Stifling Employee Engagement


Stifling Employee Engagement

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” — Simon Sinek

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM

Employee Engagement

Employees want to be challenged, to have control over their work tasks, and have the opportunity to continue increasing their knowledge and skill set. When employees feel fully engaged they become emotionally committed to working hard in the best interest of the organization.

Are You Stifling Employee Engagement?

Do the employees throughout your organization know that they share in the success of the organization? If you want your employees to do more than just show up to work, you must consciously develop a culture that engages them in their work and shows appreciation for the contributions they make to the success of the organization. Watch out for these management behaviors that stifle employee engagement.

Unsupportive culture

Corporate culture affects performance and contributes to the social control that influences the way employees behave and make decisions. Culture bonds individuals together on a social level to make them feel included in the experience of the organization. Engagement must become part of the culture. When employees enjoy their work and the environment they work in they are more loyal, innovative, provide better customer service, and strive to continually improve the organization.

Out-dated view of work

In the early 20th century, Fredrick Taylor pioneered scientific management. This form of management focused on production and breaking projects into tasks. Employees could then be trained to specialize in a specific task. Taylor emphasized efficiency, control, and predictability. This view of leadership treated employees like instruments that leaders could manipulate. The focus of leadership was on the needs of the organization and not those of employees.

Times have changed; as employees become more educated and skilled, their desire to participate in the leadership and decision-making process increases. High performing employees expect the opportunity to participate and be independent. Your employees are the core of your product or service. They should find their work to be fulfilling and meaningful. If you want your employees to be engaged in their work, you should reevaluate and make adjustments to how you view work.

Lack of investment

Employee engagement requires the investment of resources to continually develop employee knowledge and skills. Talented employees want to continuously improve themselves. As a leader, you must focus on their development and offer them meaningful opportunities to contribute to the organization.

Lack of commitment

A culturethat supports employee engagement requires full commitment from management since that’s where the responsibility for employee engagement falls.Spend time helping employees succeed. Make sure you, as a leader, and your employees are committed to the right things.

Lack of inspiration

When employees do not feel inspired by those who lead them they will not be fully engaged in the organization. Employees are motivated by shared trust, values, and purpose. By developing and maintaining trusting relationships you can inspire individuals to collaborate, share knowledge, and contribute to the development of new organizational knowledge. Let employees know, through your words and actions, why they should work for you. Be a source of inspiration.


Employee engagement is dependent on commitment from management, a supportive culture, training, and empowerment. Provide employees with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to deliver a value that exceeds expectations. Remember that employees who are emotionally committed to the organization want to contribute. Give them the tools and opportunities to make the meaningful contributions that benefit them on and individual level and the organization as a whole.

© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli

Do You Deserve Employee Trust?


Do You Deserve Employee Trust?

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” — Corrie Ten Boom

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM

The Role of Trust

Successful leaders provide energy and gain support for the achievement of organizational goals by developing relationships based on trust and commitment. Trust provides the foundation from which we build the relationships that allow us to influence others.

Do You Deserve Employee Trust?

Do your employees trust you to safely guide them through the dark tunnels? If the answer is yes they will be loyal to you and follow you willingly. If the answer is no you will be unable to lead successfully. Below are a few obstacles that you should eliminate if you want to be the type of leader who deserves the trust of your employees.

Lack of communication

When we feel like information is being withheld from us it is only natural to become suspicious and question why. When we fail to communicate with our employees it often leads to assumptions and fear. Your employees are more likely to see you as a trustworthy leader if you communicate openly. Be up-front with them about what you want for the organization and why. Include them in strategic planning. Share your vision for the future. Discuss how they fit into your vision. And, most importantly, make it clear, in both words and actions, that you are available to discuss any concerns they may have.

Lack of consistency

When you are not consistent your employees never know what they can expect and you prove to your employees that you are unreliable. Consistency creates a sense of stability and a stable environment is a lot less stressful than an unstable one. Provide your employees with a work environment that feels safe, stable, and where they know what to expect from you as a leader.

Unwilling to stand your ground

Employees find it difficult to trust and respect a leader who is unwilling to stand their ground when it comes to something they truly believe in. Show your employees that you stand by your principles regardless of the consequences. Exhibiting courage gives your employees insight into your character and character earns respect and trust.

Questionable agendas

When it appears to employees that you, as a leader, are participating in internal political games, they will perceive you as devious. When your employees feel they have reason to question your motives, words, or actions, you lose trust. Open communication and an intentional focus on avoiding political games will go a long way in being perceived as a trustworthy leader. Be authentic rather than manipulative.

Lack of concern for employee interests

If it appears to your employees that you only focused on your personal interests they will find it hard to put their trust in you. We trust those who we know are looking out for us. Show your employees that you are focused on what is best for the organization as a whole and that you have a genuine concern for them as individuals.


To be successful as a leader your employees must know that they can trust you. Without trust, you do not have the ability to influence others. Employees must see by the example that you set that you are deserving of their trust. Will they want to jump off the train when it gets dark, or will they trust you to bring them out safely on the other side?

