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Team Engagement goes beyond Employee Engagement

Team Engagement

team engagement Jul 23, 2022

Written by Ed Cook

Engagement is a big word. Employee Engagement is an often discussed goal. Engaged employees are the ones who will stay with the organization. They are the ones who will do the difficult tasks and solve the difficult problems. But is this really true? Perhaps we need to go up a level and think about Team Engagement.

What’s the difference? Employee Engagement is about what connects the employee to the company. Often, the stated desire of Employee Engagement is to imbue the Mission-Vission-Values of the organization into the employee. But if you look at what is offered to generate Employee Engagement, you’ll find rewards programs and wellness days, free snacks and nap pods, generous vacations and subsidized lunches. All of these focus on what the company can do for the employee, They do not touch on Mission-Vision-Values. For a true connection to the company through mission-vision-values, we need to turn to Team Engagement.

Team Engagement is the height of leadership. It’s the end result of a process that guides each person to their place on the team so that they can find their personal fulfillment in the team’s success. This makes Team Engagement a completely different beast than Employee Engagement. Team building is also well beyond Team Building. 

Team Building is discovering more about the members of your team; what they enjoy, their creativity, or their competitiveness. It comes through playing bubble soccer, attending wine and cheese pairings, or even a team lunch.  And, while Team Building is valuable, it is not Team Engagement. Done well Team Building can create connections where true Team Engagement can begin to form. Done badly, it is a sugar pill for teams that creates the expected high and then the inevitable crash. Team Building answers the question: “Who are these people?”

Employee Engagement is about the individual, and how that team member finds job satisfaction. An engaged employee is more likely to be able to contribute to an engaged team which makes your focus on the employee important. To get to Employee Engagement a manager needs to spend one-on-one time with an employee to understand from where that personal fulfillment can come. Employee Engagement answers the question: “What do these people need?”

Team Engagement answers the question: “How do these people find joy in the team?” which leads to Joy at Work. Team Engagement is the lightning in a bottle that many of us have experienced on a sports team, theater group, or hopefully somewhere in your work. Team Engagement (like so many things) is something you know when you see it, but there are signs. 

There are three signs of Team Engagement:

  1. Team members are putting team results ahead of their own
  2. Team members offer help to others on the team as a way to drive the team forward, not as a way to assert a superior status
  3. Team members express joy at being part of your team and seeing the goals of the team achieved

But if these are the signs, the question is: “how to achieve them?”  The first necessary step is with you, Joyful Leader. You need to embody the three signs of Team Engagement. Our mantra, for a team to change, the leader must change first, is certainly applicable here!

To begin the change toward true Team Engagement leaders should consider how they embody the three signs of Team Engagement. Team members will look to their leaders and follow their example.  To create Team Engagement on your team, start by being an engaged team member!