I’ll just come out and say it: My team rocks. Yes, of course I’m biased, but it’s true! My team is small but impactful, fiercely loyal, collaborative and just about the nicest collection of people you could imagine working with. Over the last year and a half, we have come together as a cohesive group more than any other team I’ve had the pleasure of managing or been on myself.

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I’ve been wondering a lot lately about why that is. One of the things our team works on is employee engagement and ways to motivate employees to be more emotionally connected to and fully involved in their work on a sustained basis. The idea, borne out by research, is that engaged employees are more productive, more service-oriented, and ultimately contribute to a company’s success and reputation in ways that unengaged employees cannot.

That’s fine on a grand, company-wide scale. But what might that engagement mean for an individual team? I wanted to share my thoughts about what some of those engagement factors might be, based on (my own and others’) observations of my team. At the risk of thoroughly embarrassing them, here goes:

Purpose – The folks on my team believe in their work. They believe their work has an impact among employees, both current & future. They believe their work contributes to SAP’s success, even if they’re not developing or selling products. This longer term view of why they’re doing what they do I believe helps them through the ups and downs of every day professional reality.

Passion – Every single person on the team brings their passion to the table. They are passionate about their purpose. And they’re not afraid to show it. They get up and do their work every morning not just because they have to but because they genuinely care about what they’re doing.

Respect – The people on my team respect one another. They respect the different perspectives we all bring, and they respect the varying skills we have. No-one’s trying to one-up anyone else. That foundation of respect then enables us to trust one another more easily. When you trust implicitly someone you’re working with, it’s a lot easier to cut through the differences and find common ground. I believe the team members’ mutual respect is what facilitates their amazing collaboration, both within the team and across other teams and stakeholders.

Flexibility – As the manager, I try to establish as much flexibility as possible, in two key ways. One, where possible, I allow team members to generate their own ideas about key priorities and about how to handle sticky situations. This accountability seems to free people up to be more innovative in their approaches and to embrace resilience as a necessary counterpart to the freedom to fail. Two, I don’t impose many restrictions on how, when, or where they get their work done. Whether it’s 2am or on the beach, if it’s not something that requires a traditional working time or environment, I don’t mind. I hope this allows them to balance their many professional & personal obligations in ways that make sense for them.

What else contributes?

Size may also have something to do with it. Perhaps being a small (12 person) team gives us a fighting spirit and makes it easier for each team member to link individual work to the team’s overall purpose. Communication also flows much more directly on a small team, without layers to get in the way of an original message. At some point, I think it becomes tough to foster engagement with giant groups of people, unless there’s something binding them together or they can break off into smaller groups in their interactions. Or a manager may take for granted that consistent communication is happening, but that perception may be quite different from the reality.

So to sum it up, I’d like to think that my team’s high level of engagement is one of the (if not THE) driving factors behind their cohesion and impact. We’ve been through challenging times and situations, like every team, but their purpose, passion, respect and flexibility increase their engagement and keep us (mostly!) moving forward smoothly.

What do you think about the connection between engagement and team or company success? Do you agree with the factors I outlined here, or are there other important drivers of engagement? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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