Following on from the Part 1 of our ENGAGE OR DIE series, the second enabler identified by the Engage for Success Taskforce to bring about greater levels of engagement at work in the UK, (and subsequently personal, organisational and national fulfilment of potential), is Engaging Managers.

For those who have simply stumbled across Part 2, the ‘Key Enablers’ identified by the Engage for Success Taskforce are:
1. Strategic Narrative
2. Engaging Managers
3. Employee Voice
4. Integrity

In this article, we explore what this means and what you and your organisation can do to develop leaders and managers capable of increasing engagement levels.


It’s hardly surprising that this should be a Key Enabler, is it. Indeed, it could be said that an Engaging Manager is precisely one who offers Strategic Narrative, ensures Employees have a Voice, and acts with Integrity at every step. However, what is absolutely clear is that leaders and managers have the most critical part to play, and the greatest responsibility, in encouraging full engagement from their employees. We all know that it is their behaviour that sets the agenda for the culture of an organisation.  Yet, we also know the oft-cited statistic that 80% of people who leave a job do so not because of poor pay or lack of advancement opportunity, but because of a poor relationship with their boss, so how come we continue to get it so wrong and accept poor leadership?

Let’s investigate.

1. Engaging Managers can come from any possible colour combination.

It always seems sad to me to think that managers have always previously been managed and therefore presumably thought about how they would like to have been managed better, yet seemingly fail to learn from that experience. As soon as promoted, they seem to believe that they’ve got to change, to adopt more of a stereotypical “manager” style, to wear the mask of authority. Whilst there may be good reasons for this belief – it is stereotypical after all and some organisations promote and reward a “redder” style of leadership (e.g. quick, decisive, controlling, capable of making hard decisions and whip the department/team into shape) – it is, of course, a huge mistake. Not used to behaving in this way, these managers struggle to use this Fiery Red energy in a mature and positive way and soon lose the trust of their people, whilst simultaneously suppressing their natural leadership talents.

If we are to develop good leadership, surely it has to be on the understanding that it can come from any colour combination of preferences, all of which bring both strengths and possible weaknesses to the role:

So, if you’re in the business of appointing managers, identify the person’s natural strengths and encourage, praise and reward those – don’t try to mould them into something that they’re not. People should be promoted to positions of management and leadership because of their emotional intelligence – their ability to get the best out of themselves and others at all times – not their technical ability. And if you’re a manager, regardless of your colour preferences, you’re absolutely fine as you are. Don’t make the mistake of believing you must fit the someone else’s stereotype of what it means to be an effective manager. Your people will be more engaged by you if you stay true to yourself.

2.An ability to engage others depends on one’s honesty and authenticity.

The largest survey of its kind, by Kouzes and Posner in 2003, asked 60,000 employees from public, private and not-for-profit sectors what attributes they’d most like to see in their leaders and the top answer by far at 88% was the word “honest”.

By this is meant a lot of things – a person who gives honest feedback, who tells it like it is, who follows through on what they say they’ll do, who is fair and consistent in their treatment of others. But underpinning all of these, it’s a person who is honest about themselves, warts and all – a person who is unafraid to acknowledge that they struggle with some things and need help, that they’ve made mistakes in the past (and probably still will), that they sometimes get carried away and may be misinterpreted, that they have real human emotions too!

It is this courage to be vulnerable, (please watch the absolutely phenomenal talk by Brené Brown above, entitled “The Power of Vulnerability”, it might change your life) – that makes one believable as a person and trusted as a leader and thereby capable of inspiring others to be engaged.

Evidently, one needs a good degree of self-awareness to achieve this level of self-confidence be able to open up in the first place, and that is, in part, what The Colour Works profiling system and workshops seek to help build.

3. In order to treat your people as individuals, you have to understand and respect them.

Whilst self-awareness and contentment are two essential elements of the Engaging Manager’s toolkit – understanding and respecting others is equally vital. As you will know from your interaction with The Colour Works profiling and workshops, we are all  very different and need therefore to be managed accordingly.

Respecting others and their different styles, needs, skills, experience and expectations can only come about when one accepts that there are so many different ways of experiencing the world and each is as equally valid as the other. My way is not only not the only way, it may not even be the best way.

Understanding how different we all are is what The Colour Works is all about. The Discovery model, the profiles and our workshops are all designed to facilitate that understanding but ultimately there’s no alternative to talking and listening.

How do your staff wish to be managed on a project? Left alone to get on with it or checked in with every day? How well do you know each of their “personal needs” – what keeps them motivated and engaged? How well do you fulfil them? Do you know what their stretch goals are, both in and out of work? How do they like to be appreciated? Publicly with gifts or quietly with just a “thank you”?

Get to know your staff as individuals, treat them according to their needs, allow them to identify their core strengths and play to them – all of these commitments will increase their engagement levels.

4. Effective and engaging people management requires time and dedication.

As if it needed saying at this stage, recognise that following through on all of the above not only requires great skill, it also needs sufficient time.

How many managers dread up-coming review sessions with staff (and often postpone them) and then tell rather than ask, speak rather than listen? These are very important activities – perhaps the only time (though they shouldn’t be) that staff get your undivided attention. Failure to carry them out properly leaves staff feeling  underappreciated and leads to disengagement.

How many managers invest enough time in really getting to know their staff on a personal level? In doing some team development? In allowing for time together outside of the work environment (where sometimes the best ideas come from!)?

And, critically, how many employers build these activities into their managers’ workload?!

At The Colour Works, we are committed to the idea that there is a better way to work, a better way to enable personal growth and organisational growth by releasing more of the capability and potential of your people at work.

Read Part 1, Part 3 and Part 4 of the ENGAGE OR DIE! Series

Read up on emotional intelligence, trust, leadership, authenticity and what really motivates employees Watch talks on vulnerability, body language, everyday leadership and better listening

Why not view our solutions on leadership today?

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