Shawn Richards asked me an intriguing question during his Team Engagement podcast.
“I hear from other leaders of teams that it can be a challenge to get team members engaged. Tell me your thoughts on that.”
And I thought my answer was worth repeating (although I edited my answer for this blog):
First, team engagement comes in lots of forms. “Engagement” is more than just speaking at meetings. Engagement can also come in the form of doing homework or research in preparation for when the team comes together. Or it might be contributing a special skill or talent that might not be obvious to other team members.
You have to ask yourself, “What’s your definition of engagement?” Introverts and extroverts have different definitions. People who are more people-oriented (versus task-oriented), can be the glue that holds the team together. The social aspect is just as important as the person who gets stuff done.
Secondly, in my experience, Shawn, I’m not exactly sure everybody knows what it is like to be on a high-performing team. We believe our kids are learning good team skills and behaviors. Yes, sometimes in the school environment, we teach them how to avoid, accommodate, compete, and most of all, compromise. We haven’t really taught them very well how to how to collaborate, how to achieve that win-win; how to really encourage people to be their best self when they show up for the team.
I believe there are three different things that affect our ability to show up:
- Your upbringing affects how you approach teamwork. If you think about the family unit, a family unit is a team. So you learn team behaviors from your mom and dad, your siblings, and your nieces and nephews. Those things help and hinder you.
- Your first paid job. Not babysitting or the mowing the grass, but your first paid job where you got an actual paycheck. The elements of teamwork you learned there carry forward. We are conditioned to believe certain things about teamwork, being a good team player, and being a good team leader.
- Your current environment that you’re working in right now might support teamwork. It might not support teamwork. It might say it supports teamwork, and yet the behaviors don’t support teamwork.
Yes, it is a challenge to get team members engaged, yet it is also worthwhile to define “engagement,” “teamwork,” your team’s “conditioning.”
As Shawn commented, “Great advice for all of us to remember and self-reflect on your background, that first job and family and so forth. What is it that made me, me, and how does that contribute to the team? And recognizing that my experience, of course, is going to be completely different than my teammate over here, and that they’re going to bring a different perspective.”
So, as you try to engage your team in a very virtual world, start by asking yourself these self-reflective questions and define what the ultimate type of engagement looks like for your team.
Listen to the full podcast here:
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator. She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years. She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.