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How Can Leaders Turn Watchers into Rowers?

By Carla | November 18, 2020
How Can Leaders Turn Watchers into Rowers?

The ability to fully engage every member of your team is a skill where many leaders struggle. In times of crisis, or even in the good times, employees have many things vying for their attention.

Keeping someone engaged requires a unique combination of leadership attributes.

When I speak and teach on driving employee engagement, I reference a word picture that I first saw in a lesson by Bob Kelleher. Bob presented a picture of a boat, think a canoe, with ten heads showing in the boat. Bob shared that based on employee engagement surveys if this were your team of ten people in the boat, only three of them would be rowing with you. What about the other seven, you ask? Well, according to the engagement survey averages, five would be sitting with the oar across their laps, watching the scenery go by, and the last two would be actively trying to sink your boat. Even though Mr. Kelleher’s presentation is a few years old, the averages have not improved in recent years.

What About Your Boat?

When you think of your team, can you picture who your rowers and watchers are? And do you have any sinkers you need to deal with? While the rowers are your engaged teammates, and watchers are the disengaged, sinkers are a category many find hard to believe exist, the actively disengaged. When someone is actively disengaged, they have a bad attitude and try to get others to have a bad attitude. When dealing with sinkers, you will need to take intentional actions to determine if they should remain a part of the team. Your energy may be better spent moving watchers to rowers.

Developing Your Rowers

What makes someone want to row, want to be fully engaged? There are many factors, and they can be different for everyone. However, if a person knows they are valued, knows they are relevant to what you are doing, and knows they are growing and developing mastery, they will be more engaged in the work and with the team.

Developing every individual on your team can provide an enormous boost to their engagement level. Unfortunately, many leaders think they are developing when what they are really doing is equipping. What’s the difference between equipping and developing?

When you equip someone, you are helping them build the skills they need to do their job. How to use the CRM or create a spreadsheet are examples of training provided to help someone do their job. Developing, on the other hand, is when you help grow someone as a person. When you help someone develop communication skills, time management, or leadership skills, you are developing them not only for work but for life.

A Development Mindset

When a leader embraces a development mindset, it does two things: First, it changes how they see themselves. They realize you cannot give what you do not have, and they begin to pour into themselves so they can pour into others. Second, it changes how they see their team. It will expand their view of people and the potential of those people. It will cause you to become intentional about growing the people on your team and helping them become better at life and not just their job. And when someone feels you care about their growth and development, they pick up their oar and row.

About Perry Holley

Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with Maxwell Leadership’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.

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