The 5 C’s of Employee Engagement


Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. – Stephen Covey

Randall Beck and Jim Harter teamed up to write a most revealing article in the Gallup Business Journal ( that every CEO, executive, manager, and leader should read. The findings, in short, reveal: only 30% of U.S. employees and 13% worldwide, are engaged, over the past 12 years those low numbers have barely budged.

In addition they add, “Knowledge, experience and skills develop our talents into strengths, but unless people possess the right innate talents for our job, no amount of training or experience will lead to exceptional performance.” Do you see the disconnect?

One thing we know for sure – the challenges in the workplace have never been greater. Too often people with “management potential” are elevated into those positions but do not have the necessary leadership skills to be effective. The result? Frustrated mangers who wonder why they can’t get anything done, companies with low morale, high turnover, and no sense of direction or vision.

Beck and Harter continue, “When a company raises employee engagement levels consistently across every business unit, everything gets better.” And herein lies the secret to raising the numbers – raising employee engagement.

Employee engagement is not a management skill; it’s a leadership skill. Employee engagement is a people skill that transcends management or business know-how. Management skill minus leadership skills can be detrimental, but when the two are combined it can be a powerful tool that can create great opportunity.

Key to the findings and to turning the low numbers around was managers who consistently engage their employees. The issues are complex and the solutions vary. That being said, here are my 5 C’s for Employee Engagement that can begin a process of improving employee engagement.

Be Current

A natural function of a manger is to focus on systems and structure. But if that is your only focus then you will always be a manger and likely never a good leader. Being current is not so much about numbers and the bottom line; rather it’s about being relationally up- to- date with your people. Before you can build your company you have to build relationships. John Maxwell was right when he said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Be in the moment with your people and they will be invested in you.

Be Consistent

Your people need to see that you are sincere in your desire to connect with them. If your people are important to you, and they are, then you need to be consistent in the manner in which you interact with them. Being current and consistent is not just paying lip-service to appease a few disgruntled people. It’s a genuine relational investment on your part. That does not mean you have to take them to the lake with you on the weekends, but it does show that you care. Being consistent is just as much for your benefit as it is for your people.

Be Conducive

It’s helpful and encouraging to your people to know that you are attentive to their ideas, concerns, and that you welcome their input. When you build conducive and safe environments for your team to be engaged it builds trust, boosts morale, and elevates their level of commitment to the organization. Foster a culture that promotes engagement and you will see positive changes. Rather than be a manager that relies on controlling your people, you should strive to become a leader that inspires the trust of your people.

Be Challenging

An engaged leader will challenge his or her people to maximize their talents, dare to take risks, and take ownership of their future. A conducive work environment is of no value unless your people are producing. Managers are more concerned about maintaining the status quo while leaders strive for new levels of excellence. This happens when leaders challenge their people to be their best.

Be Clear

Employee engagement rises and falls on good communication.  Consistent and clear communication is the life-blood of your organization.  Your people rely and depend on it. Clear communication is one of the single best ways to build the kind of engagement you need to be successful. Managers can be secretive and keep information close to the vest, but a smart leader shares information and thus builds a community of engagement.

Everything gets better with employee engagement. These simple steps are but a beginning. What would you add to the list? What step(s) would be most helpful to you if implemented today? Employees have been disengaged long enough. It’s time to act.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson

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30 Years Earlier: What I Wish I Knew About Leadership


A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare

One of the benefits of aging (not that I am old) is attaining a certain amount of wisdom that can be garnered from it. Being able to look back over a certain span of time and reflect on where you’ve come and lessons learned can be instrumental in how you look to the future. Sharing those life lessons to a new generation of leaders can be invaluable.

The late George Burns once said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” That’s a great philosophy. But the aging process ultimately takes a toll on all of us.

What are some of the signs that you are getting older? Here are a few I came across that are my favorites: You know you’re getting older when… everything hurts and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work; the gleam in your eyes is from the sun hitting your bifocals; when you feel like the morning after and you haven’t been anywhere; your children begin to look middle aged; your favorite part of the newspaper is “20 Years Ago Today”; you sit in a rocking chair and can’t get it going; and finally, your knees buckle and your belt won’t.

I’ve been reflecting lately on the things about leadership I wish I knew back in my twenties that I now know. If I had understood them better it would have saved me a lot of grief and heartache along the way. Here are a few things about leadership I wish I had known.

I don’t always have to be right.

I know many in their twenties who think they know it all. I was one of them way too often. With the passing of time I have learned how much I don’t know. What I wish I knew back then was that my formal education was only the beginning. The real educational experience began after graduation –it’s called the real world. I wish I knew in my twenties just how little I knew, and that I didn’t always have to be right.

