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Employee Engagement–Unravelling the Mystery

Corporations spend thousands of dollars trying to figure out whether their employees are engaged and, if not, how to engage them.

There is an inexpensive, very simple, old-fashioned method for uncovering what your employees want and need in order to be engaged:


Engage is a verb. It involves interaction with something—a computer screen, a smartphone screen or—hey! Here’s a unique idea: HOW ABOUT A PERSON?

I know you’re super busy so I’ve put together a one-page listing of engaging questions to get you started: The Very Best Employee Engagement Questions


Promote (don’t crush) Employee Engagement

Feedback: Key to Employee EngagementWhen I work with organizations I am often surprised by how few leaders know how to give feedback that is constructive and energizing. There seems to be a black or white quality to the feedback. Either employees hear what they did wrong or we’re cheerleading them when they did something right, all without providing guiding details. Or worse, we don’t provide feedback at all and they are left floundering, wondering if they’re getting things right or about to be fired. None of these approaches lead to more employee engagement—quite the opposite—they all lead to employee disengagement. Yes, lacking specific details, even positive feedback can be a detriment to employee engagement. Employees don’t want cheerleading—they want to know specifics about their performance (don’t you?)

It is a rare leader who understands and can provide the kind of feedback that creates an opportunity for improvement of employees’ skills, boosts morale, and results in employees’ taking responsibility for their results.

Happily, there is a feedback process that builds employee engagement specifically because the employees critique their own performance.

Feedback, in its purest essence is neither positive nor negative; it is merely data. The person providing the data cannot control how it is perceived; that is controlled completely by the recipient. When the provider and the recipient of feedback are one and the same (i.e., self-critique), it can become very interesting.

By adding the following process to your toolkit your employees will begin to participate in their own development and become more engaged in their work.

The LB/NT Process

The process is called The LB/NT Process. Here is how it works:

When a task or project is completed, you ask your team member, “What did you like best (LB) about what you did, and what would you do differently next time (NT)?” This process is useful for both individual and project team feedback.

Once the self-critique is completed, you will have less to say than if you had been the only one delivering feedback. In fact, sometimes your input won’t even be necessary, your employees will cover everything you intended to say. However, it will support their process to let them know which parts of their assessment you agree with and which you do not. You may have an opportunity to say, “I think you’re being a little hard on yourself,” if, in fact, that’s true. And if there is feedback you wanted to give that they didn’t cover, you can guide the conversation in that specific direction. “What did you like best about _______________and what would you do differently next time?”

Here are some key advantages to using this process:

  • (LB) You may learn something you hadn’t even noticed, giving you an opportunity to provide positive feedback. For example, you might learn that the project was delivered a week ahead of time. This gives you the chance to express how much you appreciate it (they don’t ever have to know you didn’t notice).
  • (NT) Employees take responsibility. By taking an objective look at their work they can see the opportunities for making improvements. Because the employees identified those areas themselves, they are significantly more likely to make those corrections in the future.
  • (LB) It encourages a feeling of satisfaction for what was done well. A major component of employee disengagement is the feeling that they are not making progress. (Don’t you sometimes feel the same?) Acknowledgement of “wins” is sorely lacking. (For more empirical evidence on why a feeling of progress is important to employee engagement, I highly recommend the book The Progress Principle – Using small wins to ignite joy, engagement and creativity at work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.)
  • (NT) It eliminates your role as “the bearer of bad news.” When you consistently use the LB/NT process with employees, you are no longer regarded as being overly critical, difficult to please, or other “not fit for print” labels employees make up when they receive negative feedback.
  • (LB/NT) It increases productivity and energy. Too often we move from task to task without acknowledging that things are getting done. When the LB/NT process is utilized you are acknowledging the completion of a task or project. Completion generates energy and we are infinitely more productive when energetic.

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the linchpin that makes the LB/NT process work beautifully: once you ask, ‘what did you like best?” and, “what, if anything, would you do differently next time,” SHUT UP! Stop talking! Do not offer suggestions (leading the witness); do not fidget in your chair (due to your discomfort with silence), JUST WAIT.

