Ready, Set, Engage!

If leaders really want to drive behaviors and get their team on board, they have to show their passion about learning, commit to driving accountability for that learning, and engage!

I recently read a quote: “Be enthusiastic as a leader. You can’t light a fire with a wet match.” More and more, I have been noticing wet matches when it comes to leaders supporting learning and development. I’ll give you an example. Many times, leaders within a business—usually supervisors or managers—are required to come to training with their teams. Not to watch over things and not necessarily to learn what is being trained, but to support what is being trained. However, what I’ve found instead are leaders who are not engaged while in the classroom.

Here are some inside secrets leaders may or may not be aware of:

  • If you’re not engaged, your teams won’t be engaged.
  • Training initiatives come from senior leadership requests, so a trainer’s job is to drive those initiatives through training.
  • Leaders can’t expect their teams to put what was learned into action if they are not present in class as a participant.
  • If leaders cannot support training while in the classroom, they are setting their teams up for failure on the job.

Harvard Business Review article spoke about how organizations could make engaging leadership as part of their culture. It highlighted four things that need to be done on an ongoing basis:

1. Measure engagement levels. Simply put, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. This can be done through engagement surveys.

2. Develop engaging leaders. Consistent workshops and coaching are necessary to make engaging behaviors habitual. By doing this, you are creating a mutual, supportive space to change the engagement culture of an organization. 

3. Assess and select engaging leaders. First, you have to recognize what makes an engaging leader, then you have to fill high-impact roles with those engaging leaders. (On a side note, engaging leaders’ behaviors consist of a set of core values that has been engrained in them from early experiences and helped shape them. In turn, they have the ability to exhibit those behaviors that help to engage those around them. )

4. Measure and reward engagement achieved. It’s not so much about tying incentives to those who show engagement as that may not stick in the long run. It’s more about recognizing leaders who are engaged and holding those accountable who are not.

Some additional things leaders may want to consider to show a higher level of engagement are:

  • Know what initiatives senior leadership is driving and why.
  • Meet with trainers prior to a training class to ensure understanding of the content that will be covered. 
  • Come to training class prepared to challenge your employees while in training.
  • Partner with a trainer and ask to kick off the training or introduce or debrief an activity. 
  • Lead by example. If you’re engaged, they will be engaged!

The bottom line is, if you really want to drive behaviors and get your team on board, you have to show your passion about learning; commit to driving accountability for that learning; and last but not least, engage!

Alaine Carrello is a senior trainer in Learning and Development at Verizon. She has been with Verizon Wireless for more than 20 years and has been in the Learning and Development organization since 2010. Carrello is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Bellevue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Adult Education. Creative writing is her passion and she recently published her first book.


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