This Is What Real Leadership in Business Looks Like
Being a great leader isn't easy.

Two out of three employees aren't engaged at work.

This is an absolutely startling statistic because it means that, at most, only one-third of the workforce is living up to their full potential! According to Gallup, disengaged employees cost the American workplace between $483-$605 billion each year in lost productivity.

These statistics seem daunting. However, I believe there is a solution and it starts with you, the leader. You have the power to create an engaged workforce that is passionately committed to their jobs and the organization. But how?

I like to say that the best leaders are avid learners. They never stop learning and that's why I enjoy interviewing great leaders for the oGoLead podcasts so much. It's one thing to learn from your own experiences, but you can exponentially improve outcomes by learning from others who have conquered the same challenges. Getting some coaching from the leaders who have cracked the code on engaging their teams is a way for you to become an avid learner and a better leader.

Because building employee engagement is such an important topic to address for today's leaders, I'd like to share some helpful insights that I discovered during my oGoLead podcast interviews.

Brian Cornell, Chairman and CEO of Target  (TGT) , believes that workers are disengaged because they don't feel appreciated and they don't have a sense of ownership or connection to their work. Cornell shared this secret to determining if his workforce is engaged - the "pronoun flip." Check out how he defines the power of the pronoun flip:

"I've always believed that for me, the best things have happened in business... when the pronouns changed. When I hear somebody say, 'David said or Brian said we need to do this,' I usually just shake my head and say, 'You know, this is not going to work out well because they don't own it; they don't believe...'

"But when I hear that pronoun flip and it's 'Here's what "we're" going to do, and here's what "we" believe in, and here's "our" strategy, and here's "our" plan,' magical things happen because people become accountable, they feel invested, they feel like owners, and they're empowered."

You can use Cornell's pronoun flip technique to determine how engaged your workforce is. I think Cornell's "pronoun flip" describes the real power of leadership - when your team moves from me to we.

The best leaders are always looking for great ways to build engagement and Ken Langone, The Home Depot (HD) Co-Founder, shared some of the things Home Depot does to get their associates engaged and fired up.

Langone told me:

"Well, first of all, we have programs where they can learn, called PK (Product Knowledge) classes. There's a series of 10 or 12 different major categories... We motivate them that we're going to take them beyond being a clerk. We're going to take them where they're a real pro."

We also encourage them to speak up and speak out if they see us as a company doing something that's not in the best interest of the customer, or themselves, the associate. We need to hear about it directly and we need to hear about it unvarnished... We'd like them to do it in a nice way, but if the choice is for them to be blunt and direct or not do it at all, be blunt and direct and tell us because we can learn from their knowledge with a customer; we can learn from their experience on the floor."

We also want them to know that we don't care what their pedigree is. If they want to work hard, and they want to apply themselves, we have a career path opportunity for them.

The single most significant statistic to me about Home Depot is we have 3,000 people today working still with us, and by the way, nobody works for us, everybody works with us. That's a very important distinction. People have to feel they're on the team and they're a partner and they can make a difference and the best way to do that is to let them know they work with you, not for you.

So, we have 3,000 people (who) started in a lot pushing carts in and now are in higher levels in the company because they've been with us and because they succeeded. And because we have these equity programs, these 3,000 people today are multi-millionaires...

We want them to know they matter. We want them to know at the end of the day, they have a secret sauce; they're the most important ingredient in this company."

Home Depot's solution to engagement is simple: train your people, invite them to share feedback, provide a career path, and care about them enough to see them as partners, not co-workers. This has led to engaged workers who are committed to Home Depot. What it all boils down to is your team won't be committed unless they are involved - or as I like to say, "no involvement, no commitment."

I'm a firm believer in the power of using soft skills to drive hard results. When you listen to those you lead, care about them, recognize them, and acknowledge that every person has value, you are inviting them to work hard and do their best, which leads to engagement. I call this Heartwired Leadership.

Heartwired Leaders use recognition to build passionate commitment and drive positive results.

Recognition is the often-overlooked secret weapon to building engagement. When you recognize others, you show you are paying attention to what they are doing and that you care enough to show your appreciation.

You now have some of the "secret sauce" to help overcome your engagement challenges. How will you apply what you've learned in your organization? The ball is in your court. Be the catalyst for engagement!

By: David Novak

Novak is Founder and CEO of oGoLead, a digital leadership development platform he created to help people become better leaders by teaching vital Heartwiring™ and Hardwiring™ skills. He is Co-Founder, retired Chairman and CEO, Yum! Brands, Inc. (YUM) .

To listen to the full oGoLead podcast interviews, click here. To learn more about Novak's Heartwiring and Hardwiring Your Leadership™ Program, click here.

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