Building bridges is more practical than burning them

I wish I knew in my twenties the depth and breadth of how important relationships are in leadership. Sadly at times, it was a “my way or the highway” attitude that culminated in sad endings. As I’ve grown older the more I understand and care about building healthy relationships. I’ve grown to appreciate connecting with like-minded people and building more bridges between them and others.

Titles don’t mean a lot

What I thought was important in my twenties was acquiring a title- that somehow that validated my leadership. With that was the idea that my position commanded respect, admiration, and approval. I was wrong. In hindsight after 30 years I understand that a position without respect, trust, and integrity are meaningless. I’d stop chasing titles and positions and focus more on serving others.

Forgiveness is a virtue

Taking up the mantle of leadership is risky business. With all of the joys and rewards associated with it, also come disappointments and frustrations. In my twenties when I was wronged it was hard not to take it personal and not hold a grudge. What I wish I had known back then was that my unforgiveness was not hurting the person who offended me, it was hurting me instead. Life is too short to hold grudges and be mad. Forgive and move on. And remember, you will need to be forgiven at some point.

It’s not about me

The narcissism of my twenties has given way to the “selfie” narcissism we see in today’s culture. Back in my twenties, of course, there were no cell phones, internet, Facebook, etc. But the leadership principle remains. What I wish I knew then that I know now is that the ultimate act of my leadership is not what I do for myself but in what I do for others. My leadership is not meant to be self-serving but rather what I can do to add value to the lives of those around me.

One thing is certain–life in leadership is a continual learning process. Wherever you are on your journey, never stop growing.

What lessons have you learned?

* What would you add to the list? I’d really like to hear from you! Please leave your comments and the lessons you’ve learned!


© 2015 Doug Dickerson



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Three Things Every Leader Needs To Know About Criticism


Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. – Winston Churchill

I came across a story about Grace Coolidge, the wife of President Calvin Coolidge who tried to surprise her husband by having his portrait painted. When it was finished, she hung it in the library of the White House. Later the same morning the President happened to walk into the library accompanied by a senator. They stared at the picture together in silence. Finally Coolidge commented quietly: “I think so, too.”

When you hear the word criticism what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Many take on a defensive posture as it relates to critics. We are quick to defend our words, actions, and decisions.

Often times, however, our growth in leadership does not always come via the praise or accolades of adoring followers. In fact, a lot of it comes during our dark times that are usually quite lonely.

Conventional wisdom says to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. What about critics? Should you keep them at a distance or keep them close? Here are three insights that hopefully will give you some perspective.

Every leader needs a constructive critic

As a leader you will have plenty of critics. Many of them will not be constructive. But when you are committed to your own personal growth and to the success and growth of your people then finding a colleague who can be your constructive critic should not be hard to find.

Your constructive critic is the one who can help you see all sides of an issue, help guide you in your decision making, and cares enough to call you out when needed.

You need constructive critics in your life and you should welcome them in. One constructive critic will be more valuable to you than a room full of “yes people” ever will.

Every leader needs to be accountable

The purpose of a constructive critic is not to make your life miserable but to keep you accountable. A leader should never ascend to the place either in position or in mentality that they are above criticism. We need trusted advisors near us to help us.

I know that many leaders take criticism personal and see those who would dare to criticize as less than loyal, out to cause harm, or advance their own agenda. As a result relationships are strained due to insecurities and people are looked upon with suspicion. It’s a fragmented culture that is hard to reverse.

But when you as a leader set the example for what accountability looks like it can be healthy for the whole organization and it can make a world of difference.

Every leader needs to set the example

John Maxwell said, “Effective leaders know that first you have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand.” This is a profoundly simple rule of leadership. It’s also, I believe, the springboard of constructive criticism.

As a leader you will give more constructive criticism than you will receive and it’s important to do it right. Constructive criticism will be better received and more effective when it’s born out of a good relationship.  If the only time you interact with a person you lead is to be the messenger of how to do something better or to point out something they have done wrong then it will build resentment.

Critics and criticism will be a constant on your leadership journey. Learning the keys to receive it and give it will make you a wiser and more effective leader.

What do you say?


©2015 Doug Dickerson





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Hope For Discouraged Leaders

Feeling down

If you are alive and breathing, you can still become everything God has created you to be. – Joel Osteen

In 1858 the Illinois legislature- using an obscure statute- sent Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had won the popular vote. When a sympathetic friend asked Lincoln how he felt, he said, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.”

If you hang around in leadership long enough and you will know what discouragement feels like.  I’m not trying to depress you but simply stating the obvious. Behind the glittering image and friendly smiles are leaders who face incredible pressures and shoulder responsibilities that can be daunting. Unfortunately, many leaders feel trapped with no one to talk with or vent to due to the “glittering image” that they feel compelled to present to the public.

So let’s be honest. Times of discouragement will come. How you react to it will make all the difference going forward. As a leader, you are not immune from troubles-in fact, you may have more. So how do you keep a proper perspective and come through it on the other side a better leader? Here are three reminders that you need to consider.

