July 28, 2009 Chris Fuller

Unleashing the power of the team… Gaining employee engagement

As much as a leader is a ‘commander’ of people, he/she is, also, a servant of people. Engagement is not so much about commanding as it is connecting.

Bottom line(s): Valued, engaged people lead to Satisfied Customers and together, they will gladly and consistently contribute to a great BOTTOM LINE…

The Gallup Organization has consistently surveyed employees and businesses in the arena of engagement and the corresponding effects on the “Bottom Line”. They divide employees into three areas that in ‘Iditarod Leadership’ are classified as: Racers, Loafers, and Anchors.

Racers are between 25 and 30% of the average company. They are enthusiastic, committed, and run with passion and purpose. They feel deeply connected to your race! They consistently run at high performance levels and hunger to use their talents and strengths every day. They fuel creativity and move the sled forward.

Loafers are roughly 50 to 55%. They are trotting through the days, content to ‘go with the flow’. They are fairly neutral about the mission and the sled. They tend to take a “wait-and-see” attitude towards it all – sort of a, “if it looks like we may be in contention for something great – I may get excited – but until then I’ll just punch the clock”.

Anchors can range from 15 to 20% on average. Sleds, normally, have anchors(or hooks) that keep the sled in place as you’re lining up the team, but these folks are Anchors that actively dig in their heals as the rest of the team attempts to run. They, literally, drain the team of its energy and actively seek to spread their ‘Rabid” discontent.

Gallup estimates that the ‘Bottom Line’ effect of ‘Anchors’ in 2006 cost the US economy about $328 Billion in lost productivity and the corresponding ripple effects.

So, how can we develop a team full of ‘Racers’ and ‘Unleash the power of the team…’? Here are a few ideas to implement in your kennel for some immediate effects:

  • Clarity expectations – when dogs or people are unsure of their roles and expectations – they cannot race with their full strength. Learn to line out in simple language exactly what you want them to ‘DO’ and they will run faster.
  • Grow, Equip and Empower – Use training runs and growth exercises to teach them what they need to know , to stretch and grow them, and to equip them for the journey. When the time comes – set them free to run. The best days in a sled dogs life are when the musher says, “Hike” and takes away all hindrances to their running!
  • Leverage their Strengths – put them in the right spot on the team – where their personality and strengths will fit perfectly. When they are placed well – they will run well.
  • Be liberal with treats and ‘Ataboys’. Is there anyone among us that won’t pull harder when we know our efforts will be recognized or rewarded by our leader?
  • Connect on a personal level with them AND help them connect with the mission of the race – give them your heart and go for theirs. Once you know their heart, you’ll be able to see where their heart aligns with the overall mission and you’ll be able to help them connect and run with purpose.
  • Excellence and Contribution. We all want to know we are a part of something that is excellent – something of quality –AND that we have a valued contribution to that end. Set the standard for excellence on your team and when they contribute ideas – affirm their valuable input and seek to implement where possible. It will increase their self esteem and create bold and daring team members that pull voraciously.

As we serve, value, equip, and empower our teams – we will be astonished at the power that is unleashed and stretched as leaders as the sled starts to reach top speed!

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