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By Darryl Stewart

Engaging staff on a limited budget – Part 2

By Darryl Stewart, Head of the Herd

This is the second of three posts on engaging staff without more pay.

In the first post I talked about autonomy.  To summarize, giving people more control over things like when, how and even with whom, they do the work; you can take engagement to new levels. Engagement equals better performance and lower staff turnover in our organizations.

This post is about mastery.  The feeling we all crave that we are good at something, getting better at something or, at the very least, doing something that feels good.

Thinking about mastery takes me back to a very frustrating manager interview.  During that interview which I blogged about on the IBEX Inclusion blog (how a house manager trashed morale in the workplace) I explained how a new manager gave her staff very little flexibility.  She went on the assumption that everyone had the same skills and talents.

Contrast that with the many interviews of great managers that I have done where the constant is taking the time to know staff, understand what they enjoy doing, or want to get better at, and getting them doing Triangle: Mastery, Autonomy, Purposemore of that.  If they like spreadsheets, computers or admin work, we all have lots of that we can move their way.  If they truly enjoy customer service or sales, we can move them more in that direction and move more technical or detailed work (chosen carefully of course) to staff that are more “home bodies”. The point here is to get our staff doing things they want to get better at or at the very least feel really good while doing.

The great manager’s opportunity to use mastery to improve engagement does not end with just figuring out the unique things about our staff and moving them in these directions.  Just as important is providing feedback on how they are doing.  On the path to mastery we want to feel like we are getting better at something and that takes coaching and encouragement.  This is the hard work.  For me shaking things up like I describe above is fun.  Observing how people do in these flexible and fluid roles and providing them meaningful guidance on how to get even better is a bit harder, but then trying to get better at anything is hard work and that is the whole point with mastery.  People will do hard work and exceed your expectations if you make sure it is the right kind of work for them and help them see themselves improving.

If you have a great example where you have helped someone on the path to mastery, pass it on.  The first person who sends me a great example will receive a free copy of DRiVE by Daniel Pink, a great book on just this subject.  Email me or post a comment and I will send you the book!

  1. I met with a new speaker several times over a year, and during that time I coached him about how to fine tune his message so that it is more palatable for a business audience. While I am not his ‘manager’, he considers me a mentor to him, and our meetings allowed him to master his content and his confidence as a professional speaker.

    • Great example Deri. It sounds like the move towards mastery was a motivator for him. Good for you for doing it too btw. One Daniel Pink book coming up for you!

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Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

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