I promise, as you get better at this, and you will, you will be amazed by what your employees offer and how much easier your job becomes. At first, it may be awkward. Employees might worry that these are trick questions. If so, reassure them that their input is a valuable component to a new approach you just discovered and are applying. Employees are glad to know you don’t have it all figured out; it makes you human.

Once your employees see this in action and understand that this is the new feedback process (i.e., it’s not going away), they will come to meetings prepared with their LBs and NTs. The benefit to everyone is that it will take less time and be more productive than traditional feedback sessions where they may often have felt defensive, unappreciated and beaten up. They may also choose to incorporate this practice into tasks and projects they’ve completed for which your feedback is not necessary, making them more self-reliant and efficient in their work.

Finally, ahem (small cough), if I may suggest? This is an excellent process for you to use when reviewing your own work.

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A Brilliant Example of Influence

Nightmare at the airport

If it hasn’t happened to you, you’ve read about it or it’s happened to someone you know: people stranded at a busy airport because their flight was cancelled. It happened to my friend Tom who handled it brilliantly. It’s a great example of how to influence others.

Negativity breeds more of the same

When Tom heard the announcement over the PA, his stomach sank. His flight was cancelled. It was late in the evening and, because he’s a seasoned business traveler, he knew the chance of other flights being available was pretty slim.

He watched as an all too familiar scene unfolded in front of him. Angry passengers were crowding the airline’s customer service desk being exceedingly rude to the unfortunate agents behind it. The agents, who had nothing to do with the cancellation, were losing patience. Tempers were flaring.

Think differently

Tom asked himself, “Who would know how to get me to my destination?” When the answer came to him, he grabbed his coat and briefcase and headed for the first customer service desk he saw that had agents standing behind it. Happily, their flight had just left and they had no customers waiting in line.

As he approached the desk, Tom glanced at the nametag of the agent who made eye contact with him, smiled and asked, “Sarah, can I ask you something?” Smiling back she said, “Of course.” In a pleasant tone of voice and without placing blame on anyone or anything, he laid out his dilemma: the flight cancellation, the fact that he needed to be in Detroit in the morning for an important business meeting, etc.

Then Tom posed a brilliant question, “If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”

People love to share their expertise

Tom, an executive in his company who had gotten to the C-Suite because of his strong leadership skills had learned a long time ago that people love almost any opportunity to share their expertise. Sure enough Sarah and the other agent Julio couldn’t wait to give Tom all of their inside tips and techniques to solve his problem. By the time he left their counter, he had a ticket for a flight that would guarantee his arrival in Detroit long before his meeting started.

Let other people solve your problem

I’ve written before about unsolicited advice, which most of us don’t like to receive. The reason there’s so much of it being offered is because we love to solve problems, particularly other people’s problems. So imagine actually being INVITED to do so. How thrilling! I can see you rubbing your hands together in happy anticipation.

Using influence as a win/win

The next time you have a thorny problem, ask yourself, “Who would know how to fix this?” and then ask them that wonderful question posed by Tom, ““If you were in my shoes, what would you do?” A solution you might not have thought of may be offered, and the person you ask will be pleased that you recognize his/her expertise.

One caveat

If someone provides a solution and you decide not to use it, or you’re not sure, let him/her know. Why? Because some people get offended if they think they’ve solved your problem and then find out you didn’t apply their advice. To avoid this you might say something like, “I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I’ll have to make the decision myself but your input helps me think it through.”

People love to help

Our society places great value on lending a hand. In the aftermath of natural disasters we see heart-warming stories about these acts of support in the news. If you think of it, many of the fairy tales that were read to us as children involve some kind of rescue scenario. Most of us cut our teeth on this concept.

When you ask people to help, you are giving them an opportunity to do something they enjoy. It is a win/win of the best kind.


Your input helps me think through what I want to write about and I value it greatly. If you have time, please comment and answer one or both question:

  1. Have you used this approach yourself? What happened?
  2. If you used this approach at work, or at home, what do you think would happen?

