Daniel Goleman in his book “primal leadership” proposes that the main job of leaders is to encourage the positive feelings from their staff. We are not talking about fluffy feel good programs or implying that managers cannot be demanding or have high expectations of performance. This is simply saying that people are far more productive when they have positive energy and deploy it for a common cause or purpose.
In my leadership training programs, participants often express that there is frequently a distance that exists between management and the workforce-even at the supervisory level. Management looks for program to drive employee thinking and feeling (detailed bonus plans, rules and policy, employee benefit structures, etc).
But this is engaging employees by proxy. It doesn’t require personal involvement. The committed environment is a personal commitment–and people respond to personal contact and interaction. If the nature of contact is negative, punitive, abusive, and insensitive, recipients will avoid, escape, sabotage and withdraw. If the contact is supportive, interested, sensitive and encouraging, recipients will respond in kind.
The job of engaging employees is a mission from the heart, not an organizational negotiation. In my practice, I frankly have never erred with this conclusion: Managers with poor people skills, who manage by coercion and do not have personal interest in their employees, will never see the degree of employee engagement they seek. Sometimes leadership training can help-but no matter how technically proficient the leader, without this demonstration of “emotional intelligence” and people skills, the performance of their team will always be sub-par.
The primary charge for leaders is not to focus on “things”. It is to focus on their people, who they rely on for these “things” to get done. Leaders and managers who are unable or unwilling to do this should not be in the position.