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Here are two key questions to help guide your 2018 Planning:

  • Do you wish your extended leadership team demonstrated more ownership and accountability instead of always dragging you and the ELT into the operational weeds?
  • Is improving Employee Engagement a Priority for your company?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you’re not alone.  HBR tells us that only 29% of Australian employees can correctly identify their company’s strategy out of 6 choices.  And Bersin & Associates reports that $720M was spent on employee engagement programs in 2012; yet only 24% of Australian are engaged in their work.  Is it any wonder that we see a lack of ownership and accountability?

Good news: you can address both of these issues by capturing the engagement of your Top Leadership Team.

Many organisations are caught in the ‘arms race’ of employee engagement- providing free lunch, massage chairs, on site baristas and the like.  These are not bad investments in themselves – we know that engaged staff put forward the Discretionary Effort needed to win in today’s market.


So focusing on employee engagement is not wrong – research confirms that highly engaged firms have higher financial performance, better customer service and lower voluntary employee turn-over.  But (and it’s a big but) to get great employee engagement you must first start with engaging the top leadership. Companies with highly engaged people have one thing in common: They have highly engaged leadership at the top – which cascades to all levels of the organization. There is a sense of alignment around the main purpose of the company and employees connect into this purpose in their own ways.  This connection is what promotes Ownership behaviours – proactively doing what’s needed to serve a customer, help a colleague, create a result.

It all begins with strong leadership engagement. We must secure the true engagement of the leadership team, which will drive far better results in engaging the second level teams. The CEO must first ensure that the leaders at the highest levels of the organization are in fact the best performers in their respective roles and are fully committed to the long-term success of the company.

A top flight and highly engaged leadership team will tend to hire the best second level management and so on, right down to the critical mass of the employees. The strongest ambassadors to boost engagement are the senior leaders. Given that most people seek inspiration, direction and motivation from their leaders, it is always best to start improving engagement at the top.

Here are three steps to engaging your Top Leadership Team.

1.Start with Trust. Trust is the foundation of relationships and the foundation for every effective team.  There’s good science that helps us do this – see my article on building trust.

2. Create Clarity. Every team needs a playbook. Top Leadership Teams need a simple, ‘on a page’ description of their Vision and Strategy + Values (‘the why’) + The Barriers (obstacles – both internal and external that impede progress) + Critical Goals (what are the “Top 3” things we commit to accomplish in next 90 days to move us forward).  See here for an example.  This page then must be constantly communicated to all sub-teams.  This is the process of Alignment!

3. Make it a Habit. Do what’s required to keep the Strategy, Vision, Values, Barriers and Critical Goals in front of you at all times.  If you want to build an engaged Top Leadership Team, you should answer “yes” to these questions:

  • Top Leadership teams must execute today (achieve quarterly targets) AND keep moving towards the 3 Year plan. Do you have management discipline to do both of these?
  • Top Leadership teams must set the behavioural example– among themselves and when interacting with the rest of the company. Are you clear on the values-supportive behaviours that Top Leadership Team members should demonstrate?  Do you have the courage to challenge unsupportive behaviour when it inevitably pops up?
  • Top Leadership Teams must continually adopt mindsets that help break through barriers. Are you clear on what barriers – internal and external – are holding the team back from achieving its goals?  Do you have strategies in place to deal with each?
  • Top Leadership Teams must constantly make progress on Critical Goals. These goals are different than outcomes like revenue and. Critical goals are the cross-functional activities that lead to revenue/profit/etc.  Are you clear on the “Top 3” Goals this team is working on together??  Do the goals require contribution from all team members?  Do you have a history of achieving these collective goals?

Company-wide engagement is an important objective, and achieving it starts with the CEO. The aforementioned three steps are fundamental on the journey towards higher engagement across the organization. Remember: the highest performing organizations have shown us that leadership engagement precedes employee engagement.

An experienced guide can be the difference between success and failure.  Lighthouse has been developing Leaders and Leadership Teams since 2003.  Our purpose is to Make Change Possible by Making Leadership Practical.  We use an internationally proven process to develop teams where people are Valued Members of a Winning Team on an Inspiring Mission.

We would be delighted to partner with you to engage your Top Leadership Team.

This article was written by Eric Miller, Senior Partner at Lighthouse.  Eric can be contacted at [email protected] and 0439 659 593.

Call 1300 244 373