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For more information on having Silver work with your company on leadership or employee engagement, call 877-840-5416 or email: Info@SilverSpeaks.com


Influence as it Relates to Engagement

My bagel shop experience

Last week I went to a bagel shop for lunch. The young man behind the counter could barely muster up the small amount of energy required to accurately record my order. I ordered tea and he handed me a cup. I managed to find the tea bags on my own but when I went to the coffee bar, I discovered there was no hot water. Returning to the counter, I asked him about it and he replied, “Oh yeah, I need to do that from behind here.” Then (and this gave me hope for him) he asked if I wanted the cup filled to the brim. I replied, “No. Thanks for asking. Please leave some room for cream. “ He certainly did that—he left about four inches! Then I went back to the coffee bar only to find out there was no cream. So back I trotted to the counter…

These kids today—not!

Before you jump to conclusions about “youth today,” please understand that I have had similar scenarios played out in front of me when the employee tasked with helping me was my age or older. So, from my experience, it’s not generational. And it happens in corporate and government settings, not just fast food.

Lack of Employee Engagement

Leaders need to learn how to engage employees

It has to do with lack of engagement.

According to the 2015 Global Human Capital Trends1 study published in Deloitte University Press, “…employee engagement and culture issues exploded onto the scene, rising to become the No. 1 challenge around the world in our study,” with 87% of organizations citing it as one of their top challenges.

Kevin Kruse, in a Forbes magazine article2 defined the issue. “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. They don’t work just for a paycheck, or just for the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals.” 2

Engagement and its relationship to influence

If you’re trying to influence someone, whether it’s your boss, a subordinate, a co-worker, your teen or your spouse, if that person is not engaged, then good luck! The conundrum is that, in order to engage others, you need to be able to influence them. One of the many benefits of influence is the ability to engage.

Engagement can be accomplished through fear or influence—your choice. Which is your leadership style? Fear will certainly get the job done but it’s a short-term gain. And doesn’t intimidation take a lot out of you? I might have tried to intimidate that young man into providing better service but the cost to my well-being for the rest of the day would have been too dear. I doubt he’d have felt any better, either.

Influence will ensure that the job gets done even when you’re not around.

The Law of Attraction and influence

The Law of Attraction dictates, “You get more of what you focus on.” If, when you are attempting to engage others you are doing so with the mindset that they need to be “fixed,” then what will continue to present itself is more evidence that they are broken and unable to meet the requirements of the job.

Start with the premise that everyone wants to be engaged!

Think about that for a moment. If you were given the choice between being fully involved and bored to distraction, which would you choose? The same is true for everyone but many do not know how to do this for themselves. That’s where your leadership skills come in as you influence them to get involved at a deeper level.

There are many things that keep people from engaging. One of the most important is that they have no say in how they do whatever it is you are asking them to do.

Allow them to “own” the job. 

We bemoan the fact that others won’t take responsibility for their work and then we insist they do it our way. The quickest way to allow others to grab ownership of whatever you’re asking them to do is a two-step process:

Step 1 – Statement:

Here’s the end result I’m looking for: _____________________________

(make sure it’s achievable and measurable.

Step 2 – Question:

What do you think a good approach might be?

If the person is planning to use a method that’s against company policy or doesn’t take into consideration some pertinent facts, then some coaching from you is in order. However, if the only reason you want to correct his approach is because you have a better idea, then keep it to yourself. How is this person going to learn if you do all the thinking for him? And how can he experience self-worth if all he’s doing is carrying out someone else’s solution?

And what if (this is a sacrilege, I know) his idea turns out to be better than how you would have done it?

The thrill of seeing the spark ignite.

Nothing is more exciting or fulfilling than igniting a spark in someone else. In the case of engagement, you won’t always have a lighter at hand to create an instant flame. More often, it resembles the approach we learned in Scouting—two sticks patiently rubbed together until a spark catches the kindling.

And how satisfying when it happens!

I’d love to hear your experiences of how you have used your influence to spark someone’s engagement in a process or job. Tell me what worked and what didn’t.

