How to Strengthen Employee Commitment

Lucky for managers, engaging employees doesn’t involve a large process with a fancy toolbox and bag of tricks.  It only involves a few effective communication skills. 

I do think the term “micro-manager” gets thrown around too much, but in my case I think it applies…
When I am given a task to fulfill, at times, she will outline exactly what I should say, as if I had no idea how to achieve the desired outcome.  If I write an annual campaign letter or grant proposal, she re-writes half of it in her own words. 

This probably isn’t you, and you already have a picture of someone who this may remind you of.  To strengthen employee commitment takes the skill of perspective on your part in answering the question; what type of leader am I?  The above micro-managed employee is dealing with a Trait Approach to leadership.

The Five Leaders 

Trait Approach Leadership

They say that leaders are made up of certain traits:

1. Intelligence

2. Dominance

3. Self-confidence

4. Energy, activity

5. Task related knowledge

Others say that leaders come in all shapes and sizes.


Charismatic Leadership

Charisma is not so much about personality traits as it is about behaviors.  The charismatic leader communicates an emotional involvement with the organizations mission while demonstrating a high self-confidence, and the desire to influence others.  This checklist includes: strong role model, high moral and performance standards, ability to appear competent and handle any situation in front of their followers, and provoke task-relevant motives (affiliation, esteem, power to accomplish tasks)

We look to people such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of charismatic leadership.


Transactional Leadership

Promote a focus on contingent rewards.  Followers have specific goals and are either rewarded or punished based upon their own performance by the leader/ manager.  You’ve already figured out that this is the classic carrot and stick approach.

Actively, a leader monitors the progress and takes corrective action as soon as necessary.  Passively, the leader waits until a rule infraction or a problem occurs before taking action.  There is no monitoring, because the leader is waiting for a problem.

Transformational Leadership

Followers are “transformed” into leaders themselves.  This process requires the leader to have an attributed charisma (ability to gain trust and respect) and demonstrate the perception of being a role-model while inspiring motivation.  Once the leader has done this, they then provide “intellectual stimulation,” a problem, and individual concern for each follower.

If employees feel cared about and encounter a problem facing their leader whom they respect and trust as their role model, then they will band together without directives as a leadership team.  A fictional example would be J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter character, who’s friends always help him out in a “pinch”


Relational Leadership

Just as it sounds, as a leader you will focus on creating positive relationships with employees of all levels.  This is seen through five principles:

1. Inclusiveness, commitment to diversity of multiple perspectives

2. Empowerment, at all levels of hierarchy you are open to genuine participation from all members

3. Ethics, holding yourself and those around you to a standard moral code

4. Purposefulness, convey commitment to a common goal while motivating others to accept that goal

5. Process Orientation, Aware of how groups operate and how past interactions influence future group interactions.

This leadership requires the heaviest skill in communication as it constantly requires observation on messages sent and received in the workplace.

Got it, now how do I use it?

Understanding why employees follow you is half the battle, play your part well.  Help with that here.  The next half is broken into two parts, say, quarters.

Now quarter one is setting a goal for their own professional or personal development and checking in with them about that goal, or setting new ones every three months.  Don’t believe it? This is the synopsis of Jack Welch on this point about keeping your people.

Quarter two is their own personal motivation factor.  How do they respond best? Some people respond better to fear, and others to opportunity, or even the chance to help out another person.  We teach the four factors in Expert Sales and how to read right away who you’re speaking with.

Raelin, J.A. (2003). Creating leaderful organizations: How to bring out leadership in everyone. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler.
Northouse, P.G. (2001). Leadership: Theory and practice.  (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage.

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