders who are socially-emotionally intelligent generate better results. I might add that research on personality and motivation shows not all people are self-directed and internally motivated. This is not a bad thing, and it requires unique leadership and team-building skills because these people can be incredibly productive and creative. 

  • Debra Gould, Entrepreneur

    I'm expanding my team from exclusively using VAs to having some full time employees. This is timely. Thanks!

  • Cheryl

    Fantastic article, I'd agree "the best working relationships are partnerships." If you think about all the time and energy we spend a work--it's a big portion of our lives, why wouldn't we nurture the relationships while we're doing amazing work.

  • Iekpenyong

    Great article, especially the following statement "The
    relationship foundation has to be in place first. It’s only when leaders and
    managers take the time to build the foundation that they earn the permission to
    be aggressive in asking people to produce results" this is one of the core
    attributes of transformational leadership.