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For more information on having Silver work with your company on employee engagement, call 877-840-5416 or email: Info@SilverSpeaks.com


1 2015 Global Human Capital Trendshttp://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/human-capital/articles/introduction-human-capital-trends.html OR search: Deloitte 2015 Global Human Capital Trends

2 Kevin Kruse is the creator of the Leading for Employee Engagement eLearning program for managers. and author of the bestselling book, Employee Engagement 2.0. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/06/22/employee-engagement-what-and-why/

Dancing With Passionate Self-Care

This month begins a series of blogs focused on Passionate Self-Care. This phrase often brings a smile of embarrassment to faces because most of us consider ourselves failures in this arena.

Sure, we devote time to self-care but it is generally based on negative rewards instead of the positive actions that make up passionate self-care. In other words, instead of taking an exhilarating walk after dinner, we settle down to watch Wheel of Fortune, usually with some sort of high calorie drink or snack in hand.

What brings this to mind are the myriad news reports on the high cost of health care and the ensuing crisis for aging Baby Boomers. As I listen to this conversation with interest, I’ve realized that what I haven’t been hearing is much of anything about patient responsibility.  Where does self-care fit into all this?

If you bought a house and did nothing to keep it up over a 5-year period, would you expect your insurance company to pay for repairs? They would deny such a claim saying it was neglect, not damage from an outside force such as fire or wind. Yet, we bring our sad, neglected bodies to our doctors or our sad, neglected psyches to psychologists and psychiatrists and expect them to give us a magic pill.

We want pills or surgery to fix what we systematically destroy through complacency.

Passionate self-care starts with the premise that you are at least as worthy of daily care as your house, your car, your children, your boss, or your clients.

Just as you would look at a messy house and say, “It’s time to clean this up,” it’s equally important to pay attention to an ache in your body and say, “It’s time to start taking care of this.” This requires a change in behavior and change requires conscious effort.

I’ve earned the right to talk about this because I spent the first part of my life going to doctors and therapists trying to get them to “fix” me. They helped, that is a fact, but I took no responsibility for having gotten that way in the first place. I sat in the dentist’s chair for example acting bewildered when told I had a cavity. The fact that I only brushed my teeth once a day and poorly at that seemed beside the point. Isn’t fluoride in the water supposed to prevent cavities? I chose to be a victim.

One of the more important things I’ve learned in my conscious effort to move from victim to victor is that, no matter what happens to me, I had a part in it and it’s important to take responsibility for whatever it was.  Now, if I were in an earthquake, do I have a part in that? The surprising answer is “Yes” – I’m responsible for how I respond. I can be a victim or a victor and that’s the choice we each have in every situation.

Where are you currently behaving as a victim and how can you transform into a victor?  Taking ownership for your life is very freeing and it’s an important component of self-care.

I don’t know about you but I’d really rather NOT be one of those old folks who goes to the doctor with muscles atrophied from lack of use saying, “I can’t understand why I’m so TIRED all the time. Can you give me something?”

We all have a small, active child inside of us who JUST WANTS US TO MOVE!!!! As you get more physically active, you will almost hear the child inside of you yelling, “Whoopee! We’re finally moving!!!” I’ve come to realize that most of my aches and pains, physical and mental, were sent by that impatient child, trying to get my attention!

Take five minutes, right now, and make a list of all the “upkeep” sorts of things you’ve done over the past month for: your car, your home, your clothing, your pets, your children, or other people. Now think what life would be like if you put yourself at the top of the list.

“That’s so selfish!” you might cry. And I say, “Yes, it is, and that is a good thing.” I don’t know when the concept of putting ourselves first got to be so negative. I suspect it was from people who wanted us to put them first so they taught us that self-care is bad.

When we practice passionate self-care, we accomplish several things:

  1. We take back control of our own well-being
  2. We set an example for others
  3. We begin to enjoy our own lives instead of living vicariously through TV or other entertainment

The most important thing that happens when we practice passionate self-care is that we are happier and proud of ourselves. And the Law of Attraction says, “You attract what you are.” The happier you are and the more empowered you feel, the more situations that match those feelings come to you. And that is the ultimate in Passionate Self-Care.

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