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Engage Your Team

“How do I motivate my employees? How can I get my team to go above and beyond?”

As we work with managers and leaders in the Des Moines metro and across the state, this question comes up time and time again. Employee engagement isn’t just a regional or statewide issue. According to the most recent Gallup poll, 67% of workers in the United States are not engaged!

Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and who contribute to the organization in a positive manner.” Employees who are engaged work with passion and drive innovation; they care not only about their work, but about the success of their organization. Who wouldn’t want a team of motivated and engaged employees?

While we do know that people are motivated by different things, here are four tried and true practices to improve engagement.

1. Know yourself to know others.

It’s been said that people leave managers, not companies. The journey to becoming an effective manager starts with self-awareness—being attuned to ourselves and our attitudes, preferences, values, and passions. To be self-aware is also to understand how you’re perceived by others. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “For leaders who see themselves as their employees do, their employees tend to have a better relationship with them, feel more satisfied with them, and see them as more effective in general.” To improve your self-awareness, create a daily habit of self-reflection (whether it be the practice of journaling, meditation, prayer, or mindfulness). It’s also important to seek honest feedback from people who know you well and want to help you develop as a person. Finally, we believe that understanding your personality can lead you to success. Once you understand your personality and the personalities of those around you, you can more effectively motivate and engage your team.

2. Take a personal interest in your employees.

Get to know your team members—their interests, preferences, and motivators. As Patrick Lencioni points out in his book, The Truth About Employee Engagement, people need to know that they’re known and respected for who they are outside of their job. A perfect time to build a personal connection with someone is when he or she joins your team. Start by asking open-ended questions about a person’s strengths, work experiences, and goals—and don’t forget to listen! This needs to be genuine or don’t bother.

3. Help employees understand the role they play and why their work matters.

Lencioni adds that teams cannot function unless everyone understands their roles and hones their skills. Each person needs to know that his or her job matters to someone. Have frequent conversations with your team members to help them see how they impact the organization. This is also important to keep in mind when appreciating your employees. Don’t just say, “Great job!” or “Thank you!” Take your positive feedback a step further by explaining the impact of the person’s actions. To be an effective leader, help your team see the relevance of their work.

4. Set qualitative and quantitative measures for employees.

People need to know how their performance is assessed—they need some way of keeping score. Work can be measured in qualitative ways, such as customer satisfaction or performance feedback or work can be measured in quantitative ways, such as productivity, cost, or quality. It’s important the measurement is meaningful and inspiring. The key with measurement is to make sure you’re measuring the right things. For example, a customer call center measured time per call, which worked against customer satisfaction. Instead of spending more time to resolve a customer’s issue and answer questions, call center employees tried to get the customer off the phone as fast as possible. People will tend to behave in the ways they’re rewarded (think of the 2017 Wells Fargo account fraud scandal). It’s important to measure the right things that inspire and engage people.

To contact Libby Ehrig, email her at or call ATW Training Solutions at 515.771.0731.  If you’d like to learn more about self-awareness and engaging your employees, check out ATW’s Management Development Program 2 (MDP2).

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