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Part III: Are You an Ostrich or Giraffe
After taking a bit of a hiatus - it is Summer after all - I'm getting back to continuing with my 5-part series on the Ostrich vs. Giraffe leadership. Today we're considering employee engagement and how you can be more like a Giraffe.The good, the bad and the undecided
When we refer to “employee engagement” we’re not talking about the upcoming nuptials of a key staff member.
The Conference Board, a nonprofit organization specializing in management and marketplace research, defines it as “employees’ emotional and intellectual attachments to their jobs.” The Gallup Management Journal says that “engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company.” Suffice to say that engaged employees:
4 ways to unleash your inner giraffe
So the question becomes: How can you push the unengaged into showing some passion? And how can you keep the disengaged from hurting your company?
For answers to these questions, let’s hit the savannas and look to our friends the ostrich and the giraffe. As noted previously, when an ostrich is confronted with a threat, it tends to freeze and lie still. Although I’d guess an ostrich is indeed motivated to escape harm, it nonetheless appears rather unmotivated lying there in the grass or dirt, looking like it’s waiting to be pounced upon.
Giraffes, on the other hand, has a markedly different reaction to challenges. And it’s in a giraffe’s behavior that you can find hints as to how to motivate your employees. Here are three ways to unleash giraffe style of leadership toward increasing engagement:
1. Lead the herd. Being birds and all, ostriches do group together in flocks, and these flocks do provide some nominal amount of protection. But, when danger arises, chaos often ensues and ostriches have few defenses beyond hitting the deck.
Giraffes, on the other hand, live their lives very much within a functional herd with clear leadership in place. Herd leaders, generally alpha males, guide followers to feeding spots and water and away from danger.
Likewise, you shouldn’t allow your company to devolve into chaos and passivity when challenges arrive. As giraffes do, you need to stick your neck out and be a leader. This means:
Do you communicate enough with your employees so that they aren’t caught off-guard by adverse challenges? Doing so is key to keeping staff motivated and engaged. Some suggested moves include:
By letting your employees contribute in meaningful ways while the rest of the organization is going about its usual business, you can build enthusiasm and commitment. People thrive on challenging, meaningful work that gives them the freedom to use their know-how and experience. To allow your staff to “watch out” for you while you’re guiding the herd through today’s challenging business environment:
Are you passing along such important knowledge to your employees? Now more than ever people need to see a future for themselves that is worth working toward. Ways to do this need not be overly complex. They can be as simple as:
Naturally, staff members have many potential reasons as to why they’d like to move on. But, if you fear losing key players, promoting employee engagement is one way to increase the chances that your best and brightest will stick around.
Passivity is passé
Our economy’s slow recovery is making every aspect of doing business important. A disengaged or even unengaged workforce could hurt your ability to keep up with competitors. So be like a giraffe, not an ostrich: Stretch out, look around and move forward. Don’t choose passivity!
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.