Are you the wrong type of ‘engaged’ leader?

Much of what’s written about employee engagement focuses on how leaders can help their employees become more involved at work. But what about the leaders themselves? 

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July 10, 2015 |
Steven Burns

According to research by talent management firm Development Dimensions International, 89% of leaders with strong interaction skills have more engaged teams. Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr

Much of what’s written about employee engagement focuses on how leaders can help their employees become more involved at work.

But what about the leaders themselves?

According to research by talent management firm Development Dimensions International, 89% of leaders with strong interaction skills have more engaged teams. This connectivity also has positive business results, as engaged leaders had three times less turnover and 83% of them led their teams to exceed productivity goals.

Yet not all types of engagement are the same, says Jennifer Miller, a leadership development consultant, in a SmartBlog on Leadership post

“Consider for a moment two possible meanings of the word ‘engaged,’” she writes. “One is: to be thoroughly involved, as in, ‘the employees were highly engaged in the customer service rollout.’ Then there is ‘busy or otherwise occupied.’ In order to have the first type of engagement with your team, as a leader it’s necessary to forgo the second.”

To illustrate the distinction, she contrasts a “Plugged-In Leader” with an “Otherwise Occupied Leader.”  

“Plugged-In Leaders are able to sense when something’s amiss, either with the whole team or an individual, because they’re in touch with their employees regularly,” Miller writes. “Plugged-In leadership is not micromanaging; rather, it’s paying careful attention to individuals’ unspoken concerns and the friction points that typically occur in a department from time to time.”

In contrast, Otherwise Occupied Leaders often fail to see the early clues that there’s trouble ahead because they’re too rushed or busy.

“By falling prey to the many distractions offered by technology and the tyranny of the urgent, Otherwise Occupied Leaders telegraph that those right in front of them are of lesser importance. “Better to be a Plugged-In Leader and silence the cell phone and give your undivided attention to the task at hand.”

Read more from the SmartBlog on Leadership.

Steven Burns | The Business Behind Design

Steven Burns, FAIA spent 14 years managing the firm Burns + Beyerl Architects, and during that time the firm’s earnings grew at an average rate of 24% per year. After founding his own software company, Steve took his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is refining their business strategy and product development for the company’s groundbreaking project accounting solution, BQE Core.

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