Today’s leaders are confronted with challenges and opportunities that have never been more dynamic or complex.
Helping individuals effectively understand and manage these forces is a key responsibility of the Leadership Initiative. We provide programs from entrepreneurial, leadership, and project management training for students through turning their ideas for change in their communities into sustainable development projects. Serving as a platform for ideas of students while facilitating the partnerships between the students and professionals, Leadership Initiatives creates these possibilities and allows participants to be the agents of change within their communities.
Most new entrepreneurs have great ideas, and many are highly skilled in building their solutions. Unfortunately, far fewer have the focus and experience of building and maintaining a highly engaged team. They don’t realize that strong team engagement leads to even stronger customer engagement, which can more than double your startup revenue and growth, according to experts.
Be the role model for engagement from the top.
Startup founders and leaders need to get out of their office, and demonstrate engagement with the team every day. Engagement doesn’t come from written policies or one-way speeches. It comes from two-way interaction with individual employees, and clear indications of active listening.
Empower employees with authority and tools to succeed.
Full autonomy to go above and beyond in sales and customer-service roles will increase team engagement as well as customer satisfaction. Highly satisfied customers become your best advocates, bringing in new customers, repeat business, and ramping up revenue and profits.
Link rewards and performance to engagement levels.
High engagement is more related to high performance than high satisfaction. Satisfied employees too often include under-performers. Measure engagement levels and results, rather than satisfaction levels, within team members and customers, to assess and pay for perform.
Focus on a culture of motivation rather than punishment.
Eliminate the fear of failure by offering incentives to learn, and rewards for thinking outside the box.
Respect individual team member needs and attributes.
Let team members be themselves, with a relaxed dress code and individual consideration for start times, time off, and office decor. They will respond with greater empathy for unique customer requirements and team member expectations. The result will be higher engagement.
Facilitate and use customer, peer engagement feedback.
Feedback on engagement should come from multiple sources, including social media reviews, peer reviews, and executive interviews. Make it evident from your words and actions that you are listening and positive feedback will be rewarded. Make sure they know your values.
Authentic relationships lead to authentic engagement.
Entrepreneurs and team members who genuinely care for each other relish their engagement with others. Be transparent and authentic in your communications. Model high standards of integrity, respect and walk the talk if you expect to engage employees through trust.
The goal of these initiatives is to ramp up engagement in yourself and your team to be a multiplier of the quality of your solution and your marketing, to achieve new levels of market penetration and profitability. It’s a big lever in your ongoing battle for success, and it’s one that you need to pull earlier rather than later. Are you there yet?
by Martin Zwilling, writer at Entrepreneur Magazine, and L.A. Hill, Harvard Business School