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Writing for SmartBlog on Leadership, Gretchen Rosswurm suggests eight ways to keep your people engaged in their work. By engagement she means "what employees or teams do to make everything go a little better for each other, their customers and their communities."

In harmony with our own approach to leadership development, she advises that a leader's "behaviors are hugely influential," and how leaders interact with their teams "can build or break down engagement." Here are her eight suggestions:

1. Give your time because "the greatest gift leaders can give their employees is their undivided attention. Take time to listen. Ask questions. Pay attention to their answers. Find out what they love to do. Uncover their pain points. Follow up to show that you support their success. And don't forget to laugh and joke with them. Ask about their families, hobbies or friends."

2. Look for their strengths. "See each team member as an individual" and uncover their unique skills and abilities. Find their natural skill-sets, help them develop those skills, put them in situations where others can see their strengths, and "stretch them with assignments that draw these skills to new levels."

3. Involve them. Ask them for ideas. Form small groups to come up with recommendations to deal with challenges. Delegate setting agendas and leading meetings.

4. Pick a cause and get involved. "Even if the idea of taking time from work to volunteer seems odd, time and again, I've seen teams really get engaged when they work together to help others." It makes them feel good about themselves and their company. "Acting in service to others is a great reminder of all that we have to grateful for.

5. Be honest. "Tell team members when they are doing great (and) tell them how they can improve." Together this feedback will help them reach their full potential.

6. Actions speak louder than words. But both are powerful. As a leader, recognize that others are watching you. You don't have to be perfect. But it will help to admit the mistakes you make. Since your words count, choose them carefully. Praise in public, criticize in private.

7. Ask for help. Phil Hodges, co-founder of the Lead Like Jesus Movement, says to be an effective leader, we have to learn how to say those difficult words: "I need." Ask for help from your team members, your peers and your superiors.

8. Customize your interactions. Since everyone is unique, be prepared to meet people on their own turf. Some will prefer interactions in formal meetings. Others prefer drop-ins. Pay attention to their behaviors. But also ask them about their preferences. The point is to make great connections, not to deify protocol.

"In today's cookie-cutter corporate world, people long for connection," Rosswurm says. "Use your leadership to help create that with your team and watch them achieve more than you thought possible." 

We couldn't have said it better.

Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute

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