Three skills for better engagement

22 October 2019

Michelle Sales

Michelle Sales is a speaker, trainer, coach and author who helps senior leaders and their teams to build confidence and maximise their leadership and performance by consciously connecting with others.

As leaders, there are three critical skills to help shift our workplace teams from feeling disconnected to connected.

A study by Gallup revealed that companies with engaged workforces have higher earnings per share and even recovered at a faster rate from market downturns. The study also revealed that people who feel connected to their leaders are more likely to remain with their organisations and act in ways that support the overall vision.

Yet studies show there is a connection deficit in most workplaces today.

In late 2018, Ernst & Young instigated a ‘Belonging Barometer’. This study of more than 1,000 employees confirmed evidence that exclusion (the inverse of belonging and connecting) is a growing issue, with more than 40 percent of those surveyed feeling physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace.

Highly disconnected and disengaged employees don’t feel part of anything, have low commitment, and are usually only at work to do the bare minimum and collect their pay.

When people lack emotional connection to their work, they usually take more sick days and there are performance and behavioural issues, with extreme cases leading to purposely causing harm and disruption to the entire business.

On the flipside, engaged employees feel a real sense of connection to their work, their leader and their peers. They wantto work with others, which means collaboration happens and performance thrives.

So, as leaders, how do we behave in a way that shifts our teams from feeling disconnected to connected?

Here are three critical leadership skills.

  1. Show humility

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, claimed in 2018 that humility is one of four essential leadership traits in this era of disruption. Leaders who exhibit humility listen to their people and invite them to share their ideas and to challenge the status quo in order to improve and grow.

Part of the process of genuinely connecting with your people and being humble is letting go of your own excessive ego, insecurities and concerns about status.

Humility in leadership allows you to have an accurate perception of your strengths and weaknesses and to understand the needs of others. It allows you to recognise the contribution of others, which in turn means people feel valued.

  1. Be curious

Being curious and interested in your people is critical to building strong connections. As a leader, how else do you understand what drives and motivates your people if you are not curious, and if you don’t invest the time in really getting to know them?

Being curious about your people as individuals allows you to coach and motivate them using strategies and tools that are right for them, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.

This also means that great leaders are much more interested in listening to others than listening to themselves. They are interested in learning and leveraging the talent and different strengths in the team. You simply can’t do this if you aren’t curious about what your people bring.

  1. Practice compassion

 Christina Boedker, of the Australian School of Business, researched the link between leadership and organisational performance, collecting data from more than 5,600 people in 77 organisations. She concluded that out of all the various elements in a business, the ability of a leader to be compassionate, ‘to understand people’s motivators, hopes and difficulties, and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be’, had the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity.

Employees feel greater trust with leaders who are compassionate. Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partner have shown that leaders who project warmth before establishing their competence, are more effective than those who lead with toughness and skill. This is due to the trust that is created with warmth, kindness and compassion.

When trust is built, strong connections are created. This is when you move beyond engagement and start to achieve real commitment and results from your people.

Experiment with building your humility, curiosity and compassion as a leader, and see the impact on your results.


Michelle Sales will be delivering a workshop session titled, ‘The power of real confidence’, at the FPA Professionals Congress on Thursday 28 November. This session examines what confidence really is and how it can take us to a whole other level in terms of our performance and influence. For more information, click here.