© 2014 Elizabeth Stincelli

Barriers to Informal Leadership


Barriers to Informal Leadership

Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy

 By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


The Role of Informal Leadership

When we look at the ability of a team to perform well we can see that it is directly related to the ability of team members to share knowledge, experience, and skills in the coordination and completion of tasks. In a team environment, an informal leader has the opportunity to be effective at influencing the morale, energy level, work-ethic, attitude, confidence, and sense of purpose of others.

Barriers to Informal Leadership

Informal leadership is taking place throughout your organization. The question is, is it to the benefit or the hindrance of organizational objectives? There are many barriers that can affect the ability of your employees make a positive contribution to the leadership of your organization. Some barriers are operational, others are cultural. Here are a few that are often overlooked.

                       Lack of understanding by management

Management can say they are in support of this new, shared form of leadership and go through the motions of adopting new departmental structures and implementing new procedures. But, are they truly embracing these concepts and assimilating them into the culture of the organization, or are they merely giving the illusion of encouragement for informal leadership? It’s great to talk about an empowering, engaging picture of leadership. But what is really happening out on the front lines? What happens when departments get restructured but nothing changes but titles? Employees become frustrated and lose trust in and respect for management. When processes change but no support is provided in the form of necessary information, resources, or feedback employees feel exposed and vulnerable. Soon, everything reverts to operations as usual. Nothing has changed. Management thinks they have addressed employee’s desire to play a more participative role in the leadership of the organization. Employees realize management is completely out of touch with how much they have to contribute if given the opportunity.

We have to start by educating upper management that informal leaders are impacting their organizations with or without their support. They need to understand the benefits that informal leaders offer their organization. What does embracing this type of leadership and empowerment look like? What does it feel like? Helping them to understand how the innovative ability of the organization is dependent on a collaborative culture that brings together critical skills and knowledge from throughout the organization and respects employees and their abilities to make meaningful contributions. Then upper management needs to listen and really “hear” why employees want the opportunity to be more involved in the organization. Employees are often educated, highly skilled individuals who expect to be provided with opportunities to participate in organizational leadership and decision-making. They want to feel engaged, to have a level of control over their own work, and know they are adding value.


Many smaller organizations started in someone’s basement and have operated with only one or two individuals at the helm for the past 20 years. In these situations we run into a couple of problems. First, these individuals usually never wanted to be leaders or managers. They wanted to be architects, landscapers, accountants, or contractors. The leadership responsibilities just came along with owning their own business. Second, they built their organizations from the ground up. No one knows the business like they do and they want it done their way. They find it difficult to give up power and control.

In order for informal leadership to operate with the support of management we have to address egos and get upper management to buy into the value of informal leadership to their organizations and the benefits to them personally. When upper management is struggling to relinquish the command and control they are comfortable with they need to redirect their energies to identifying and providing the information and resources that the employees on the floor need in order to use their personal leadership skills towards the attainment of the goals of the organization. Showing these managers that they still play a key role in this new leadership process makes the integration into the new culture a little less painful.

                        Structures and controls

Developing a balance between the systems and procedures that are necessary so that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and allowing employees throughout the organization to participate in decision-making and leadership is a difficult task. The larger the organization, the more difficult the balancing act. The issue of developing an organizational structure and setting parameters and controls for employees to operate within might be the biggest operational barrier to encouraging informal leadership. To successfully implement the structural and operational changes required to support engaging employees in the leadership process takes immense commitment and coordination from management.

Every organization can take baby steps by implementing avenues for input and feedback whether they choose to adopt a culture that embraces and utilizes informal leadership to their benefit or not. These avenues can provide employees with an opportunity to offer both input into operational decisions that affect their work and feedback on past decisions. But, for this to be effective there must be follow-through on the part of management so that employees know that their input is taken under consideration and valued.


Over time, employees build up a powerful knowledge base gained from their experience. This knowledge base allows them to identify signs that a problem may be about to occur before formal systems are able to recognize it. This allows employees on the front lines to respond quickly if they are empowered to make decisions and act on behalf of the organization. Employees also develop relationships within the organization that are based on respect that allow them to influence the morale, energy level, work-ethic, attitude, confidence, and sense of purpose of those they work with.

Informal leadership is playing a role in your organization in one way or another. It can be a great resource that can increase innovation, adaptability, response time, and morale, the list goes on and on. It requires a true shift in the culture of the organization which often difficult for upper management to embrace. But, if you’re going to do it, commit to it completely and dedicate the time and resources necessary to succeed.

The Killing of Employee Morale

The Killing of Employee Morale

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” — Henry Ford

By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


The Importance of Employee Morale

We all know that happy employees are productive employees. Content employees are less likely to waste time their own time as well as that of their co-workers. They are more engaged in their work and feel they have a vested interest in achieving company goals.

        Are We Killing Employee Morale?

Morale can prove to be fragile. One poorly handled situation or unpopular decision by management can send morale spiraling out of control. Here are a few factors that can kill employee morale.

