Your Actions are LOUDER Than Words

By Barry Pruitt

dateSun, Jul 13, 2014 @ 12:30 PM

It was 5:00 am when I stepped in line for the counter. As we joked and talked, our group of 12 slowly crept up to the front of the line. At 5:19 AM we heard the bad news – although our tickets were purchased with American Airlines, the first leg was on an acquiring company, USAirways. We had to check in at both airline counters in order to make it to Guatemala City.

At the first counter we heard, “wish I could help you more,” and at the second, “THEY locked the record so we can’t get in to confirm the flight for five of your team members.” What ensued was a discussion about putting five of twelve members on a later flight - causing a missed flight connection and therefore a missed tourism bus from Guatemala City. We sent seven team members on through security while negotiating the remaining five. There were more comments from the USAir representative about how the American representative had made a mistake. All I heard was a lot of THEY and no WE.

Does your team talk “they”?

If you, too, have gone through acquisition, opened another location, or have people on the road, you know how easy it is for team members to use “they” language. This is a matter of (lack of) engagement. It will help if we break this dilemma down for examination. Let’s begin with the graphic depicting the Top 5 Strategies to Engage Your Team. I’ve charted these items to make it fast and easy to understand.



Let’s work the data from the bottom up:

5. Pressure: Under pressure, over half of your team resists - usually not to your face, but in the true effort they exert. When using the pressure tactic to engage – it might sound like, “do this because I said so, that’s why you’re paid, you’ll do it or I’ll find someone who will,” etc. It may also look and sound like more frequent check-in, or persistent reminders from you as leader.

4. Rational Persuasion: What you might call logic. This is using logical arguments and/or factual evidence. You may come from a logical discipline, like engineering, legal, or a technology background. Rational logic may gain traction with an individual or department that is logical in their thinking – but in a larger majority of cases, other approaches get better results.

3. Personal Appeal: Appealing to the person’s feelings of loyalty and relationship. This can only be done IF you have a personal relationship with the employee or team member – but, it has little chance of success unless connected to something of value to the person you attempt to engage.

2. Consultation: Seeking a person’s participation in setting strategy, planning activity, or attempting change for which the person’s support and assistance are desired.

1. Inspirational Appeal: Making a request or proposal that inspires enthusiasm by appealing to a person’s values, ideals, and aspirations or increasing the person’s confidence that he or she can do the requested task. Wow – 0% resistance and 90% commitment! That’s what we’re looking for as leaders and … it would be easy to quit at this level. Many good companies do… But, if you’ve read this far, you want to be a GREAT company, a fast growing company. And this won’t happen quickly, or often, until you utilize a combination of all top 5 with a consistent planning framework. That’s where the Rhythm approach helps.

Consider this:

Employee engagement has changed in recent years.

When the economy tanked a few years ago, there was a war for employee talent and engagement. Many leader’s efforts were focused on surviving the business downturn. There was a shift in company focus to the bottom line – and, many companies ceased any focus on employee engagement.

So what happens as the economy shifts from recession?

Let’s look at what typically happens in this situation. If a team member is disengaged and works for you, they have the choice of quitting and going to another job, right? Maybe. There are various factors, including eligible retirees delaying retirement and fewer jobs being available overall, which have contributed to the growing ranks of the disengaged.

Although I observe some unrest among employees, they don’t seem to be changing jobs yet. Perhaps tenured employees are disengaged, but don’t want to leave their current job to be on the bottom rung at another company.

Smart growth leaders won’t be caught by surprise as they start immediately to engage their teams. Growth leaders are reinvesting in training and development now, showing leadership by developing strength before they have need.

Can I Use Engagement as a differentiating strategy?

Employment branding is critical. Consider what you are doing from a recruitment standpoint. Sometimes organizations have a hiring issue; they are hiring the wrong people to succeed in their company.

Take the Timberland Company. They are very purpose-driven. Timberland has an 8% turnover of sales staff in its retail locations, while other companies can expect 100% turnover in the same setting. They really understand their hiring brand. Apple and Southwest airlines have that same understanding. The people you hire should have behaviors and traits that match your organization. That’s called Topgrading, and these statistics are just one reason I support the approach.

Start now to make your actions louder than your words by engaging your employees. Begin with a planning approach that taps into the brain trust of your team. Include annual planning and quarterly planning that outlines the top priorities of your team and resources, and then create a public dashboard for weekly updates. Along the way, begin to recognize the patterns of thinking and motivation of your team. Finally, take all of the above ingredients and wrap them in a repeatable, consistent, and clear inspirational appeal. You’ll see employee engagement rise which is a leading indicator of financial success.

How will you let your actions speak louder than your words? I’d love to hear your feedback below.


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Barry Pruitt


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