Success-Business-TeamEmployee engagement strategies seem to be a magic mix of secret ingredients which will entice your employees to perform at their best individual potential.  As no great surprise, employee engagement affects an employee’s commitment to the organization and the business’s bottom line.

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in the September 2013 on-line issue of Harvard Business Report summarized their study of how leaders’ supervisory behavior affects employee engagement’s effect on productivity. Their survey was a world-wide analysis of direct reports, colleagues and bosses response to leaders in terms of commitment and productivity to 30,661 company leaders.  Zenger and Folkman found that people working for or with bad leaders were more unhappy and less committed than 75% of the group; whereas, people working for identified excellent leaders were more committed than 80% of other respondents. Not surprising.

Zenger and Folkman then approached the question of commitment and productivity from another angle.  They asked respondents to rate the business leaders into three categories: driver, enhancer or combination.  Drivers are very good at establishing high standards of excellence, getting people to stretch for goals that go beyond what they originally thought possible, keeping people focused on the highest priority goals and objectives, doing everything possible to achieve those goals and continually improving. Enhancers, by contrast, are very good at staying in touch with the issues and concerns of others, acting as role models, giving honest feedback in a helpful way, developing people and maintaining trust. The data about drivers and employee engagement was not surprising Only 8.9% of employees working for leaders they judged effective at driving but not at enhancing also rated themselves in the 10% in terms of engagement. The data about enhancers and employee engagement was surprising.  Those working for leaders they judged as effective enhancers were even less engaged. Only 6.7% of those scored in the top 10% in their levels of engagement.  But, when asked about leaders who exhibit both, driver and enhancer management style, 68% of the employees ranked in the top 10% on overall satisfaction and engagement with the organization.  According to their survey findings, the best leaders use a combination of driver style and enhancer style.

So, what are some management behavior techniques that leaders can develop so that they are both enhancers and drivers.  A 2009 management behavior study out Ivey Business School in Toronto, Canada identifies the following techniques for leaders.

  • Connect: Leaders must show that they value employees.  Employee engagement is a direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with the boss.
  • Career: Leaders should provide challenging and meaningful work with opportunities for career advancement.
  • Clarity: Leaders must communicate a clear vision.
  • Convey: Leaders clarify their expectations about employees and provide feedback on their functioning in the organization.
  • Congratulate:   Surveys show that, over and over, employees feel that they receive immediate feedback when their performance is poor, or below expectations. These same employees also report that praise and recognition for strong performance is much less common.
  • Contribute: People want to know that their input matters and that they are contributing to the organization’s success in a meaningful way.
  • Control: Employees value control over the flow and pace of their jobs and leaders can create opportunities for employees to exercise this control.
  • Collaborate: Studies show that, when employees work in teams and have the trust and cooperation of their team members, they outperform individuals and teams which lack good relationships.
  • Confidence: Good leaders help create confidence in a company by being exemplars of high ethical and performance standards.

Within these are traits that are more driver than enhancer such as, career, clarity, convey and contribute  Some traits that are more typical enhancer traits are connect, congratulate,  When thinking about the behavior styles of control, collaborate and confidence, they are such a mix of driver and enhancer skills that it is difficult to clearly separate the two.  For example, control and collaboration require management to set the task and convey the task in such a way that control and collaborate are natural outcomes.  As well, control and collaboration require enhancer styles, like congratulation during the actual work process.  These way employees are assured that they are following the direction of the project and the projects’ outcome will be valuable to organizational knowledge even if it doesn’t achieve the profitable outcome hoped for.

In other words, you don’t need to fret if you are a great enhancer and not driver or vise-verse.  The trait that you really want to develop is balance between the two – a great mix for employee engagement success. That would be a good first step in developing integral leadership skills.