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Stuck and Not Getting Results?

Five Solutions to Employee Engagement

*By Lee Ellis

I’m amazed at how often I get asked by young people, “How does a leader gain influence?” or “How can I influence others?” This skill seems to be an important question for many people, so let’s discuss it from the perspective of honorable leadership.

Power and Authority Versus Relationships

The crucial role of influence in relationships matches my company’s leadership consulting and training experience. We have surveyed thousands of very strong and powerful leaders to identify the characteristic of their best leader. More than 70% of the time, they come up with a relationship-oriented attribute and not a results-oriented behavior, power, or authority attribute.

When we look at the list shared by people in the room, often these highly results-oriented leaders are surprised when realizing that relationships—not power—drew them to their best leaders.

Millennials and the Power Tactic

This idea is on my mind because I recently spent considerable time with some young leaders at one of the United States military academies, and I’ve completed a Tedx-type presentation related to leading and developing Millennials.

You may have noticed, as I have, that younger generations are not so impressed with power, position, or prestige of their leaders. And we should not be surprised. They grew up being treated much more like equals than any generation in our history and most likely the history of the world. Having spent much of my adult life in the military, I’ve typically noticed that deference to power generally does not seem to be in the younger generations’ repertoire. On the other hand, they seem hungry for genuine relationships where they feel valued and important. But they are not alone in this need.

“Courage is leaning into the doubts and fears to do what you know is right even when it doesn’t feel natural or safe.” – Lee Ellis

A Major Stumbling Block to Success

Relationship connections are a need of human nature in every generation, and it’s a real stumbling block for strong leaders that don’t understand this fact. I believe that it’s one of the biggest issues in the workplace today. Consider the following statistics:

– 70% of Americans are not arriving at work committed to delivering their best performance.
– 52% are not engaged in their work and
– 18% are actively disengaged.

What’s the big problem with a lack of employee engagement? Consider this short list – a loss of energy, not taking full ownership and responsibility, missing accountability, customers not well served, teams not running on all cylinders, workplace dissatisfaction, and high turnover.

The missing ingredient is a relationship with their immediate supervisor. When people don’t feel engaged, it’s about relationships.

Building a New Culture of Engagement

So what are some things honorable leaders can do to build relationships and increase employee engagement?

1. View every person as special and with the talents to make unique and needed contributions to the workplace.
2. Communicate your belief in others and help them see their potential to make significant contributions by using their talents.
3. Help them develop their talents and navigate to roles where they can be even more successful.
4. Connect with their heart by affirming their efforts and contributions. Everyone wants to feel needed, valued, and like they are making an important contribution.
5. Listen to their ideas and implement them where possible. Every person wants to be heard. For many of us listening is a sacrifice. We have to suffer to stay in the moment and truly hear what the other person is sharing. But the payoff is huge in building a relationship.

In more recent times leadership guru Ken Blanchard expressed it very simply, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” As an honorable leader, make the commitment to build engaging, healthy relationships while getting results. It honors the other person and ensures your long-term leadership success.

*President of Leadership Freedom® LLC, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company, Lee Ellis consults with Fortune 500 senior executives in the areas of hiring, teambuilding, human performance, and succession planning. His media appearances include interviews on CNN, CBS This Morning, C-SPAN, ABC World News, and Fox News Channel. A retired Air Force Colonel, his latest book is entitled Engage with Honor: Building a Culture of Courageous Accountability. Learn more at



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