Engage Your Crew to Keep Your Ship Afloat

“Emotional intelligence isn’t a luxury you can dispense with in tough times. It’s a basic tool that, deployed with finesse, is the key to professional success.”

Harvard Business Review

Stress. Burnout. Instability. Uncertainty. Today’s global workforce face tidal challenges almost unprecedented in history. Organizational paradigms shift with lightening speed, responsibilities grow while rewards diminish, and processes change nearly as often as a Kardashian’s outfit. Or spouse. Amidst these stormy seas, it’s easy for a crew to lose faith and determination, but poor engagement costs companies money: Gallup shows that disengaged workers undermine productivity, ultimately costing companies more than 450 billion dollars a year in the US.

Time to head for the lifeboats? Not a chance. As a leader, you can turn that ship around with a viewpoint taken from the theatre director’s playbook: look inward, not outward and pay attention to three prime human needs: being cared about, being recognized and being developed.


Leaders can inspire greater engagement and commitment by investing authentic interest in their employees. Showing that you care about employees and their ideas yields greater work performance all around. Start simply by  inviting collaboration.  Request ideas, ask for solutions, and allow alternative thinking whenever possible. Regardless of your title or position, show an eagerness to hear what others have to say and desire for collaborative partnership. Take it further with genuine interest in them personally, not just their ideas. Establish personal channels and get to know the person behind the cubicle to build understanding and trust. Remember it’s not a one-way passage: share your own hobbies, pastimes, interests, family and social life, or geographic-demographic background with them!


Receiving endorsement for their work motivates employees toward greater creative risk-taking and support of a leader’s vision. More importantly, positive endorsement “…directly encourages behaviors that a manager or business owner wants employees to repeat,” according to research by psychologist Eric Dontigney. Commend their unique values and the qualities they specifically bring to their role, project, or partnership and how it affects others. Be sure to remark specifically on what they did so well and the impact it had.  Back your words with actions and roll out the red carpet with special recognition. Nix the ball gowns, tuxedos, and gold statuettes and just be thoughtful, creative, and show your appreciation in ways that matter to those specific employees. Whether its a hooky day at an amusement park, popcorn and conference room technology for a Friday afternoon movie, or lunch for the whole team just be sure it’s memorable, personal and intelligent.


Everyone wants to grow and increase their skills and a leader’s support to do so can go a long way to putting the wind back in team members’ sails. Sail beyond the shallows, and provide non “training” opportunities to expand different skill sets by assigning team members new roles on a project where those skills are needed. Create equal chances for everyone on a lower stakes situation in order to boost unity and mitigate fear of failure. Get two fish with one rod with your internal resources by formulating mentoring partnerships on a specific project. Individuals offer a skill they will mentor and one they would like to learn or improve, then formulate partnerships based on the needs. You build skills and relationships in one go. 

Don’t panic if you feel your employees slightly adrift. Simply show your team that you sincerely care about them, appreciate their talents, and want to develop them within their career and you’ll get all hands on deck with full steam ahead.

The full article inspiring this blog first appeared on The Ariel Group Blog page 3.21.16. Please read it at: