As we promised in our last blog, in Part 2 we will be sharing our 6 relational practices that are proven tools to increase sustainable manager engagement with their teams. There is nothing “mind blowing” here, but the question remains –

Are you managing with these 6 practices?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if research really did change behavior? Just imagine how healthy we would all be, how fit and happy and engaged… Research does change behavior when we commit to these 6 relational practices. Imagine the world of work if all leaders made the time to incorporate these simple traits into their everyday leadership practice?

  1. Provide Positive, Honest Feedback

Build team confidence with feedback, good news, and constructive advice. Especially until milestones are reached, praise effort. Recognize and share progress. Coach to hit closer to the mark next time. This will call out excellence so the team can continuously learn and embed best practices. Help create an environment where people learn without fear and take reasonable risks without fear.

  1. Provide Optimal Challenges with Just Enough Stress

To build a team’s competency “muscle,” you want to challenge its members. Unless people are stretching, they tend to fall short of potential. Teams are no different and do their best work when under some pressure (but not overly stressed). Virtual leaders focus conversations, meetings, and activities on team challenges.

  1. Ensure People Are Safe from Demeaning Treatment and Unfair Evaluation

Safety first. Bullies are inconsiderate, even when making valid points. People need honest feedback, but how they hear the feedback is important to be able to hear and learn. Performance evaluations and coaching sessions can be formative without demeaning or shutting people down. Make coaching sessions and evaluations interactive, listening and responding openly to their perspective, and co-creating an improvement plan.

  1. Ensure Empowerment

In contrast to routine, coerced, or fear-driven cooperation, genuine collaboration not only requires but creates and supports individual empowerment. A hallmark indicator of real collaboration is that it is empowering! Collaboration nurtures and brings out strong personal power, which in turn, nurtures collaboration.

Every leadership action is, in some sense, a moral challenge to see that everyone comes out fairly. You can buy a person’s time, but not his heart or mind.

A motto Trina learned from a spiritual teacher guides her life: “Is it fair, and does it serve the interest of all concerned?” Reframed for the empowering leader: “Does it empower my team to serve the interests of stakeholders?”

  1. Flex Your Style

Results will exceed expectations surprisingly often when we listen and adapt to our team. We are helping them work out how they work best. Work is more fun, people are more comfortable, and synergy comes more easily.

Are you an adaptable enough virtual leader?

Can you manage an effective response to any stage of a virtual worker or team development?

Trina thought she was until an assessment showed her how predominantly she relied on only two management styles, limiting her ability to lead everyone on her teams. You can’t flex until you know you aren’t as adaptable as you thought. A 2010 Blanchard study found that 69% of leaders use one style exclusively. Only 14% are fully flexible.

Develop versatility.

  1. Expand Emotional Bandwidth

Trust, engaged leaders and teams, effective communication, and collaborative tools—a great formula that expands the emotional bandwidth available to sustain resilient relationships. Just as digital bandwidth limits how fast data can move, so emotional bandwidth determines how relationally competent you are.

The good news is…

These competencies are simple and transformative, and will strengthen team and employee engagement… and you know what that means!!! Gallop reports the following performance indicators are positively impacted. You can check their web site for this year’s metrics.

  • customer ratings
  • profitability
  • productivity
  • turnover (separated out for high-turnover and low-turnover organizations)
  • safety incidents
  • shrinkage (theft)
  • absenteeism
  • patient safety incidents
  • quality (defects).

Okay, so sign me up for these empowered results, you say! Getting started is easy.

  1. We recommend selecting one practice that you are already good at – maybe it’s empowering others.
  2. Next select a practice that you don’t really think about or even try to avoid. Let’s say you intend to provide positive, honest feedback.
  3. Finally, let your team know (this is where the accountability comes in) that it is your intention to focus on these two areas of your leadership. Enlist their help in keeping you aware of your commitment. This also creates great opportunities for new dialogs within the team.

For example, your team knows you are going to find opportunities to empower them. Through this exercise, they will also be able to help you see opportunities to do so. Empowering and providing feedback go hand in hand. This also empowers your team to ask for feedback from you, once again keeping you on track to keep your commitment of using these engagement practices in your daily leadership style.

What’s next? We are completing our very scientific assessment What Animal is Your Manager? This will be released in two weeks and provide you with the opportunity to judge others and be judged. What are your relational practices that you naturally excel at? Your manager? Where do you and your manager need to get better? We’ll see you in a couple weeks. Feel free to share this fun and engaging manager assessment to open new doors to conversation that need to be taking place in today world of work.


~ Kathy Kacher, Workforce Solutions Expert and Trina Hoefling, Transformation Change Agent, co-founders of The SMART Workplace