Employee engagement and commitment is crucial to the success of every local government organization. Improving the levels of employee engagement is often a goal and a work in progress for local government leadership. While there is no right answer, the most accessible and easiest option you have for engaging your team is by giving your employees the chance to be themselves.
It sounds so incredibly simple, but it works. In my new book, Give, I talk about how this simple concept of approaching every small moment in the day with an attitude and mindset of giving can change how you lead and how you serve your partners in work and life.
If you see, hear, or witness that part of your team isn’t truly engaged in the work, recognize that your most valuable asset is the people who haven’t been given a chance to shine or really show their full potential. When we hire someone, we teach them literally how to do every aspect of the job. In doing so, we are trying to be helpful, but we’re really not letting our new employee be themselves. Rather, give your employees the respect, the opportunity, and the commitment to let them do things their way and let them tackle new challenges. Give them the chance to fully be themselves.
Years ago, I worked with an analyst who didn’t really enjoy the work, frequently got feedback that she didn’t provide what was really expected, and was searching for other opportunities. I got lunch with her to give her the opportunity to share where she thought she excelled, where she could shine best, and what she enjoyed. As it turned out, her passion and skills were in teaching and collaborating with others—not spreadsheets—and her job had her working alone in spreadsheets all day. I talked to her supervisor and got approval for her to teach a class to help other employees in process improvement. She was much happier and productive at work—all as a result of giving.
Recently, we went through a major overhaul of our development review processes. One of my directors was concerned about the potential attitude of one employee who hadn’t changed her processes for at least five years. We gave her a chance to talk us through her process and we just asked questions. We discovered that she does things the way she does because someone told her to ten years ago, and she had never been told she could just change the process if she thought there was a better way. Someone just needed to give her the responsibility, authority, and the opportunity to improve things on her own.
Giving someone the chance to be themselves takes time. It requires leadership to take the time to sit down with each employee and understand who they are, what they want, what they are great at, and why they do what they do. Slowing down and understanding and giving your team the opportunity to do their thing often is just what you need to move your organization forward.
NINA VETTER is district manager, Pueblo West Metropolitan District, Colorado. Learn more about how giving in small ways can transform your leadership and relationships at work in her book, Give, available on Amazon.