Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

New Zealand employees are arguably some of the most engaged in the world. But there’s no time for complacency.

A recent survey in 15 countries by Right Management found that only 43 per cent of New Zealanders were engaged in their work. (Only India and the United States did better than us.)

What about the 57 per cent of New Zealand employees who are not committed to making their organisation a success, don’t want to stay and are unwilling to go the extra mile? What a waste of talent.

Much of engagement comes down to leadership.

Here’s my pick of the mistakes many leaders make. The mistakes and suggestions are based my own experience leading a highly engaged team for 30 years, my observations and the research on motivation and leadership.

Mistake #1: micro-manage them

Micro-management is a sign that the manager is anxious. It sends the message ‘I don’t trust you to do this well and I could do it better’. When I mention micro-management in workshops, I don’t need to explain it. The sighs and nods say it all. Even managers complain that they are micromanaged by more senior people. They hate it.

A better strategy

Employ trustworthy people and trust them. Leave them to get on with it. They won’t necessarily make the right judgements every time, but trust them to work diligently, generally get things right and learn from their mistakes. Watch them grow into the role as you support their independence and learning.

Aim to develop people who can do their work far better than you could.

Mistake #2: let them know it's 'my way or the highway’

There’s a place for the command style of leadership in emergencies, but it’s generally counter-productive at other times. It means that there is only one brain running the team – yours.

You could say commanding is leadership, but the most successful organisations don’t have top-down command-style leaders.

One group of researchers selected the top organisations in America by an exhaustive process that would satisfy any accountant. Those organisations were led by ‘quiet modest people’ with a strong sense of purpose. The leaders ‘would go on and on’ about the quality of their people. The title of the researchers article: ‘We don’t need another hero.'

A better strategy

Make your organisation’s values non-negotiable, but focus on coaching, consultation and group-decision-making as your main leadership styles. You can over-do them all. You could even use them inappropriately, but those three styles are associated with healthy cultures and engaged employees.

Mistake #3: try to motivate them with lots of money

Yes, money is a motivator and for some people especially so. But paying more and more will give you diminishing returns.

A better strategy

Pay what’s fair and reasonably attractive for the role, but focus on intrinsic rewards – such as designing the work to be as interesting as possible. If the tasks are boring, at least create opportunities to work and socialise with others. Vary the routine tasks if you can. Provide feedback on their progress – individually and as a team.

See if you can create a sense of mission. For example, in a call centre you could encourage them to think of how they are helping families or individual customers, not just taking calls from grumpy people.