Friday, March 1, 2013

Effective Leadership + Engaged Employees = Brand Advocates

I’d like to welcome Michelle Braden to my blog. Some may know Michelle as the President/Emerging and Executive Leadership Coach of MSBCoach in Charlottesville, Virginia. Michelle has served in leadership positions for large corporations and non-profits, has written leadership training manuals, and advocates for leadership development. Recently, Michelle and I had a discussion about the importance and alignment of effective leadership, employee engagement, and brand advocates. Below is our collaborative post. We invite your feedback.

What happens when what a leader says and what he or she practices are two different things?  The truth is, several variables and unintended consequences come in to play when a leader’s words and actions do not line up. The ultimate consequence is lost trust. Yet, a large majority of employees are disengaged (72%), and much of this “disengagement” is a direct result of poor leadership.

Most leaders think (and would bet their reputations on this belief) that they are good leaders. In fact, few, if any, leaders will admit, “I am not a good leader and need help.” So where is the disconnect? The latest Employee Engagement Survey* performed by The Gallup Organization revealed that only 28% of employees are “engaged” employees. This leaves a whopping 72% of employees who are disengaged. 

So, you might wonder, what does an engaged employee look like? According to Wikipedia, an “engaged employee” is one who is fully involved in, and enthusiastic about, his or her work and will act in a way that furthers an organization’s interests. According to a Dale Carnegie Training** white paper, engaged employees are motivated by three drivers: relationship with the immediate supervisor, senior leadership’s ability to lead the company and communicate its goals, and organizational pride (the vision of organization and corporate social responsibility).

After 25 years of research, over 80,000 in-depth interviews with over 400 companies globally, Gallup revealed 12 elements that must be present for employees to be engaged. They include:

[1] Do you know what is expected of you at work?
[2] Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?
[3] At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
[4] In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
[5] Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
[6] Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
[7] At work, do your opinions seem to count?
[8] Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
[9] Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
[10] Do you have a best friend at work?
[11] In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
[12] In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

When a leader first reviews this list, he or she may say, “We do this” or “I provide these variables for my team.” But, the research mentioned earlier reveals the contrary. Latest numbers are as follows: Engaged employees – 28%; Not-engaged employees – 54%, and Actively Disengaged – 17%. To put it bluntly, 71% of the workforce is either underperforming or actively undermining their work.

Bottom line, it is the responsibility of all leaders to create a culture for employee engagement. Leaders must move from theory to practice – and practice what they preach. We have the research that tells us exactly what our people need, we also have the research to show the consequences if we do not provide the tools for our employees to do their jobs. But above all, we have a responsibility as leaders to behave in a way that we set admirable examples for younger employees who will step into leadership roles in the not-too-distant future.

Take another look at today’s workplace. As a result of social media, instant communication has taken the front seat for many marketing initiatives. This means that every employee has the potential to represent your company’s or non-profit’s brand. Therefore, as a leader, you must ask yourself, “Do the employees have enough information to explain our competitive advantage? Can they articulate the brand promise in one or two sentences? Do they know who handles customer service complaints or press inquiries, etc.?” If the answers to these questions are no, then ask yourself this important question: How can my employees be enthusiastic brand advocates?

That final question may be rhetorical, but hopefully, it will make you think and force you to act. Create a culture where innovation is promoted and recognized, where questions are answered, where good work is rewarded, where leadership is transparent. Engaged employees will emerge. And then, the best result of all, dedicated employees will become enthusiastic brand advocates who live the brand on a daily basis – without any urging from the leadership team.

Has this happened at your company? Please share your success story.

*Read the Gallup Employee Engagement Index.

**Download the What Drives Employee Engagement and Why It Matters report.

Connect with Michelle Braden on Twitter ( and Facebook (

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Debbie. It only takes one to make an dis-engaged person an engaged one (and visa versa)! I've found it interesting that typically many obstacles can be removed, and the solution is right there with the person that wants to overcome them.


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