Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Monday, 11 July 2016 11:03

Improving Human Performance

Written by Randy Anderson

good leader

Are your members engaged, equipped, and empowered?

As an HR professional, do you ever struggle with finding a balance between fostering productivity and allowing people to self-manage? What about getting your managers to quit managing and start leading and most importantly making sure everyone is obeying all of the laws that apply? In many organizations, the pressure of managing tasks often overrides the desire to lead people. Even more challenging is the fact that each team member has a different matrix of personality, learning style, communication preference, skills, and methodology. So, how can you produce results and create an atmosphere that inspires people to do and give their best, all while reducing turnover and increasing the quality of the overall culture? Finding that balance is what separates leaders from managers, and creates an environment that champions both productivity and individual fulfillment.

There are three key factors necessary to maximize the contribution of your team members, regardless of someone’s position, education, age, or other station in life. In order to exploit—in a positive way—the collective effort of all team members, everyone must be fully Engaged, Equipped, and Empowered to do their job to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done, so here is my strategy for making sure all three ‘E’s happen.


Recent studies show that as many as seventy percent of American workers are disengaged or actively disengaged in their work. This can lead to many problems. At a minimum, disengagement may show up as negative talk, poor customer service, missed deadlines, poor workmanship or absenteeism. However, it may take on more significant consequences if it results in increased employee turnover, lack of attention to safety protocol, or exposing people to high-risk situations. Engaging your team members will require more than a pep talk. It is going to require that you identify their three key drivers.

Core values: First, what are their core values? Core values are the things for which a person will sacrifice in order to have and they’ll fight to keep. This is the fabric of a person’s being. Key decisions a person makes in their life will reflect or prove what their core values are. Whether it is faith, family, finances, health, wealth, fulfillment, or something else, core values are just that… the things that a person values most. While everyone is wired differently, they’re all driven by some combination of these five motivators.

Primary motivators: Secondly, what are their primary motivators? People are driven by a combination of factors, but those factors will fall into one of five categories. Some people are driven by accumulation. Whether it is an accumulation of money, degrees, certifications, or something else they can possess, these people are working to create a bigger pile.

Recognition and appreciation: Some people are driven by recognition and appreciation. They crave a pat on the back, a word of commendation, or some other form of acknowledgment that they are valuable and appreciated.

Competition: Still others are motivated by competition. They always seem to be able to push themselves further if it means outperforming someone else or surpassing a difficult goal.

Self-satisfaction: Still others are motivated by self-satisfaction and fulfillment. Regardless of how they are measured, rated, or graded by someone else, they experience contentment in simply knowing that they did their very best and gave one-hundred percent of their effort, energy, and personal resources.

Relationships: Finally, some of your team members are driven to preserve and promote relationships. Their main goal is to work in a way to make their manager look good, help co-workers be successful, or simply work hard enough to keep their job so that they can provide for those with whom they share personal and family relationships.

Lastly, to fully engage your people, you need to know their aspirations. Everyone has something in life that they want to achieve, attain, acquire, or experience. These are the things people want their life to count for, the things for which they want to be remembered, or the legacy they want to leave. Whether it is to live in a certain place or travel during retirement, to be remembered as a great person, or to have started something that carries on after they’ve passed, these are the things people hope for most.

By observing where someone spends their time, efforts, energy, and resources, you’ll begin to realize what is truly important to them. Through building a relationship with them, you will hear them talk about what matters most… if you listen. And by asking strategic questions, you’ll get to know them as a person, not just as a co-worker or subordinate, and you’ll unlock the secret code to making sure their heart is in their work.

Additionally, people will become more engaged in their work when they see how they fit into the bigger picture. Share the history of your organization. No one wants to be the one who ‘let the torch go out.’ If they know the origins and milestones that came along the way, they will work to continue the progress. Talk about the ‘why’ of the job and the expectations that are placed on them. Most people will rise to meet the expectations you place on them, provided those expectations are reasonable. Along the way, give them timely feedback, coach them rather than criticizing, and partner with them in their personal and professional growth.


Now that you’ve got their heart in it, you need to give them the tools, training and resources to do their job effectively and efficiently. In most organizations, it is a lot easier to gain approval for new computers, software, iPads, vehicles, or facilities, than it is to make ongoing training a part of the culture. We expect people to produce more every year, but is your organization investing in helping them become better equipped to do that. An easy example lies in technology.

We are usually more willing to purchase a new computer for someone than to pay for the person who will use the computer to learn how to utilize that computer to its full capacity. Similarly, it is much easier to talk about better customer service than to sell the idea of communication, customer service, or time management training.

