employee engagement

Over the years, many managers turned, “people are our most important resource” into an empty cliché. Their behavior treated people as “assets with skin” or “human capital.” As one executive put it, “I’d really enjoy my job if I didn’t have to deal with people.”

“We’re in this together” is the latest phrase ringing hollow from the lips of many managers. Human beings are treated as human resources. But we want to be treated as a living and breathing person, not as just another resource.

Highly effective leaders lead with heart. They see people as partners. Partnerships flourish with trust, mutual respect, two-way communication, and win/win collaboration. These leaders do it with their partners, rather than doing it to or for them. That’s vital if we’re going to get through these turbulent times together successfully.

Here are five ways leaders partner with people:

  • Collaborative Planning Processes — Collaborative approaches clearly increase ownership and commitment to organizational changes. When team members see that their input is valued, they’ll actively engage in the change process.
  • Openly Share Information — Trust levels reflect whether people feel like valued partners or “human capital.” Information is going to get out. The only question is, will it come upfront and straight from leaders, or through back channels? When people don’t trust their leaders they’ll resist change and improvement efforts.
  • Recognize, Appreciate, and Celebrate — It’s not all doom and gloom. When team members do something well, let them know it. More importantly, let everyone know it. Many managers underestimate the big impact on engagement and morale when contributions are noticed and valued.
  • Get Input and Engagement for Innovation — Strong implementation trumps strategy. Top-down pronouncements are rarely greeted enthusiastically — or even believed. The best insights and commitment to implementation come from those actually doing the work or interacting with customers. Leverage firsthand experience to make first-class improvements and innovations.
  • Coach, Counsel, and Consider — Honest feedback that positively reinforces strengths and redirects or guides performance is highly effective. Team members who understand expectations and participate in setting goals and priorities feel — and act — like partners who are in this together.

Despite all their pious declarations about the importance of people, leadership, and values, far too many managers treat people in their organizations like numbers on a balance sheet, inventory, real estate, or equipment. They’re just one more set of assets to be managed.

Do the people in your organization feel that you’re in this together?