                       Lack of Communication

When we don’t have all the information, we fill in the blanks with our imagination. And, our imagination can come up with some pretty terrifying scenarios. Lack of communication often leads to assumption and fear. Communicate with your employees. Share the current position of the organization and the vision for the future. Discuss strategic plans and the rationale behind the plans. And, most importantly, communicate the vital role that each one plays in the success of the organization.

                       Lack of direction

Employees want to be part of a successful team. But success is hard to achieve when you are not sure what direction you are supposed to be going or what success looks like. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure employees have the direction and tools necessary to achieve success. Make sure employees have a clear understanding of the objectives that the organization is working towards. Paint an encouraging picture of what success looks like. It is your responsibility to serve as a facilitator. Help establish goals, set parameters, provide them with the information, resources, and the direction they need, then, get out of their way and let them find the best way to do their jobs.

                       Lack of a voice

Gone are the days of employees who are content to work, day in and day out, like mindless robots. Employees want to be heard. They want a say in how their organizations are run and the freedom to design their work, their way. Employees know what’s happening on the front lines. They know what works and have great ideas. As leaders, we must engage them in conversations where we ask questions and really listen to their answers. We must also involve them in developing solutions to organizational problems.

                        Lack of trust and respect

Relationships that are built on trust and respect are the mechanisms we use to influence others. If you lack the trust and respect of your employees, they will follow you by force, not by choice. Earn trust and respect by showing that you are committed to your vision and that your words and actions are congruent. Your character will show in the values you live by, make sure you choose them carefully. Always keep your word, be fair, and consistent. Show your employees that you genuinely care about each one as an individual. Lead by example. And, prove yourself competent but not arrogant.

                       Lack of acknowledgement

Employees want to know that they are valued and their efforts matter. By simply acknowledging that we appreciate an employee’s contributions, we create loyalty and encourage continued hard-work. Tell your employees thank you. Say “good job, the team couldn’t have done it without you.” Make an employee’s day by simply giving them the credit they deserve.


When morale is good, employees are more motivated, engaged, creative, and efficient. As leaders, we must develop healthy operating environments where we avoid morale killing behaviors. The skills and character traits that allow us to avoid these behaviors also strengthen our abilities as leaders.

Organizational Culture Stumbling Blocks


Organizational Culture Stumbling Blocks

“Even those who fancy themselves the most progressive will fight against other kinds of progress, for each of us is convinced that our way is the best way.”— Louis L’Amour

 By Elizabeth Stincelli, DM


         A Healthy Culture

The culture of our organization serves as the foundation with which we build all other structures that allow us to accomplish our organizational objectives. A healthy culture is the result of continuous evaluation and development. As we work towards improving our organizational culture, we often encounter stumbling blocks. These stumbling blocks result in lost time and frustration. But, if we can recognize them, we can overcome them.

       Stumbling Blocks

While the list is many, here are a few of the stumbling blocks that can affect our ability to improve the culture of organization.

               Lack of trust

Lack of trust in the boss does not necessarily mean loss of trust. If you have lost the trust of your employees, struggling to improve your organizational culture is only one of your many problems. If your employees do not trust you, they will not follow you. Lack of trust, on the other hand, often stems from the perception that you are unable to identify with the issues of your employees at their level. Employees are leery of supporting initiatives that have been designed from a top-down perspective. Get out on the floor, talk to your employees, roll-up your sleeves and work with them. See the world from their point-of-view. When employees trust that you are setting the cultural GPS based on the view from their level they are far more likely to give you their full support.

                “It’s not my job”

The “it’s not my job” mentality can become like a contagious disease once it sets in, spreading through your organization like wildfire. This type of attitude prevents the development of a cohesive, supportive, helpful, encouraging work environment. This negative environment is not conducive to any type of positive cultural growth. Our organizations benefit when we have an adaptable, flexible workforce. As leaders, we need to educate our employees on the benefits of developing new skills, gaining new knowledge, and sharing our skills and knowledge with others. We must set clear expectations and then empower employees to take ownership for their work. The change in mindset will do wonders for your company’s culture.

                       Lack of empowerment

Employees who are not empowered feel that they have little or no control over their own work. This results in lack of engagement and low morale both of which will have a negative impact on organizational culture. By empowering employees, we provide them with discretion and independence over their work, a belief that their work is important and has meaning, that they are seen as competent to perform well, that they are active participants, and their actions and decisions matter. Empowering employees requires us, as leaders, to trust our employees and to take the risk of allowing those employees to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Empowered employees are more optimistic about the contributions that they can make to the organization. Their optimism is contagious and that is always good for organizational culture.                

                Negative internal politics

Negative internal politics result in distrust and fear. Anytime your employees feel they have to question the motives, words, or actions of upper management you are going to struggle to get anything accomplished. The best solution to this problem is authenticity and communication.


These stumbling blocks hinder our ability to develop and maintain an organizational culture that supports the vision and goals necessary in a business environment where innovation and agility are key factors to success. These same stumbling blocks affect many other aspects of leadership. Over the next few weeks we will look at other facets of our organizations and some of the other obstacles we encounter.