Leading for Employee Engagement

By James Hampton, Head of Development and Engagement, Seasalt Limited

James Hampton, Head of Development and Engagement, Seasalt Limited

It has been widely documented that, in work, people leave their manager or leader and not the business. There have also been a number of studies; Gallup and Google’s project oxygen are just two, indicating how crucial a manager can be to creating positive working climates in their teams that contribute to a positive culture. For some reason, leadership remains a hot topic and many businesses still struggle create development opportunities for success. So what is the recipe for success for our leaders and what skills are necessary to enable them to create a climate that breads engaged employees and the climate for them to drive performance.

Promote Leaders

In life, everyone leads. A large part of leadership is about influence and every one of us has that human ability. In work it is the chosen ones that lead. Those promoted in hierarchies, for their operational skills and abilities to get things done are often the ones promoted into positions of leadership, if they want it or not. In a lot of cases this is successful and the new leader goes on to flourish in their role. Some, however, do not. It’s these people that are always being developed or sent on courses. It’s not necessarily nature or nurture either, as I said all of us can lead. What is in question is do all of want to. If your aim is the ensure you have supportive leaders that guide and develop their teams then promote your best leaders and leave your best operators on the operations.

Develop for emotional intelligence

Ego’s are a funny thing. We all have one, some know their ego’s intimately and others have no idea how much theirs is in control of their behaviour. Leaders are often told, you have to be like this person or, in this situation you should use this leadership style. This is leadership development mistake number one. If you take the statement from above, in life everyone leads, then what is clear is that leading others is human, so why would you be someone or something else? In order to create human experiences at work the most important thing for a leader to be, is themselves. So, providing you are promoting people already motivated to develop others, the next step is to help them become more aware of their ego, how it drives their attitudes, feeling and behaviours on a daily basis and how those same attitudes, feelings and behaviours impact and influence the people they lead. It also helps them to be more resilient and energised. Nobody wants to work for a stressed out control freak, micromanaging the life out of them.


Once someone has chosen their leadership path and is learning more about themselves and their teams the most important thing to recognise is, to be really great as a leader, it takes practice. For some reason there is still the lean towards we’ve got to put our leaders through a course. In some cases that might be a starting point, but please don’t stop there. Leadership is a practice and a way of being. It requires opportunities to try, supported by lots of feedback. If you’ve worked on the emotional intelligence early in someone’s career, dealing with that feedback is much easier for them as their ego doesn’t act as a blocker, which enables them to create real actions for learning. This also enables them to create workplaces free of judgement and full of psychological safety, allowing their teams to feel that they can influence decisions and have a voice. This then begins to establish that place for human experiences, where people prosper and where true employee engagement is realised in teams and the whole business.

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