I mentioned in a previous post that being a Manager /Technical Lead / Team Leader is more than a title, it is a responsibility. I believe that being in a leadership role means you should maintain an active interest in your employees to develop and grow their careers. A leader in any capacity is someone who should use their experience, draw on what they have learned and the mistakes they have made to get the most out of their employees.

You could say that a leader works for their employees, rather than the common misconception that employees work for a leader.

I think this is an important viewpoint to leadership meaning leaders should do the best for their employees.

During a course at the Open University on Managing People at the start of my career I remember being intrigued that motivation is not measured by how much you pay an employee rather how much you recognise the employee. It was discussed that employee recognition and respect was a far greater motivator than financial gains.

Over the years as I have been given responsibility for line management, mentorship and team lead. During these years there is nothing more satisfying when I receive positive comments back from colleagues, senior management and customers.

I have received emails from customers who have recognised how well teams have gelled together. I have seen staff learn new skills and go on to do amazing things. I have mentored staff who have moved into their own leadership roles and still refer to the practises that they were taught.

In 2017, I remember thinking “How can I model my behaviour?”, “What if it could be shared as an idea?”, “If it works for me, it must work for other people?” I decided that I would investigate a model that I can share with everyone. After a “few” hours of brainstorming about all the tasks I do, I eventually came up with the 4 Step Employee Engagement model (4SEE). It has taken a while to get around to publishing it, but this is my first article on the 4SEE model.

What is 4SEE?

The model has four core steps that surround a fundamental core to achieve the goal of encouraging personal development for happier rewarding employees. The four steps are:

  • Learn;
  • Inspire;
  • Encourage;
  • Recognition.

Each step is part of a lifecycle that can be used during a project, line management relationship or mentorship. The fifth element - Fundamentals is the core values and goals a leader should be aiming to adhere too. The fundamentals are:

  • Build Trust;
  • Be Empathetic;
  • Prioritise;
  • Build Relationships;
  • Be Available;
  • Honesty;
  • Active Communication.

Learn

At the start of each “cycle” of the 4SEE model is the opportunity to learn. This is an important stage both when leaders are initially assigned an employee. It gives the leader and employee a chance to learn and understand each other. This isn’t the same as getting to know their name, age, history or favourite band. It is about understanding the employees motivation. This is not an easy stage - not all employees will open up, some will be more reserved than others; as humans we naturally like to start talking about ourselves but for this stage to truly work leaders need to be fully present in the moment and listening with intent to the employee.

Being present in the moment is important, If a leader sits checking their watch, rushing the meeting, looking out the window or even continuing to talk about themselves all the time, the employee is sure to pick up on it and develop a mind-set that they are not really interested. If the relationship begins with a lack of belief then not only is it going to be a struggle, it is also going to be hard to recover from.

I would recommend blocking out an extra hour at this stage. If the meeting is an hour, block out two hours in the diary to save rushing the employee towards the end of the meeting. Take control of the meeting but let the employee lead on discussion. The aim for the meeting is to understand their ‘Why’. ‘Why’ is the motivating factor to the way people behave a certain way. It is the reason they will be motivated to do X, but not bothered to do Y. “Why” also forms a person’s morals and if time is taken to understand the motivation and show a genuine interest in it, then a bond starts to form.

Once the “Why” is understood it is often good to understand their interests and personality, both in their career and personal life. A sense of the employees personality types which can help shape how they can be placed and how to grow that person's career. Are they extrovert, introvert? Do they work better in a team or prefer working solo? Do they see the big picture or focus on the details? Are they reactive or proactive?

Questions like these and understanding their personality is only possible once the leader gets to know that person. It is also good to understand their goals. What does the employee want to achieve not only this year but in the next five years? Until written down goals are nothing more than an idea. Help the employee define their goals in a measurable way and together set goals that are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed (SMART).

The final point to make is use the session to learn from the employee. I believe we can all learn from each other. A leader is often more experienced, however not using this phase to learn from their employees is perhaps a little foolish.

Do not expect to answer all these in the first session, this is a shared journey between leader and employee. However, armed with the knowledge gained during the learn phase builds the foundation for the next state – Inspire.

Inspire

This is an opportunity to lead by example and draw on experience to inspire and create positive emotion in the employee. Keep the relationship professional but light hearted, a leader should be approachable. Simple things such as saying Good Morning, Thank You and Goodbye goes a long way to feeling valued.

Be empathetic – our world view is one we create in our mind. Consider taking time to view the world from the employee’s mind. How are they feeling? What might they be struggling with? What can be done to make their life at work easier? This is all inspirational and goes a long way to building a long term relationship with the employee.

Share best practises - lead by example and show them the best practise way of doing everything, teach them to do what is right not what is easy.

Personal Development is as important as developing a technical skill.  Leaders, I believe should encourage personal development to build clarity, focus and success within their employees. It can also help with confidence and assist building relationships. Personal Development can take in the form of books, podcasts, even YouTube videos can drive motivation and success.

Always make time for the employee, keep positive and resist being overly critical. Use criticism wisely and explain why there is criticism and what can be done to get around the issue. A positive mindset feeds inspiring minds and allows a more open relationship.

If a leader repeatedly dwells on the negative and gives up too easily then the relationship becomes closed and the leader becomes hard to approach. It also increases the risk for the employee to develop a damaging negative mindset.

Encourage

This is the stage that leaders are able to take what they have learned about the employee, what the employees personality is like. Goals have been set and a good understanding now of their strengths and weakness. If successfully done, the employee is motivated and inspired to work on their goals by pushing them out of their comfort zone and achieving success where they didn’t think it was possible.

Success and confidence is often found outside of someone's comfort zone.

Examples might be, encouraging an introverted person to do a presentation, or perhaps setting a goal that is out with their area of expertise. Not all line managers or mentors have a direct say in what the employee is doing on a particular project, in this scenario leaders can reach out to project managers and see if they can assist.

It is important to show employees that confidence not only comes from turning the impossible into possible but also so they know that it is allowed to try new things even if it is a mistake.

Recognition

It was mentioned in the introduction how I believe that true employee satisfaction comes from recognition. This is an important step in the model and not only motivates but it feeds back into the learn stage for the lifecycle to continue.

Recognise the Failures – Not everything goes to plan and things may have gone better. Calling these out, discussing them and offering suggestions on how to remedy or prevent it from happening again. Not taking the time to recognise the failures could lead to the employee believing nothing is wrong and therefore continue to make mistakes, damaging reputation and career prospects. It is far better to recognise the mistakes and again use criticism carefully and avoiding direct blame. Failures and mistakes provide an opportunity to improve.

Recognise the Success – This is the opportunity to share and recognise the success of the employee. Taking the time to have a meeting to relay any feedback that might have come from clients or colleagues will go a long way to motivating the employee and create a sense of value for the work they have done.

With the success and failures captured take the time to discuss any improvements that can contribute to the success of their careers. This is the stage where leaders can discuss next steps and set up for future challenges to progress the employees careers.

Finally depending on the stage or gravity of the success this could be an ideal time to nominate them for an award (if applicable). Companies often have internal award schemes that recognise and champion employees that have gone above and beyond.

Conclusion

I hope the article has given an insight into my 4SEE model. I consider the model a framework that provides structure but the detail can be tweaked to suit the environments it is practised in. I have a genuine interest in teams and growing individuals and the 4SEE model is a way to depict how to achieve it. Working with people is not easy, there are a number of varying factors but having a structure around it like the 4SEE model can help keep a focussed and positive attitude to leadership.