(This is the third of three posts where I will focus on employee engagement.  Subscribe to be notified of new posts!)

In recent weeks I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on employee engagement.  Engagement drives profitabilityLeaders impact engagement, especially in tough economic times.  But what actually drives employee engagement?  One explanation suggests we need 3 ingredients to maximize our personal satisfaction: purpose, autonomy, and mastery.

Unfortunately corporate structures are set up to stifle these natural motivators so leaders must work relentlessly to break down barriers to allow our people the freedom to thrive.

1.  Purpose – Link the task to the outcome or the benefit. Some employees naturally see the linkage while others require leaders to communicate the purpose of the work.  A common story summarizes the power of purpose.

Three bricklayers were working side by side.  When asked, “What are you doing?” the first bricklayer replied, “I’m laying bricks.”  The second bricklayer was asked and he answered, “Feeding my family.”  The third bricklayer when asked the question, “What are you doing?” responded, “I’m building a cathedral.”

2.  Autonomy – Give people a goal, not a prescriptive set of rules. Military leaders require latitude to deal with changing situations so they are given goals and boundaries.  By engaging a person’s creativity and spirit we provide the freedom to choose new paths, find new solutions, and accomplish the impossible.

3.  Mastery – Ask more from your team and permit failure. In some cases leaders must demand more from their people and stretch them in ways they didn’t think possible.  In other cases our role is to allow people to make mistakes in order to reach their potential.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

One interesting way to think of the challenge is to consider what we ask our leaders to do.  We say to our business leaders “make money, but do it ethically.”  We ask our government leaders to “keep us safe and help us prosper.”  The pivot point is to get the best from our employees, we need to set goals in front of them just as broadly, with just as much latitude, and even more support.

Which environment have you created for your people?  How are you engaging your best and brightest?

Bonus: the 4th element of employee engagement.

3 Ways to Higher Employee Engagement
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