Engaging your Team: The Science of Inspiring Others to Give their All

Guest post from Suzanne Bates:

When I started
my first career in television news so many years ago, the term “employee 
engagement” had been invented.  But it
was irrelevant to me. I was jazzed about going to work every day.  Nobody had to give me a speech about going above
and beyond.  I worked hard, stayed late,
and gave my all, because I was on a mission to excel in my career and do
something that mattered.  I’m willing to
bet you felt the same way about your first job.

Along the way on
that career path, most of us run into mediocre bosses and learn to work around
them.  We all get it—a bad boss can be
demotivating.  When we become the boss,
we have a pretty fresh perspective on what people want from us.  We wanted it from our bosses—to know they
care about our careers, are going to give us chances to succeed, value our
opinions, and make us feel like our work matters and is connected to a greater
Why isn’t it
easier to be that person?
I’ll tell you
what—it wasn’t until I started a company and became the CEO that I realized the
problem.  It isn’t lack of good
intention.  As my company grew, I really
didn’t always know how people saw me.  I
wanted to do the right things but didn’t appreciate how my words and actions
were getting translated at times.
Now, putting on
my hat as a coach to other leaders, what our team decided to do is solve for
this.  We committed to a research project
to help us understand the science of executive presence.  Working with senior leaders around the world,
we knew that they had the same problem—perceptions didn’t always match their intentions.

The project we
undertook was successful in that we were able to take a deep, broad look at
research to identify the qualities of a leader that engage, align, inspire, and
move people to act.  We call this executive presence, and it’s about
influence and impact.  There has never
been science around this, or a way to measure it, until now.  It was called an “X factor”– people said they
know it when they saw it, but they always seemed to struggle to capture what
“it” is.

Trough piloting
the model and assessment in many global companies, we were able to show how  the qualities of executive presence track with
employee engagement.  Our clients around
the world are talking about this more and more. 
It’s a pressing issue. 

Let’s face it.
We’re all choking on published reports on employee engagement.  Gallup reports only 35% of managers are
engaged in their jobs.  A Towers Watson finds
that only 55% of employees agree that their top management provides effective leadership.  Dale Carnegie Training’s employee engagement
study estimates 80% of employees who are dissatisfied by their managers are

received.  We’re smart people,
leaders.  We can figure this out.

The first thing
we need to do is stop surveying and start supporting managers.  Give managers a plan to do something.  We all know that this isn’t just about being
“nicer.”  There are 15 qualities of
leadership that are directly connected to engaging and inspiring others.

A solution to
the employee engagement isn’t just nice to have.  Surveys discourage managers.  The reports land like a thud on their desks,
and they don’t know what to do about it. 
If you get dinged with a bad score, you feel disappointed… and vulnerable.  You want to do something—you just aren’t sure

The solution is
to provide each manager with his or her own roadmap, because there’s probably a
slightly different issue for every manager. 
Employee engagement isn’t a paint-by-numbers solution handed down from
Human Resources.  Each leader needs to
learn how to engage his or her team in an authentic way.

What we have
learned is that by providing leaders with specific, measurable data on their
strengths and opportunities to develop, they can and do improve.  The data, in the hands of a good coach and
mentor, helps them create an actionable path forward.  We suggest they focus on just a couple of key

There are 15
qualities we know matter to engaging people and driving organizational
performance. They fall into three
categories, Character, Substance and Style:

Character qualities are fundamental—without these a leader cannot build trust
with others.  People want to work for an
ethical leader who follows through on promises (Integrity), one they feel they
know and connect to (Authenticity), who cares about their career (Concern),
makes room for their ideas (Humility), and is calm in a reassuring way

Substance qualities earn us credibility with the people who work for us.  We do this by providing an inspiring picture
of the future (Vision), understanding their thoughts and motivations
(Resonance), being cool in a crisis (Composure), owning outcomes and making
tough calls (Confidence), and helping everybody focus on what’s important
(Practical Wisdom).

matters, because it’s how we get others to get things done.  It’s the energy and vitality we bring into
the room (Appearance), the way we get people organized and make clear what
needs to happen next (Intentionality), get everybody’s voices heard
(Inclusiveness), create a good quality and quantity of two-way communication
(Interactivity), and have the tact to get sticky issues on the table and make
them discussable (Assertiveness).

Nobody has every
one of these 15 qualities in spades.  We
all can improve.  We can leverage our
strengths and get better in the gap areas. 
It’s all about having the information and asking for help from trusted
advisors that enables us to make progress.

The hopeful
message is that it isn’t hard to do something meaningful.  All of these qualities can be improved.  Simple changes can make a big
difference.  This is not an intractable
problem.  Every leader can contribute to
creating a culture where people are ready to go above and beyond.

Author bio:

Suzanne Bates
is CEO of Bates, a leadership communications consulting firm with global
clients.  Suzanne is an advisor to top
CEOs, and speaks around the world.  She’s
the author of five books including her latest, All the Leader You Can Be: The Science of Achieving Extraordinary
Executive Presence
(McGraw-Hill, March 2016).  To take a complimentary, pre-assessment
survey, please go to www.alltheleaderbook.com