Mason Institute for Leadership Excellence
Center for the Advancement of Well-Being | The College of Humanities and Social Sciences

How to Engage Your Workplace Team

by Dr. Steve Gladis, MILE faculty, CWB Senior Scholar

Positive leadership book

This is an excerpt from Gladis’ book Positive Leadership: The Game Changer at Work. Join Gladis and Dr. Beth Cabrera for the fall cohort of their Positive Leadership Certificate Program to learn positive leadership skills that can change your life and organization for the better.

Great leaders make it their priority to help followers discover their natural talents and to develop those talents into true strengths and, thus, thrive. This is best begun by not only encouraging personal assessment but also through group assessment, discussion, and understanding. As mentioned previously, the MBTI, DISC, Clifton StrengthsFinder, and other such instruments provide a terrific starting place. The following are several steps leaders can take to engage their teams and draw them toward seeing work as a calling:

  • Celebrate diversity and the strength it brings to any team or organization. You will recall from Strengths-Based Leadership that while people aren’t necessarily balanced across all four key domains, you will want a balanced team – one strong in all four key domains: Strategic Thinking, Influence, Relationship Building, and Execution. Try to balance leaders with colleagues whose strengths can make up for leaders’ challenges and encourage everyone to appreciate each other’s strengths and to complement each other.
  • Match people’s strengths to their jobs. Also, allow people to adapt their jobs to their strengths. Forget strict, uncompromising job descriptions and think about job guidelines that can be adapted to the person and the situation. An executive recruiter friend talks about the “bend-don’t-break rule” when it comes to leadership (Kirkman, 2012). Love that analogy.
  • Become a champion for your direct reports. Richard Boyatzis talks about developing the ideal self. Like the Army recruiting commercial says: “Be all you can be.” And, making that happen for people and teams remains the chief domain of great leaders. One of the much-touted strengths of General Electric is how its talent management system has produced so many strong leaders, including a number of corporate CEOs. Indeed, creating future leaders becomes the mark of a great leader.
  • Set challenging goals and make them attainable. Research shows that followers like attainable but tough challenges. However, terms like “stretch goals” can be too confusing. Start with reasonable but difficult goals and stick with them. Follow through – celebrate wins, address losses. This kind of goal setting creates a sense of focus, determination, and finally, a strong sense of hope in the future.
  • Focus on something BIGGER. Develop a team/organizational mission, vision, values credo, rooted in meaning and purpose. And when you’ve done that, look beyond your team to something BIGGER, like the company, community, and country. According to research by psychologist and professor Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues, when people stop focusing on themselves, it makes them happier – regardless of whether they started out happy or depressed.
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