At times, I see employees who are given a considerable amount of training, but don’t seem to try to master what they learn and incorporate the strategies in the workplace. You have to decide if this is the result of an attitude problem or an aptitude limitation. Unfortunately, some people end up being promoted or hired into a position that is not the right fit. That is very different than someone who isn’t engaged enough to give sufficient effort to successfully meet the requirements of a higher position. Thus, it is necessary to start with engagement, then move to equipping them. If you find that to be the problem, back up and start again in reengaging them.


Once you’ve engaged and equipped your people, you arrive at a very difficult point for many managers. The real test of leadership is a willingness to empower people. Simply having a car and sitting in the front left seat does not make someone a driver. Empowering people means that you allow them to determine methodology, make mistakes, and hold them accountable for the ultimate results that they produce.

As we explore how to empower people, I am going to focus on two popular leadership styles that are common in the American-workplace. The first is situational leadership. This was first outlined and formalized by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the early 1970’s. This approach somewhat limits how much empowerment you actually turn over to someone, but is an efficient approach for short-term projects.

Situational leadership starts by assessing two very important determining factors for how you can most effectively interact with and lead an individual: Are they competent to successfully undertake the ownership of the task, and are they committed enough to see it to its completion? The answer to these two questions will dictate the best way to respond. Think of a seesaw…when one side is up and the other is down. If the employee is highly competent, they need a low amount of direction. If they have a low level of competence, they need significant direction. If they are highly committed, they need little support. But if their commitment level is low, you’ll need to give them high support.

High commitment and high competence requires low support and low direction. In leadership terms, that means we can delegate tasks to them, trust that they will do it correctly, and see it through to the end. Conversely, if they are low commitment and low competence—which, by the way, means either a bad hire or an employee who is on their way out—you’ll need to give them high support and high direction. As their manager, you’ll put a significant amount of time, effort, and energy into keeping them on track and moving forward. High commitment or low competence is usually a new hire who needs lots of direction but not much cheerleading. The low commitment and high competence person is usually someone who is burned out and doesn’t need much instruction or direction, rather they need support and encouragement to reignite them.

There are positives and negatives to this style of leadership. On the plus side, this approach is efficient, practical, and straightforward. It allows or requires the leader to remain flexible and treat each situation differently. It can also be used in an infinite number of scenarios, which is good, because not only do people differ in competence and commitment, but the same person may be more confident in certain roles of their job than others, but their level of commitment may vary depending on how much they like certain aspects of their position.

On the downside, this may not be ideal for all situations. It doesn’t take into account certain demographics. For instance, an older employee that does embrace and is proficient with technology doesn’t fit the normal stereotypes and therefore requires an agile managerial response. It is further complicated by the fact that there is no direct correlation between commitment and competence. Finally, and probably the biggest negatives are that it is much more management than leadership, and it can’t sustain a long-term plan. Every situation will be a starting over point.

Transformational leadership

Situational leadership is a good way to manage projects and tasks, but won’t contribute to your team members taking personal ownership of progress and growth. They will become focused on their stack or their to-do list. If you want employees to develop a small business owner’s mentality and create an atmosphere that requires less hands-on management, consider incorporating a transformational leadership style.

While situational leadership is a series of events, transformational leadership is a process that leaders and followers walk through together. Transformational leaders help people improve their performance and actually grow into their full potential. This leadership style causes people to focus on organizational goals rather than their own agenda. It also requires that everyone take part of the responsibility of leadership, not just the manager.

One of the main challenges of transformational leadership is that it requires at least some amount of charisma. If a person is not naturally charismatic, they may not think they can be this kind of leader. Also, the atmosphere that is created by this kind of leader can become dependent on that individual. Once they leave, it may be difficult for a new leader to maintain the same energy in the workplace.

The other most common and significant criticism is that when—used in the wrong way or for wrong motives—this type of leadership can be very destructive. David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Adolph Hitler are all examples of transformational leaders who caused societal deterioration. As you can imagine, both of these leadership styles have their merits, and both bring challenges. They aren’t mutually exclusive, so don’t try to pick one and strictly do that. As you work with your team and begin to observe how they work best, you’ll see which one will work best depending on specific factors, personalities, and desired outcomes.

By cultivating an atmosphere where all team members are more fully engaged in their work, adequately equipped to do their job, and feel empowered to create their own success, they will then help create a more positive and productive environment which typically yields lower turnover rates and higher profitability.

randy anderson

Randy Anderson works with individuals, teams, and entire organizations to help people increase their productivity, and enjoy more fulfillment in life, while helping the organizations they work for to achieve key objectives efficiently and effectively. If you would like more tools and strategies for engaging, equipping, and empowering people, visit