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Bridging the Divide Between Engagement and Excellence

Feature Story – By Patrick Veroneau

Leaders must model behaviors to build stronger workplace relationships

While much of the media has labeled the large numbers of employees who have quit their jobs in recent months as the Great Resignation, the label is inaccurate in one important detail. The Great Resignation has only accounted for the people who have recently left their jobs but has not accounted for the millions of people over many years who have quit their jobs emotionally and intellectually but have never left.

The life sciences world is no different. The pandemic fallout from the past two years has played a significant role in creating the Great Resignation and thus widening the divide between employee disengagement and organizational excellence. To effectively bridge this divide will require managers and leaders to model a series of behaviors that will promote a new and stronger  relationship with their employees.

Here are several behaviors for building your bridge.

Congruence

When one’s word and actions are aligned, they are said to be congruent. A great place to observe congruence or incongruence is to reflect on your company’s stated values.

As an example, if your organization identifies respect and entrepreneurship as two of its organizational values, yet the behaviors of the managers or leaders are dismissive of their employees’ ideas and feedback, then they are not acting congruently with their stated values.

For example, telling a representative they are the manager of their own territory but not allowing them to make decisions that impact their territory is not being congruent. If they don’t have any ability to make their own decisions, then don’t tell them they do.

To improve employee engagement and organizational excellence, leaders and managers should be constantly asking themselves if their behaviors and decisions are congruent with their values.

Appreciation

It is doubtful there is anyone over the past two years that has not been negatively impacted in one way or another by the restrictions that were imposed during the pandemic. The power of recognizing and appreciating these challenges can go a long way toward keeping representatives engaged and inspired to contribute to a company’s success.

In my conversations with several sales representatives, most mentioned the stress of not being able to access their customers in a consistent manner. To add to this level of stress, several said they felt an immense pressure to justify the value of their roles when they were limited in their ability to meet with their customers.

Taking the time, as a manager, to thank your sales representatives for navigating through some incredibly stressful times can go a long way toward making them feel appreciated when they may be struggling with assessing their own value.

Belonging

During a period that was focused on creating different levels of isolation, the need for representatives to feel connected is important even if it hasn’t been verbally expressed. One of the most effective ways to promote belonging involves creating a psychologically safe environment. There are many challenges that representatives are facing in a postpandemic environment. If they do not feel they can safely discuss the challenges they are facing with you or their team, the opportunity to find the most effective solutions to those issues may be lost.

The less comfortable or “safe” representatives feel about expressing what is really going on in their territories, the more likely it is that those problems will grow. Listening Listening to understand is one of the most powerful behaviors a manager or leader can demonstrate when engaging their employees. What are handed down as objectives or metrics from executive teams are often not in alignment with the realities of being in the field.

One of the most effective things a manager can do is sincerely ask a representative to explain how they think the objectives being asked of them can be accomplished. This approach provides the representative with a sense of autonomy and value. This approach does not mean that every suggestion a representative makes will need to be employed.

Many times, just providing the representative a genuine opportunity to voice concerns or make recommendations can be enough so long as the representative feels as though their manager genuinely listened to their concerns or took interest in their suggestions.

Clear Expectations

Of all the behaviors responsible for reducing conflict or miscommunication among employees and teams, establishing clear expectations is vital. To do this effectively involves three levels:

  • First, the expectations need to be clearly outlined and understood.
  • Second, there must be agreement about the expectations that have been set.
  • Third, those involved must take ownership in the expectations to guarantee they will be adhered to. This is where practicing personal and team accountability are necessary.

As a manager, your ability to set clear expectations with your representatives on all three levels vastly increases the engagement you will experience from those who report to you.

Empathy

The ability to empathize with those who report to you is a powerful way for you to address the challenges they may be facing. Remembering what it was like when you were challenged in the field or imagining how you would want to be treated by your manager if you were struggling are great ways to demonstrate empathy.

Demonstrating empathy can increase the level of trust between an employee and a manager as well as increase an employee’s level of engagement. Showing you care is not a weakness, it is one of your greatest strengths.

Conclusion

Your ability to consistently demonstrate the behaviors mentioned above will provide the framework needed to build the strongest relationships with your employees. And when employees are engaged, organizational excellence is always attainable.The challenge for you is to find ways to implement these behaviors with your own teams. When you do, your bridge is sure to become stronger.


Patrick Veroneau is the CEO of Emery Leadership Group, a TEDx speaker, author, sales advisor and podcast host. Contact at patrick@emeryleadershipgroup.com.

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