“If knowledge traps are the cholesterol of organizations, then the force of connection that fosters relationship excellence is the statin drug that breaks up knowledge traps, restores knowledge flow, and keeps the environment healthy.” ~ Michael Lee Stallard
An Eye-Opening Story
There’s a story about a manager who bumped into one of her former employees in the grocery store. The former employee gave her the cold shoulder.
“What’s the matter, Phyllis? We used to get along so well when you worked for me!” the manager asked quite puzzled.
“Well, to be quite frank, I was only nice because I worked for you. I’ve never liked you. You’re a conceited, power-hungry, hypocrite who never listens to what anyone else has to say! And now that I don’t work for you anymore, I don’t have to be nice!” the former employee exclaimed as she stormed off.
“What does relationship excellence have to do with employee engagement? Plenty!
And depending on where you lead, the term employee engagement may be substituted with other terms.
- If you teach, you might call it school spirit or classroom morale.
- In the military it is called esprit de corps.
- If you lead in a church, you might call it fellowship.
- In your personal relationships, it may be what I call your state of being.
No matter what term works for where you lead, employee engagement is not about some New Age, feel-good fad.
Employee engagement and the force of connection
In fact, research has closely tied employee engagement to our innate need to connect and belong as a species – relationship excellence or the force of connection. In a recent Webinar, Most Admired Companies: Boosting Employee Engagement, experts Mark and Bonita Thompson presented some interesting findings from a survey they conducted of over one-thousand employees.
They teased out the engaged employees from the sample – the kind of employees we wish all of ours were – and wanted to know what these ‘best’ employees were looking for in a leader. Of the eight most admired traits, seven of them were relationship-oriented (indicated with *).
8 traits engaged workers want from their leaders:
- Ambitious and Hardworking
- Supportive and Helpful*
- Straight-forward and Clear*
- “Family” team-focused*
- Fun-loving and Playful about the work*
The well-respected 2011 BlessingWhite report made four recommendations to managers to foster employee engagement. One of them was to build relationships. They wrote, “The more employees feel they know their managers as people, the more engaged they’re likely to be.”
In a 2002 review of the Gallup studies on employee engagement, it was interesting to find that seven of the twelve items defining and measuring employee engagement were directly tied to relationships.
Connecting with others, especially the boss, correlated to lower turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and increased productivity and profits.
Force of Connection
7 employee engagement items that use the force of connection:
- Opportunities to do what I do best
- Recognition and Praise
- Cares about me
- Encourages Development
- Opinions count
- Opportunities to Learn and Grow
“Please allow me to point out again that these were all correlated to lower turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and increased productivity and profits.
The force of connection – our relationship excellence – not only makes sense from a psychological and spiritual perspective, but from a business one, as well.
Effects of Stress on Employee Engagement
In his recent L2L post, Leaders: 4 Ways to Improve Your Ability to Learn, Denis McLaughlin revealed how stress impacts our ability to learn.
Stress can also have a severe impact on your employee’s engagement.
Michael Stallard points out in the Spring 2012 edition of Training Industry Quarterly that neuroscientific research has established that as stress rises; cortisol levels rise. When cortisol levels rise, people tend to behave in reactionary or rash ways.
They simply don’t think clearly and rely on ‘fight or flight’ responses to protect themselves.If relationships with the boss or fellow workers are causing stress, employees will be less productive and less engaged with their work.
In an excellent connection between criticism, stress, and employee engagement, Gary Cohen wrote in his latest L2L post:
“More often, it leads to worse performance, motivation, and engagement.”
However, when stress levels are lower, so too are cortisol levels. When cortisol levels are lower, people tend to stay calm, rational, and think more clearly.
Use the Force of Connection
The feeling of being connected to those around us – of being part of a safe and meaningful team led by a boss with relationship excellence – boosts dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin levels.
This helps make team members feel more
These types of employees are 20% more productive than the average employee is and are healthier and actually live longer!
When relationships flourish and are healthy at work, everybody wins.
People want to give their best effort and become more loyal and productive, turnover drops, customer satisfaction rises, and profits increase! When we feel needed, do fulfilling and meaningful work, and have a great relationship with our boss (teacher, choir leader, coach, etc.), we love our work – and this is true for those we lead, too!
“Take time every day to use the force of connection!”
How do you foster relationship excellence for yourself? For your direct reports and team? How do you foster employee engagement? What techniques or strategies can you share?
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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders™
Alan Mikolaj is Author and Lecturer at A Travel Guide to Leadership Training
He helps clients become happier, more successful, and to become the better leaders
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- Employee engagement down, temp jobs up. Any connection? (themarlincompany.com)
- Employee engagement is key for success (blogs.independent.co.uk)
- Your employees are not engaged. Now what..? (ideationz.me)