Are you an engaging leader?


I’m sure you’ve heard this statistic – the most common reason people leave their jobs is their immediate boss. Gallup surveys show this again and again. Disengagement with the boss leads to disengagement with the job and the organization. So, as a leader in your organization, what are you doing to engage your team?

team developmentOne key way to engage team members is to invest in them. More than salary and benefits, how can you invest in your team in a meaningful way? It’s not about just sending them off to expensive seminars or conferences – although at times these may be appropriate. No, I’m talking about everyday opportunities, many of which have little or no direct financial impact.

Here are some ideas:


  1. Invest your time getting to know your team members as people. Do you know anything about their interests outside of work? What about their career goals? What issues are important to them? This doesn’t mean you need to know all about their personal lives, or that you need to spend hours each day talking about things that aren’t directly related to your organization and its goals. But recognize that people feel valued when you, as a leader, take time to talk to them about what they find important.
  2. Provide opportunities to learn. This might look like training to enhance current skills or develop skills needed for future roles. Or it could be coaching, internships, outside education, or opportunities to attend meetings with different parts of your organization. Perhaps you might create an office library, including audio versions of books and articles to increase accessibility.IMG_0003
  3. Allow flexibility to work on special projects that are of interest to team members. This provides for growth and personal development for your team members while they work on projects that benefit the organization.
  4. Invest time to develop your team as a team. Make it part of your regularly scheduled meetings to include a few purposeful team development activities. You may want to sometimes dedicate time just for team development. Make it something you do on a continual basis for the greatest impact and engagement.


When I think about the best leaders that I’ve had, the ones who’ve inspired me to achieve even more than I thought I could, they all had something in common. They made me feel that they sincerely cared about my welfare and success. They believed in me and were willing to invest in me. What about you?

Feeling lethargic? Try this group energizer!


How many meetings have you sat in this week where the minutes dragged by as the group crawled through agenda items at what felt like a snail’s pace? Were attendees interactive or disconnected? How productive were you?

Here is a simple and fun activity that will re-energize any group, and at the same time allow members to build stronger connections with each other. This activity works great at the beginning of a meeting as an icebreaker, or at any time during the meeting when energy seems to be dropping. It gets people moving, and helps everyone get to know each other a little better at the same time.

Beach Ball Energizericebreaker energizer

Start with a basic beach ball. Take a few minutes ahead of time to write a question on each different colored panel. Questions can be generic, or have some relevance to the meeting topic. Generic questions might include things like:

  • What’s the last book you read?
  • Where is your favorite place to eat?
  • What kind of music might we find playing on your phone right now?
  • What do you like best about the community where you live?
  • Where would you like to travel in the next six months?

To start the activity, toss the beach ball to anyone in the room. Ask that person to answer the question under his or her left hand. Anyone in the room can ask follow-up questions if they’d like to know more. After answering the question, the first person tosses the beach ball to someone else in the room for another question. Continue in this manner until everyone in the room has caught the ball at least once.

Any time you get people moving, you will create more energy in the room. After sitting for about 45 minutes, blood pools in the lower parts of our bodies, when what we want is for it to be circulating freely and carrying lots of fresh oxygen to our brains! So take a few minutes to stand up and move around at least once an hour. That short break will help you and everyone else in your meeting to be more productive.


What are you assuming?


Assumptions. They’re dangerous, and yet we make them all the time. When meeting someone new, for example, we may make assumptions about the person’s thoughts, actions, behaviors, or beliefs, simply based on external factors such as: age, appearance, clothing, skin color, or the type of work the person does. Our perceptions are filtered by our own self worldview, usually without us even being aware of it. Our previous experiences and personal histories influence the way we interpret new experiences, interactions, or information.

New situations are fertile ground for assumptions. Here’s an example: It’s your first day on a new job. Most likely you are making dozens of assumptions without even realizing it. Assumptions about how to dress, how to communicate, schedules, supplies, chain-of-command, the meaning of co-workers’ behavior, and on and on and on. As the day progresses you may find that some of your assumptions were correct, while others were not. Perhaps you assumed that you’d be welcome to walk into the boss’s office any time, since that’s what you did at your last job… But when you tried it you found that your new boss doesn’t welcome unplanned visits.

Sometimes our false assumptions are never corrected. Unlike the new boss who will probably let you know you’ve done something based on a faulty assumption, in many other situations inaccurate assumptions may never be surfaced or corrected. And that’s what can get us into trouble. While it may be a common human trait to fill in the gaps when we don’t have all the information we’d like, when our assumptions go unchecked, we make decisions or act based on “facts” which may be completely inaccurate. Think about the story of Romeo and Juliet.  How many false assumptions were made on the way to that play’s tragic ending?

Many ways to connect the dots

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I once thought I was quite good at “connecting the dots”  when I had incomplete information, just by using logic and imagination. What I learned, though, when I started to test my assumptions for accuracy, was that the dots didn’t actually connect nearly as well as I’d thought. My assumptions were often flawed! And there are usually many different options for connecting the dots that I hadn’t even considered.

In a group setting, hidden assumptions can wreak havoc on the group’s ability to perform. They erode trust, inhibit effective communication, hinder problem-solving, and stifle creativity. What can you do to reverse this? Team development activities can help. By taking a group outside of its normal environment and engaging the members in purposeful team activities, hidden assumptions are surfaced so that they can be addressed. Check out Tom Wujec’s TED Talk on this topic for a great example.

Here’s an exercise you can do to start testing your assumptions right away. Select an activity that you’ll be participating in later today. It can be anything – an office meeting, an errand you need to run, a visit with a good friend. Between now and the start of the activity, see if you can come up with at least 10 unchecked assumptions you have about the location, the people involved, or the activity itself. Now think about how you might test those assumptions for accuracy. Are there questions you can ask for a better understanding? Different perspectives you might take to see things in a new light? What new insights do you get when you explore your assumptions further?