65: How to Manage to the One to Increase Employee Engagement

Primary tabs

Chester Elton has been working with organizations on employee engagement and motivation. He has been called the “Apostle of appreciation” by the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper. Chester explains the inspiration for his latest book and accompanying "Motivator Assessment" which leaders can leverage for teams as well as individuals. He shares ideas for increasing engagement by making simple adjustments to employees’ current roles. He explains how to ‘manage to the one’ and why this is key to increasing engagement. 
Chester has coauthored 10 books with Adrian Gostick including their most recent book, What Motivates Me as well as The Carrot Principle and The Orange Revolution, both New York Times’ bestsellers. He is a motivational expert and has been featured on Fast Company, The Today Show, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and CBS’s 60 Minutes. Chester is a founding partner of The Culture Works and serves as a leadership consultant to firms such as American Express, Procter & Gamble, Avis Budget Group and Cigna. He is also a member of Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches ‘Pay it Forward’ project.  
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Chester.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • The Inspiration for What Motivates Me. Chester and his coauthor (Adrian Gostick) were motivated to write their book based on results from the Myers Briggs’ assessments. They realized there was a gap in fleshing out the whole person – ‘I know where I’m at, I know what I’m good at, but what am I really passionate about?’ In collaboration with the creators of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 Assessment (Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves), they developed "The Motivator's Assessment" which does not allow those taking it to ‘sit on the fence’. They heard some feedback from a small group of people who thought the results did not represent them. It was suggested that they share the results with someone close (e.g., spouse, partner) for validation. People often have a thought about who they ‘should be’ or who they ‘want to be’ rather than who they really are.  
  • The Motivator Assessment Offers Team Benefits. When Chester and Adrian initially embarked on this project, they thought it was going to be very helpful for the individual. They quickly found the benefit was in teams. If a team leader can really understand the passions of their team – their key motivators – then they are going to be better in putting them in a position to succeed. If the team knows the leader’s motivators, communication becomes easier and clearer. When it ‘cross-pollinates’ – when the team understands each team member’s motivators – you achieve a much better picture of how you can drive forward in whatever the team’s purpose is in the organization.
  • When is it recommended for teams? A team can use this assessment at any step along the way when you want to improve communication - whether it is when the initial team comes together, when a team has been together for a long time, or when a team is in transition. Finding out what the key passions are within your team will be helpful. There are 23 key motivators that coalesce around five identities – Achiever, Builder, Caregiver, Thinker or Reward-Driven – at work.  You then ask three simple questions: 
    • What motivators are in common?
    • What motivators are unique?
    • Where are the areas of caution?  e.g., Where do we have a disconnect?
Chester Elton Quote on HR Studio PodcastMany times when there is something ‘off’, it is because we have not aligned our motivators.  The three questions help a team come together.
  • Can this be used on an on-going basis or only when a team is forming? This can be done on an ongoing basis. As an example, there are generational differences. The idea of a career path is very important to an entry-level or junior employee. Have aspirational conversations on a regular (monthly) basis (e.g., how are we doing? have we kept our promises? what can we do better? where would you like to be a year or two from now?). Bringing it back to those key motivators in those sessions – making sure your manager is directing your career path, your assignments, and you are mentoring to align with your passions becomes key. This should become a living document that you can use throughout your development.
  • Why Are Millennials Leaving? The number one reason they are leaving their jobs is the lack of room to grow; there is no career path. Having aspirational conversations helps managers put together a roadmap for each of their employees.
  • What is job sculpting? If you tweak just a few things in a job, engagement skyrockets.  
    • 87% of employees surveyed globally were disengaged or actively disengaged at work
    • 80% feel they are in the right industry doing the job they want to do
  • Job Sculpting Example. A bank manager whose employee performed averagely learned through conversation that the employee enjoyed public speaking. The manager discussed the need for someone to deliver a 15-minute presentation in front of the group during a university relations job fair quarterly. This would be considered a ‘job add’, an extracurricular activity outside of one’s usual responsibilities. Even if you have a lot to do within your regular job, if there is something you are passionate about, additional work is not a burden – it is, in fact, energizing. Not only did the employee do a better job delivering the presentation than anyone else they had ever sent, but his everyday work also got better because he was more emotionally invested and engaged. That small job tweak took him from middle-of-the-road to upper echelon through a simple job sculpt.
  • Trading Job Responsibilities. Within a department, you can trade responsibilities within a team to increase engagement by asking, ‘what do you love?’ and ‘what don’t you love?’ 
  • Increasing Engagement by Increasing Job Interest. People can be really good at but dislike their jobs. This drives engagement down. Ask people what can be done to make their jobs more interesting and engaging for them to increase engagement.
  • Motivation versus Competence? You might be passionate about something that you are not good at – this is called a ‘hobby’. The key is to determine if there is a way to incorporate some of the things you are passionate about into your job. 
  • Managing to the One. When you aggregate data (from assessments), it provides you with general trends that give you insight. When you get to the individual level, the more you know about that individual, the more you can manage to the ‘one’ as opposed to managing to the masses. 
  • Managing to the One Example. Chester had the personal experience of being told that he could not present the way he typically would at an event. He was able to convince the event manager to deliver his presentation using his usual style and props. Chester asked the event manager what he would say if he was questioned, and he responded that he would say, ‘let the man have his guitar’.  You would never hire Bruce Springsteen to play a concert and tell him, ‘oh, by the way, you have to sing a cappella’. The idea is that we have general rules of conduct to avoid chaos. Under that umbrella, there are individual traits that you want to tailor to the individual. 
    • Old school is that you treat everyone the same – that’s fair.
    • New school is that you want diversity in the workplace – diversity of thought and ideas, and to ensure you get that, you have to make people feel, as individuals, that they matter.
In the book ‘The Jordan Rules’, it states Michael Jordan was being treated differently from everyone else. While everyone is not Michael Jordan, everyone has something they can contribute. If you feel I am hearing you and making it possible for you to be your best self at work, you are going to give your best work.
  • How can HR professionals help leaders motivate and engage their direct reports? An ex-Air Force General retired from the military and went to work for a non-profit. He went from ‘if I say it, you have to do it’ to begging people to work for him because, even though they paid less, it was all about the noble cause. He received some advice from his wife who said, ‘you have 300 people working for you – do you know their stories?’ No matter how big or small your team is, do you know that story?  If you know a person’s story, it will give you insight where their passions are and where they are going to be best utilized.

When people are doing what they are passionate about at work and are highly engaged,
they are 150% more likely to be happy in their personal lives.

When you help people create a great culture at work where people believe what they do matters, that they make a difference, and that somebody has noticed it and celebrated it, not only does it make for a better company and better customer service, but it also makes for better families, better communities, and a better life overall.

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

To Follow Chester Elton

Chester Elton HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Chester Elton HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 8:00am
HR Consulting
Fred Bunsa
Chester Elton
HR Studio Podcast