I have often wondered what it would be like to manage managers with a merit/demerit system linked to their potential bonuses – it would be punitive, but oh, so much fun. Just imagine a measurement system application linked to their respective smartphones where they can achieve merit points for doing well, but get penalised with demerit points for leading badly (if you end the year with a negative tally, no bonus is awarded). Merit points could be achieved for some or more of the following acts:

  • Catching someone doing something right and acknowledging contribution (20 points)
  • Encouraging ideas and giving staff necessary feedback (10 points)
  • Acknowledging discretionary effort, where staff go the extra mile (15 points)
  • Demonstrating to staff that you care for their wellbeing (30 points)
  • Holding regular crucial conversations – career development, learning and development, strengths utilisation, performance management, etc. (50 points)
  • Etc.

Demerit points would be given for some or more of the following acts:

  • Failing to greet employees in the morning (-10 points)
  • Enforcing your own selfish agenda without taking staff feelings/ideas into consideration (-50 points)
  • Ignoring extra effort (-15 points)
  • Taking the glory for a team member’s idea (-20 points)
  • Unfair judgement, favouritism, nepotism, duplicity (-50 points)
  • Not extending trust and being a “snooper-visor” (-50 points)
  • Etc.

The only problems with the above system, however ingenious the system may be, are: it is not engaging in and of itself, it is punitive and probably not sustainable. It also generates the wrong motivation for employee engagement – what’s in it for me as manager rather than how can I bless and grow my employees? It would seem that employee engagement is a value and practice that has to come from the heart – it cannot be legislated. It is not something that can be demanded, but it is something essential to be worked on as a leader.

Employee engagement originates in the heart – it’s an inbred attitude and disposition first, then it translates into corresponding actions. Employee engagement is not a bonus-linked game – I engage, because I value my staff. They are precious assets and I need to value and maintain these assets. I seek their welfare, their growth and their success. Inter alia, this translates into the following:

  1. Care – a real demonstration of fondness, protection and a desire for their welfare. I provide the effective and efficient resources they need to do their jobs and I manage the pressure that the work entails. I create an environment that can be considered as a happy workplace.
  2. Performance orientation – I have regular conversations with each employee regarding the achievement of potential and the possibility of surpassing expectations. I provide training interventions/coaching where necessary and encourage stretch.
  3. Feedback – I don’t withhold information, but give regular constructive updates to employees with respect to improvement and achievement.
  4. Vision and values – I frequently refer to the vision for the future and emphasise the behaviours that are expected in alignment to our values. I check that I am, too, living the values.
  5. Empowerment – I involve them in decision-making that affects them and regularly seek opportunities to confer responsibility. I expect them to be accountable and I don’t “check- up” on them, but rather generate opportunities for discussion about successes/failures.

Employee engagement originates in the heart. It’s a leadership disposition – it is part of the leadership character. It is a selfless expression to engender the very best for and from your employees. It comes from the heart.

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