As soon as you have a clearer sense of your destination, you can begin to determine how you’re going to get there. We don’t mean brainstorming individual actions. Not yet. Instead, we’re talking about your overall approach– organising yourself and your thinking and putting in place a sensible but empowering foundation on which to build your plans.
Start by asking, “Where are we today?” Be honest with yourself. Pretending that things are better than they really are is not a healthy way to get started. At the same time, take care not to overlook any positives on which you might be able to build advantage.
Next, think about what you stand for, your appetite for acting accordingly and how it should translate into your approach. Would you prefer your management epitaph to read, “Did it because they had to,” or, “Made a real and lasting difference”?
From there, think about howyou’re going to do whatyou have to do:
Timescales and milestones. Realistically, how long is it going to take you to reach your destination? One year? Two years? More? And can you get there in a single move, or is your journey going to require lots of little journeys – navigating a sequence of milestones that keep you headed in the right direction but not always in a straight line?
For example, leading a highly-engaged team is an admirable and worthy long-term goal, but if your baseline is active disengagement, you should moderate your initial plans accordingly.
Or maybe you’ll decide that increasing the quantity and quality of employee feedback (e.g. driving up the number of people responding to an engagement survey) is your first priority, rather than focusing only on the messages delivered.
Prioritisation. How will actively managing engagement fit into your day job? Will you squeeze it in ‘when you have time’, or give it pride of place on your daily schedule? Will you make it visible and inclusive, or something you wrestle with behind closed doors? Will you get it formally recognised in your role description and objectives, or let it take root in the cracks between everything else?
For example, if you’ve been instructed to increase engagement by 8% within 12 months, on top of an already unforgiving workload, you may need to negotiate some other priorities off your plate.
Team management and communication. How will you involve your team? Will you take a ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ approach to engaging them in their own engagement? Will you confront and control, or consult and collaborate? Will you keep them informed or in the dark? Will you delegate responsibilities responsibly, making sure everyone has a valued role to play and providing them with the support they need to succeed?
For example, inviting and incorporating their ideas into a shared plan is a great way to kick off the new journey to higher engagement and win their commitment to making it happen. Asking different members of the team to manage different parts of the plan is a great way to create a compelling sense of shared accountability.
Broader stakeholder engagement. With regards to the organisation beyond your team, will you struggle in isolation, or admit to challenges, ask for help, invite and welcome feedback, share ideas and contribute to the bigger picture? Do you want to keep others out of yourbusiness and avoid getting dragged into theirbusiness, or do you want to share and sense-check whilst avoiding the duplication of effort and reinvention of wheels?
For example, you might encounter someone who has already done what you’re trying to do and is happy to share their experience, saving you the trouble. Or they might be about to attempt the same as you and are happy to share the opportunity, saving you some of the cost.
Working through these questions might be something you do with your team or choose to keep private. The purpose is to increase the likelihood of success by defining that success and accepting your responsibilities with conscience, care and common sense whilst firmly and securely grounding your ambitions in reality. In other words: knowing and accepting in advance what you can and can’t do, and what you will and won’t do.
Thinking through and being clear about your principles and policies and how they’ll shape and underpin your plans will help you lead the delivery of achievable actions in a more strategic way.
Without it, you risk setting yourself up to fail.
And now, only one question remains…
What do you want to do about your own engagement?