Leadership Perspectives

Engagement Lacking? How Leaders Get Re-engaged

January 28, 2012

Last fall, we posted a good bit in various social media about employee engagement.  Leaders worry a lot about how to help workers feel enthusiastic, committed, and emotionally connected to their work.  After all, engaged workers are more productive and they are less likely to leave.

But what happens when the leader isn’t feeling engaged?   You know the feeling.  When you just don’t feel energized or ambitious, or you have to drag yourself to complete tasks.  I hear clients lament this lack of “get-up-and-go” frequently after a major organizational push such as a product launch or a budget presentation.

Engagement is, after all, closely related to energy.  Sometimes we simply deplete our energy and we need to restore it.  Other times, after a big push, there simply isn’t anything BIG and HAIRY enough in the day to day to give us the adrenaline rush we became accustomed to.

Sometimes this lack of engagement tries to tell us something BIG.  It may be trying to tell you that you should not be where you are.  But even leaders that are in the right place and doing the right work occasionally lose their excitement and motivation, and simply need to make some adjustments.

You can impact your own energy level and sense of engagement by taking a few simple steps when you feel it flagging:

Take a break.  If you’ve been making an all out push, maybe you need to give yourself permission to take a break and refuel.  The length of break will depend on how long you’ve been running at full throttle and how long it has been since you’ve had a break. 

If you have been working intensely on a difficult and important organizational initiative and, now that it’s finished, you find yourself lacking the motivation to tackle the next endeavor, a few days on an island (or at Disney World, whatever floats your boat) might be in order.  If you’ve been locked up in an intense planning session all morning, walking the parking lot or eating lunch out might be more beneficial to your overall productivity than spending the lunch break trying to cram in more work at your desk.

Clear the roadblock.  While well earned breaks have a positive effect on your productivity, too many trips to the coffee machine (or rounds of computer solitaire) probably mean you are procrastinating.  If you find yourself working on unimportant and non-urgent tasks, or work that should be done by others, ask yourself “What am I avoiding?  What is the most important thing that I could be doing right now?” 

Then decide what’s stopping you and deal with it.  Do you lack the skills or resources?  Is the task unpleasant?  Or does the most important thing that you need to tackle simply require that you stretch?  Whatever the answer, deal with it NOW.  Delegate, collaborate, or as the famous Nike slogan says “Just do it.”

You’ll be surprised how liberating and energizing it can be to deal with your roadblocks once and for all.

Set a new goal.  Leaders lead and if you aren’t leading toward something other than the day-to-day status quo, it’s no wonder you are bored and unengaged.

Several years ago, I ran a business with an intense “busy season.”  For two months, our mission was to produce as much as possible with flawless quality – and not lose our sanity or our health in the process.  Predictably, though, on December 1 volume would drop like a rock and we would breathe a collective sigh of relief. 

Unwilling to write off the rest of the year, to keep myself and the team engaged I had an initiative cued up to launch when business dropped.  It was nothing so onerous that staff could not resume normal work schedules or take turns at well deserved vacations, but it was meaty enough to keep us engaged and energized.

Re-prioritize your work.  Finally, let’s face it.  Some projects are simply more rewarding than others.  As long as you don’t skip important work to do things just because you enjoy them, when you feel unmotivated, move a project that you know is going to be rewarding to the top of your list and tackle that first. The good feeling and sense of accomplishment when it is complete will give you the fuel to tackle the less exciting or more daunting of your responsibilities.

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