Thu 16 Apr 2015 | By:

How To Keep A Team Engaged: Your 6 Step Formula

How To Keep A Team Engaged: Your 6 Step FormulaIt is important for managers to keep their team members engaged. Without engagement the work will suffer.

This doesn’t sound like a particularly challenging task, but the numbers tell a different story. According to a 2014 Gallup poll only 31.5% of employees are engaged at work.

Did you catch that?

Let me state that in a different way: 68.5% of poll respondents are not engaged in their work!

As a manager it is important to remember that employee engagement happens at an individual level. In other words, a team is not engaged unless the team members are engaged.

Managers of disengaged team members blame external factors like a poor economy, lower wages, more demanding customers, and other excuses. However, brand new companies that score high on engagement are facing the exact same external factors and still have highly engaged employees.

How are they doing this? Here are 6 things that effective managers of engaged teams do well.


Step 1) Know the person

Dale Carnegie founded a world movement based on the foundation of knowing and valuing the individual in the workplace with his timeless book, How To Win Friends And Influence People. He details how simple things like calling people by their first name, demonstrating a genuine interest in the team member, and recognizing successes can provide immense engagement and value to the team.

I recently had lunch with a friend that I had not seen in over a year. Within five minutes she had asked about my children (by name), asked how my wife was doing with a specific work situation, and she asked about a project I had just started working on last time we spoke. I was absolutely amazed at her memory and interest in me as a person!

As leaders, you have the opportunity speak life into your team member by knowing them as a person above all. Be diligent in remembering names, significant events, non-work situations and important interests of your team members.


Step 2) Be real

The buzzword of the day is authenticity. Your team wants to know that the person you project yourself to be is the real you.

Being real means your actions and words are aligned with your core values. If you value integrity you will act and speak in a way that demonstrates integrity. This includes admitting mistakes and taking immediate action to correct them.

Real people treat others like real people. Be kind, caring and empathetic to others and they will follow your leadership, even when they disagree.

In Mistakes Were Made but Not By Me the authors take a look at the probability of doctors getting sued for malpractice. What the authors discovered is that the likelihood of doctors getting sued for malpractice has little to do with their competency and much to do with how they make the patient feel.

A doctor could be the most accomplished professional in her field, but if she has a poor bedside manner she is more likely to be sued for malpractice.


Step 3) Create a safe environment

Engaged team members know that their managers support them and will have their back when questions or conflicts come up. These team members are confident that they won’t be abandoned to take sole blame for projects that go off course.

When mistakes are made, as they inevitably will, there is an appropriate level of accountability.

Consistent enforcement of policy creates a safe environment. It eliminates uncertainty about established boundaries. Like guardrails on a winding mountain road, firm boundaries allow your team members to move fast and protect them from a dangerous fall.


Step 4) Be honest

I once managed a mid-level supervisor who was always pressing me to share the “real reason” behind a new initiative. I would explain how this change benefitted the team, the customer or the overall business. He rarely believed me. He would look for an angle that would cast him in a negative light and make that the underlying motivation for a change.

As I implemented more efficient operational changes it was discovered that he was causing significant losses for the company. Sadly, he was well aware of his situation long before he was discovered.

Had he been honest with me at the beginning we could have changed course, minimized the losses, and avoid losing a team member.


Step 5) Communicate frequently and consistently

In my experience a disengaged team will always point to a lack of communication. Frequent and consistent communication contributes to a sense of trust.

For teams going through substantial change communication is like nourishment to the organization. Without it teams struggle. When there is a lack of communication the team members have to fill in the gaps with their own speculation. Inevitably the speculation will be off base; either more doomsday or more rosy than reality.

This is a major distraction for the team.

Teams also need consistent messaging from leaders. If circumstances shift requiring a message to change it is the leader’s responsibility to clearly explain why there is a change and how it will impact the team members.

Just like a lack of communication, changing communication will cause speculation and the team’s momentum will grind to a halt.


Step 6) Provide team member ownership

Engaged team members own their work and decisions. This does not “just” happen. It is cultivated by a manager that has coached the team member to know a desired outcome, and then allows the team member to craft the solution to get there.

Retired Marine Colonel Paul Van Riper put it this way, “[The leaders] are in command but not control.” He felt the troops on the ground would have better insight and judgment to determine the best course of action in the heat of battle.

As a manager you get the opportunity to directly influence the engagement level of your team members. This takes intentional, disciplined and focused effort.

If you are managing the 31-percenters, congratulations! Don’t neglect the actions you are doing to engage your team.

I would love to hear what action you take to actively engage your team. Let me know by joining the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

About Aaron Armour

Aaron has been managing teams for more than 15 years, some as large as 200 employees. He has managed business units with $36 million in revenue and projects with $50 million budgets. Aaron is passionate about helping managers lead people and thrill clients. Manager Launch Pad was created to help managers experience tremendous growth through practical tips, resources and mentorship. Read more about Aaron at and connect with him on Facebook and LinkedIn.