Telling and Asking and Influencing (Oh My!)… How to Create More Engaged Employees

Barb Krantz Taylor | April 23, 2012 | Blog | Leadership/Other | 2 minute read

Leaders today all want more engaged employees—both in the sense that leaders want more employees who are engaged AND leaders want all employees to be MORE HIGHLY engaged. Including employees in decision-making is a sure fire way to increase engagement, but inclusion can take many forms…including TELLING, ASKING, and INFLUENCING. My definitions of these words are as follows:

Telling: Inclusion by telling means the leader is simply informing an employee of a decision that has already been made—either directly or through the employee’s direct manager (depending on the size of the organization); these are decisions that leaders own or choose to own. Leaders may (or may not) ask for input before making a final decision, but in the end, the decision is owned by the leader, despite whatever input he or she may have received from their employees. The key to success for this kind of inclusion is for leaders to truly own the choice to tell… many considerations for decisions are outside a leaders’ control but the CHOICE to tell vs. ask vs. influence is not.

Asking: Here inclusion takes the form of employees getting to own the choice; usually within some set boundaries. The key for this type of inclusion is to lay out any boundary lines, discuss, and coach along the way if appropriate. In this case, the employees get to own their choice, come what may.

Influencing: This type of inclusion is one in which leader prefers employees make a decision without TELLING them they must. I may have the power to tell, but I choose not to tell—instead I, as the leader, leave it up to the employee(s). However, I do “have a horse in the race,” so to speak and I choose to be open about that. The key here is for employees to be willing and safe to disagree with you. If employees believe that public disagreement with a leader is taboo, your influence is tantamount to telling.

As you probably guessed, the greatest level of engagement comes from asking. Influencing is next and typically the least amount of engagement comes from just telling. The only exception to this is when leaders profess to be practicing one type of inclusion, but in reality are really doing another. This lack of integrity is the most surefire way to decrease engagement. The key is to be clear, inside and out, of which of these you are willing to do and stay with it. If you have made the wrong choice, you can change your mind… just communicate that to your employees, as well!

Call The Bailey Group to discuss employee engagement concerns and leadership decisions within your organization, 763-545-5997.