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DIMA GHAWI SHARES HOW LEADERS CAN ELEVATE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT — AND HOW IT PAYS OFF

Leadership speaker and coach Dima Ghawi recalls starting a new job years ago teeming with enthusiasm, ready to make a positive difference in her new organization.

On her first day, however, she met her team leader, who had been with the company for 25 years and seemed befuddled by her zeal. “At the end of the day he said ‘I can’t wait to see this enthusiasm getting sucked out of you,’ ” Ghawi recalled.

Ghawi, who spoke to area business leaders at a recent Tech Park Academy event at the Louisiana Technology Park, says she later learned that the manager was himself enthusiastic when he started with the company. But years of toxic office culture and bad management had left him disconnected from his work and unmotivated.

The manager is hardly alone. A recent Gallup Research survey found that only about 30 percent of U.S. employees feel engaged in their jobs, meaning less than a third of those surveyed look forward to showing up to work, contributing and performing well.

“This is the challenge that so many companies face right now, because it’s very important to keep employees motivated and to learn how to motivate them,” Ghawi says.

Ghawi, who helps managers and leaders discover the pivotal role of employee engagement in the success of their organization, outlined three approaches managers should take to foster employee engagement in their company. She says these steps can create a more positive culture that leads to lower employee turnover, improved quality of work, better overall morale and positive results for the company’s bottom line.

“We have the power to create a better, healthier work environment and to make a difference,” she says.

Make Real Connections

Managers need to connect with individual team members, which means leading each employee based on their specific needs and personality — commonly known as situational leadership. Some individuals need to be micromanaged, while others need to feel that you trust them.

She recommends using an Emergenetics Profile to determine employees’ personality styles based on four thinking attributes and three behavioral attributes that every person exhibits. The information can help managers adapt their personality to individual employees, because “what works for us is not going to work for the team,” she says.

Ghawi says leaders also need to take steps to help employees connect with each other and to the organization’s corporate strategy.

Be Intentional in Your Actions

Ghawi says that while it may seem like a no-brainer, a large percentage of managers she encounters don’t have one-on-one discussions with their employees outside of their formal performance reviews once or twice a year. “So the employees are doing work all year long, and at the end of the year they are shocked to realize that the manager is unhappy,” she says. “That’s why there needs to be constant interaction and communication throughout the year.”

She says managers should carve out time to discuss employee goals and aspirations and ask about their personal interests. “What matters is for us to be very intentional in at least making the time for developing employees, knowing what is important to them, understanding what motivates them,” she says. “Everybody is different.”

Have Genuine Interactions

Ghawi recalled a former manager who discovered she liked taking ballroom dancing classes. Each time she encountered the manager, he asked her how the classes were going. Eventually, she says, she started to dread the repetitive query. “It wasn’t genuine,” she says. “It was as if it was a process he had to follow.”

Improving employee engagement, Ghawi says, is all about creating real human connections and relationships, which requires dedicating more time and effort than a canned question or interaction. If you're not being genuine, employees will know — and that has consequences.

“People leave their jobs in most cases because of the manager, not because of the company,” she says.

Stephen Loy