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Leadership and Engagement

14th November 2019

Leadership and Engagement

Following the FA Cup final in May a clip went viral on social media.   It was of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola passionately coaching and giving feedback to striker Raheem Sterling. It was on the pitch immediately after the presentation of the cup, with winners medals round their neck and celebrations going on all around them. How easy would it have been for Pep to say, “we won the cup final 6-0…and you scored a hat-trick Raheem…so well done and I will let the other stuff go.”

It is moments like these that set great leaders apart. A leader is measured on the difference they make to their people but how often do we see leaders so preoccupied with labour and output that they forget their opportunity and obligation to actually grow their people? To help them develop as human beings and realise their full potential, both in and out of the workplace.

As an industry sport really gets this. Players are referred to as being “in form”, which is the equivalent of being “engaged” in the modern workplace. Form, like engagement, will come and go and is determined by lots of factors (sociological, personal and logistical) which will vary from business to business and from person to person. However, the general principle behind it will never change, which is the simple understanding that a better person makes a better employee. A better employee delivers more, works harder and as a result gets more fulfilment and joy out of life. They will achieve more than they ever thought possible – both inside and outside of work.

Don’t believe me? The engagement gap is well researched and well documented. A Gallup poll in 2018 showed that only 15% of people are fully engaged at work, yet when they are, productivity increases by upwards of 40%. So, if we know that helping our people grow, develop and improve as human beings will increase our productivity and subsequently our profitability…why do we find this so hard?!

Is it because we don’t know how to do it? Or maybe it is that we don’t think we should have to do it? Or most concerning, as one leader said to me recently, “I don’t have time to do it.”

Whichever one it is, truly leading people takes time and skills which many leaders simply do not have at their disposal. Most businesses employ leaders who have a job to do, and only when they have finished doing that job do they find time to lead their team. The output comes in front of the people and it is only natural in these environments that “bad” behaviours and practices will be forgiven if targets are hit and the output is high.

However, the onus is not all on the leaders. What about our people? How ready and equipped are they to be cared for and developed in a way that maybe they haven’t been used to outside of formative parental or educational care? Do they have the necessary skills and tools to be able to interpret the world around them in a way that will be helpful to them and developmentally constructive? Ultimately, will they respond in the same way Raheem Sterling did, eager for the feedback and a desire to improve? Or will this feedback be met with anger, resentment or objection which could discourage a leader from offering further guidance?

Ultimately it comes down to 3 things; relationship, communication and inspiration. If you build a good relationship with your team, they will be more receptive to feedback and will be more likely to take it in a constructive way because trust already exists. Equally the manner and frequency in which you communicate is also important. Being mindful of the words you are choosing and your tone will go a long way to landing your message in the best way. Last but far from least, you must inspire; Lead by example, show up, be passionate about what you do, be receptive to feedback and always strive to be the best leader and person you can be.

Perfection does not exist but you have to look for it anyway.’ Pep Guardiola





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