The most insightful leadership book I have ever read is First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The authors assert that there are progressive stages of employee engagement, expressed as questions in a person’s mind as they progress through their time in a certain position under a certain leader.
Stage 1: What do I get?
In this stage, the new person is figuring out how much they get paid, how long the commute is, and what is expected of them. They are deciding if they can see themselves doing this job under these conditions for the next few weeks and months.
Stage 2: What do I give?
In this stage, the person is clear on what is expected and now they are deciding if they feel good about doing this kind of work, and asking themselves if they are good at it.
Stage 3: Do I belong here?
In this stage, the person is feeling good about the type of work that they are doing, they have found a niche they like, and they are deciding whether they want to keep doing the work at your organization. This is the stage where many leaders get frustrated. They say things like, “every time I get someone really well- trained and good at their job, they leave on me.”
Stage 4: How can we all grow?
In this stage, the person likes the work, likes the organization, likes their boss, and is actively contributing their best ideas and efforts, confident that they are appreciated and doing many things to help the organization and their teammates grow. I call this the “summit” stage.
The most important factor in someone making this climb is their direct supervisor’s skillful, caring approach to leadership.
Below I present my number one tip for getting each staff member through Stages 1–3, on their way to the summit:
Getting past Stage 1: What do I get?
The most important fact in Stage 1 is making sure your expectations are clear. Changing or unclear expectations leave the person guessing about what they are supposed to be doing. I have blogged about this before.
Getting past Stage 2: What do I give?
The most important factor in Stage 2 is making sure the person’s strengths are being used. Have you deployed them in an area where they have a natural aptitude and can you see them making progress? I have succeeded in this stage by adjusting people’s duties to bring them more in line with what they do well and enjoy. I have also blogged about this before.
Getting past Stage 3: Do I belong here?
Stage 3 is the toughest. How do you help a proven performer (who likes their work) decide that they want to stay at your organization? Since I decided to choose only one tip for each stage for this blog, I chose the one that seems to be the hardest for people and therefore most often sets a great workplace apart from a good one. Nothing upsets a solid performer more than having to work alongside people who do not share their commitment to doing good work. If you have a problem on your team that you can’t fix, you need to make hard decisions as quickly as possible. I have written many blog posts about this, including this one.
I hope these tips can help you get your team to the summit stage.