When I first moved into a leadership position a decade ago, I had no clue what I was doing. I was a great individual contributor, but an embarrassingly poor leader of people. I made every mistake you can make. Becoming a great leader was painful for me, and probably even more painful for my team.
I eventually discovered that no one really knows what they’re doing. My path was not that special. It turns out that most new leaders are not qualified for their new job. They were great at their old job, but thrown into something completely foreign and expected to continue to be great. Typically, these new leaders receive little support in adapting to their new job. Why is that? Well, the people that promoted them didn’t receive much support either.
This problem is rooted in an incredibly naive mythos around leadership. “Leadership can’t be learned.” “Leaders are born, not made.” “We promote smart people, and smart people always figure things out!” Imagine hearing that sort of thing when you don’t know how to lead! Most new leaders who hear those things either (a) don’t recognize they need help, (b) pretend they don’t need help for fear of losing their job, or (c) simply give up. But there’s a better path.
I’ve longed for a systematic way to turn the qualitative aspects of leadership into something quantitative. After years of searching for an answer, I decided to make my own. So that’s what we’re doing. We’re making the leadership tools that I wish I had when I was starting out. A huge piece of the puzzle is employee engagement. There are countless solutions out there that measure engagement, but that’s typically where the solutions stop. Determining what should be done with engagement survey results is an exercise left up to the leader. Ugg!
At Inventiv, we believe engagement surveys and flashy reports are not enough. We have a few unique beliefs behind our approach to driving employee engagement:
- No one knows what they are doing, even leaders. Leaders have just as many struggles with uncertainty as other team members. They deserve support and their people deserve confident and effective leadership.
- Everyone seeks a higher purpose. No one wants to do a poor job. We believe disengaged employees want to do great things and will become more engaged if they are given the right support in the right role.
- People feed off of one another, for better or worse. If you have toxic people, their poison will spread. If you have motivated people, their passion will spread. Leaders should inspire passion.
- Engagement is a two-way street. Employees want to be engaged, but it’s a leader’s responsibility to facilitate engagement. Leaders create an environment that makes employee engagement possible.
- Every team member is unique. They have different motivators, different values, and different concerns. Leaders should seek insight into the needs and perceptions of each person on their team.
These beliefs have fueled our creation of Inventiv Insight, the first and only employee engagement software to provide concrete, guided, individualized action plans. Our standard employee engagement survey measures two aspects of each of our engagement factors: how people perceive the company’s performance on engagement factors, and how much they value those engagement factors. Leaders are presented with these results, but we don’t stop there. Insight analyzes the survey results and creates individualized action plans. These action plans guide leaders on how best to influence the level of engagement of each person on their team.
For instance, an employee may value autonomy more than anything else. If their perception of their autonomy at work is low, their action plan will prioritize recommendations their supervisor can take to positively influence their perception of autonomy. The recommended action plan may include actions such as: permitting the employee to choose their own work hours; having the employee choose a new tool or define a needed process; or giving the employee some flexibility in prioritizing their own work tasks based on team goals and objectives.
As another example, some employees are high performers but dread public recognition. They want to do great work and believe in the organization’s mission and vision, but have anxiety about being made into an example. Such a person may have a positive perception of the company’s ability to recognize employees for great work. However, they would not personally value that recognition. Therefore, their recommended action plan would not include recognition actions.
Whether you are a new leader or a veteran working to quickly and sustainably scale your organization’s leadership team, we can help. Through Insight, we give you a framework you can use and adapt to your organization’s needs. We strive to offer actionable insights with concrete guidance to facilitate higher levels of employee engagement.
The era of leaders struggling alone is over. It’s time we work together.
Dave Lane, CEO