5 ways leaders can predict employees’ success

By in Engagement and Leadership
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Numerous sources suggest that famed polar explorer Sir Earnest Shackleton placed the following employment advertisement in a London newspaper seeking recruits for his 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition on a ship named Endurance. The ad read:

“Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

Of course, there is no record of how many responses were generated, as there is no conclusive evidence that the ad actually existed. Nevertheless, these words have become folklore, as they describe a depth of engagement not seen in too many workplaces. These employees would be engaged enough to face danger, discomfort and possible death.

Whether the advertisement existed, this expedition actually took place. Twenty-eight men were chosen as crew members for the first attempt to make a land crossing of the Antarctic continent. It would be a prized accomplishment. However, the voyage met failure when Endurance became beset in the ice of the Weddell Sea. The ship drifted northward, was held in the ice throughout the Antarctic winter of 1915, eventually was crushed, and finally sank. So, yes, the expedition was an absolute failure. But, this story was far from over.

Surprisingly, all twenty-eight crew members survived the sinking. They remained stranded in makeshift camps as the iceberg continued its drift to the north. After many months five men escaped in lifeboats. They crossed 800-miles of bone-chilling open-water to successfully find land. A rescue mission was immediately sent to retrieve the men left behind on the ice. And, shockingly, no one died.

Great voyages deserve to be recognized, as do all noble endeavors. But, this story of survival (although it’s impressive) begs a bigger question. Even though all crew members were highly engaged, the exploration was a failure. The desired results were not achieved. And, Earnest Shackleton’s own famous words may summarize the expedition best when he said, “Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.”

Super intentions aren’t good enough. And the same is true with super engagement.

Without question, engagement is a hot topic among leaders. In a mere 0.52 seconds, Google returns about 10,100,000 results when searching the term “employee engagement.” But, we’re about to show you how it’s just a small part of a bigger equation if your goal as a leader is to achieve great results.

What happens between engagement and results? That’s easy: the work happens, and great leaders know it. So, instead of focusing just on engaging people in their work, our extensive research suggests five specific activities (things people do within their work process) that are actually better at predicting success than an engagement score.

Action 1.  Ask better questions. Instead of assuming how work should be done, pause and ask provoking questions like, “why does this take so long?” and “why can’t we do it differently?” or “what if we could look at this from a new perspective?” Research shows that 88% of Great Work projects began with an employee asking the question “What difference could I make that people would love?”

Action 2.  See your work being received. Go see how your work impacts the recipient of your work. This way you can understand what’s working, and what’s not working. It’s important to see how and where your work makes an impact. Research shows that employees who went and saw for themselves were 17 times more likely to be passionate about their work.

Action 3.  Talk to, and listen to, lots of people. We often run our ideas past the same people, over and over. Talk to people outside your inner circle. Try to find people with new perspectives and even negative perceptions of what you’re trying to accomplish. 72% of Great Work projects included people talking to people in their outer circle.

Action 4.  Change something.  A knack for improvement is not a personality trait, it comes from something you do when you approach any project. Don’t see things as fixed or immoveable. Instead, tinker with your work, your processes and your workflow. Research shows that work is three times more likely to be called “important” when someone has added or removed an element or two.

Action 5.  Chase your goal.  Stick with your work even when you feel discouraged. Grit it out until you reach your goal. Research shows that 90% of Great Work projects include employees who remain involved through implementation.

Increasing employee engagement is a worthwhile endeavor. However, the most admired leaders understand that it’s the results derived from great work that truly matter. …that’s exactly why they’re admired.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

By david sturt and todd nordstrom
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