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Why is it such a challenge to keep leaders engaged?

There is so much focus on keeping employees engaged in the workplace. While I agree, this is an important issue, I think that if an organization or team has engaged leaders, they themselves will become or remain engaged. Employees want to follow engaged leaders. When a leader’s number one objective is adding value to the members of their team or organization, the employees will naturally remain motivated to excel and grow.

Now the question is, how do you keep leaders engaged? We’ve all heard the adage, “it’s lonely at the top.” It’s true, but it’s also the main problem of disengaged leaders. The top executives in most organizations are so far removed from the day to day operations of their organization, stuffed in a conference room all day with an occasional closed door meeting in their office over lunch. If the executive team is disengaged, the trickle-down effect will be felt throughout the other layers of leadership.

Who is responsible for keeping the top leaders engaged? If there is not a leader that is “over” the top leaders, then the top leaders should make a concerted effort to keep each other engaged. It should be an agenda item on every executive team meeting. It should not be just a check in the box issue to address. Executive teams should be working diligently to remain engaged, and for the right reasons.

If you are an organization that values the employees, you can launch a 360-degree evaluation from the top to the bottom. Nothing will bring to light who is engaged and who isn’t more than a 360-degree assessment. Get some honest feedback from those who are willing to deliver it.

Besides keep each other engaged, there’s a personal aspect to being engaged as well. There are leaders as we all know who are there for a paycheck, for an ego boost, or for themselves only. If the leadership engagement at the top is strong, these leaders will be addressed aggressively. If it’s not, these leaders will break down teams, crush morale and have poor retention.

Are you an engaged leader? I challenge you to answer this honestly. If you don’t think you are engaged, please put together a plan on how to become engaged and ask your peers for help.

Here are some questions to help assess your level of engagement, (or another leaders level of engagement):

  1. What am I here for? – If the answer is for me, or to get the next promotion, the answer is easy. If the answer is related only to organizational goals and objectives, again you have the answer. However, if the answer relates to the people under your/his/her charge, there may be some hope.

  2. What can I do to stay engaged? – When is the last time you talked to the people on the ground. I don’t mean a superficial hello in the hallway. I am talking about a meaningful conversation about this person’s family, dreams or aspirations. Do you ever have conversations with your employees that aren’t directive?

  3. What is everyone else worried about? What keeps them coming to work? What keeps them up at night? What makes them want to leave? If you are in a leadership role, and you don’t know the answer to this question, I recommend that you move on to a job where you are not responsible for the livelihood of people.

Remember, your people are your most important asset. If you are not engaged, you are letting them fail, and therefore you are failing yourself and your organization.

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