• Jan 13 2023

Engage Your Best People Through Effective Communication

A company’s long-term success depends on retaining and engaging its talent, and managers play a critical role ensuring their teams feel continuously inspired and supported. Great managers are adept at fostering environments that help their teams work creatively and efficiently toward a common goal. Conversely, a bad manager can have detrimental and long-lasting impacts on the engagement, commitment, and productivity of those they lead. 

Krister Ungerböck is a leadership language expert, former tech CEO, and #1 Wall Street Journal best-selling author. He leads two on-demand ExecOnline leadership development experiences focused on improving managers’ ability to retain and engage top talent.  

Ungerböck spoke to ExecOnline about the pivotal role that managers play to foster engagement on their teams, and why better communication is the key to creating happy and productive work environments.

Why should employee engagement be a top priority for managers?

The purpose of leadership is to maximize the results created by a group of people over the long term. Engaged people generate more results than disengaged people, and the best leaders create sustained engagement over years–even decades–from the same people. 

Too often, leaders focus only on the behaviors that are proven to increase engagement. But equally important is avoiding the behaviors that destroy engagement. 

Why do managers have an outsized impact on employee engagement?

Managers create the emotional container in which their teams perform. If your teams were a pot, and emotions were the ingredients you put into that pot, which emotions would you choose to add to the pot? 

People who work in a container filled with fear, anxiety, and pain are less creative and work less than those in a positive state. 

Too often, leaders focus only on the behaviors that are proven to increase engagement. But equally important is avoiding the behaviors that destroy engagement.

How can employee burnout impact performance?

Burnout and turnover among key employees is a primary indicator of managerial performance, and the loss of a key performer wipes out any short-term performance gains that you may achieve over a year or six months. 

To avoid burnout, leaders must be attuned to people’s emotional state and use positive feedback, empathy, and other communication tools to shift people from a negative into a more positive emotional state. 

What are two things leaders can do to prevent burnout and foster engagement on their teams?

First, managers can foster engagement by providing people freedom and autonomy to use all of their skills and expertise at work. Second, managers can lead with questions rather than giving people the answers. This will produce better results from their teams. 

Effective leaders are distinguished by their ability to engage and inspire teams, and these are the skills that every leader should strive to develop. 

What are the common blindspots or mistakes leaders make when it comes to communicating with their teams?

First, leaders underestimate the fear that employees have around speaking openly and honestly about difficult topics–especially concerns they have with you, their leader. The best leaders recognize that people tend to be less direct and less assertive than their leaders, because assertive and direct people tend to be promoted into leadership positions. 

Even if you are the kindest and most compassionate leader, many people have been scarred by past bosses. 

A safe and honest work environment is one where employees and managers talk openly and compassionately about the real issues affecting performance without fear of consequence.

What does a safe and honest work environment look like? 

Safe and honest work environments are required for employees to feel empowered and share ideas. A safe and honest environment is one where employees and managers talk openly and compassionately about the real issues affecting performance without fear of consequence. 

What do managers risk by failing to create open and honest communication with their team members? 

When there isn’t open and honest communication, employees and leaders operate with different sets of information. The leader is left wondering what the real problem is and why people are coming up with unexpected solutions. 

To make matters worse, when employees don’t feel safe to voice concerns to the leader, they often complain to their peers. If too many people complain to each other instead of leadership, the contempt for the leader can cause teams to subtly sabotage their leader’s efforts. 

Why are good communications skills critical to effective leadership? 

People doing the work often have critical information that leaders do not. And when priorities and projects proceed under invalid assumptions, weeks or months are often wasted. 

Leaders with strong communications skills create an environment where people share all relevant ideas, opinions, and information to ensure that we’re solving the right problems, with the right information required to solve them. 

About Krister Ungerböck

Krister Ungerböck is a leadership language expert, best-selling author and speaker. Prior to exiting corporate life at age 42, Ungerböck led a $200M global software company. While leading the company to over 3,000% growth, his team achieved employee engagement levels of 99.3% and became a dominant player in the event management software arena. Ungerböck is the author of the #1 Wall Street Journal best-selling book, “22 Talk SHIFTs: Tools to Transform Leadership in Business, in Partnership, and in Life.”

Ungerböck co-designed two on-demand leadership experiences with ExecOnline, both aimed at improving the ability of managers to communicate and foster engagement on their team. Learn more


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