You are not alone

Life happens to all of us. It’s not always pretty. As a leader you know this to be true. Disappointments come – you didn’t land that new client, a colleague betrayed you, sales are sluggish – you get the picture.

Here is what you need to know: your disappointment today is preparing you for great opportunities tomorrow. But there’s a catch. It all hinges on your attitude. While bad things can happen to good people; good people turn bad things into great opportunities.

At a young age Walt Disney easily could have been discouraged and given up. He was fired by the editor of a newspaper for “lacking ideas”. He could have taken his rejection and thrown in the towel. But if anything he used that experience to motivate him to greater things – and the rest as they say is history.

So when times of disappoint and discouragement come remember this truth – you are not alone.

You are stronger than you think

One truth I’ve learned over the years is this: you can be defined by life’s moments or you can define life’s moments.  So how do you define life’s moments?  You do so by choosing faith over fear, forgiveness over resentment, and by embracing God’s view of your life over man’s view. You don’t always have control over what comes your way but you can choose your path going forward.

Thomas Edison experienced one of those defining moments in his career. His lab caught fire and was destroyed. All of his work went up in flames. To add insult to injury, his building was under-insured. It was a devastating and defining moment. How would he respond?

“There is great value in disaster,” said Edison, “all our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Edison did not choose the fire, but he did choose to define the moment.

Here is the truth to remember: We don’t like adversity and disappointments because we mistakenly believe that we can’t handle it. But I submit that you are stronger than you think and you can overcome any obstacle that comes your way. Are you ready to define your moment?

You are not defined by your past you are prepared by it

Every experience that you go through is preparation for what’s next.  Along the way you have gained valuable experience. Some of it has come easy while at other times you wish you could have a do-over. It’s all part of the learning curve. I’ve been there countless times and I dare say you have as well.

But if you want to move forward as a leader you have to learn to let go of the past – especially the bad, and cut yourself some slack. What’s important is that you have learned your lessons, have peace in your heart, and are stronger as a result.

Discouragement sets in when you see yourself through the lens of a failure rather than through the lens of grace.

Here is the truth you need to remember: you are not the sum of your fears or your mistakes.  Your past is your boot camp and it has prepared you for such a time as this.

Times of discouragement will come. But the good news is- it will pass. Stay strong and be encouraged. You are not alone, you are strong, and you are prepared!


© 2015 Doug Dickerson



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Becoming a Better Team Player


If a team is to reach its potential, each player must be willing to subordinate his personal goals to the good of the team. – Bud Wilkinson

To highlight its annual picnic one year, a company rented two racing shells and challenged a rival company to a boat race. The rival company accepted. On the day of the picnic, everyone entered into the spirit of the event. Women wore colorful summer dresses and big, floppy hats. Men wore straw skimmers and white pants. Bands played and banners waved. Finally the race began.

To the consternation of the host company, the rival team immediately moved to the front and was never headed. It won by 11 lengths. The management of the host company was embarrassed by its showing and promptly appointed a committee to place responsibility for the failure and make recommendations to improve the host team’s chances in a rematch the following year. The committee appointed several task forces to study various aspects of the race. They met for three months and issued a preliminary report. In essence, the report said that the rival crew had been unfair.

“They had eight people rowing and one coxswain steering and shouting out the beat,” the report said. “We had one person rowing and eight coxswains.” The chairman of the board thanked the committee and sent it away to study the matter further and make recommendations for the rematch. Four months later the committee came back with a recommendation: “Our guy has to row faster.”

We hear much today about teamwork and intuitively we understand its importance. Unfortunately, too many want to sit in the boat and shout out instructions and too few want to row.

Becoming a better team player is an evolving process. It requires continual work and evaluation. Perhaps a few questions are in order to help you gauge your effectiveness as a team player in your organization. Here are a few for starters.

Is my niche still a fit?

Every team player has a niche as it relates to his or her role on the team. It’s important to know what it is. It’s even more important as time goes on to make sure that your growth and the growth of your organization are in harmony. If the team has outgrown you, or you have outgrown the team, then adjustments need to be made.

Do I still have the right motives?

Effective team players think “we” over “me”. If that has changed or you’ve succumbed to playing politics to get your way then perhaps you are not the team player you once were. Team players at heart are selfless and are willing to set aside their personal agendas for the good of the team.

Am I supportive of my teammates?

A good team player doesn’t allow petty jealousies to take root and can celebrate the accomplishments of fellow teammates. Why? Because when one succeeds the team succeeds. Being a good team player is about being a good sport. When you are willing to share the spotlight eventually it will shine on you.

Am I still coachable?

The most difficult player on any sports team is the one who thinks he knows it all and can’t be coached. This type of attitude is drain on the rest of the team. When a team member goes rogue it creates a vacuum that other team members have to step up and fill. So be honest; are you still coachable? A smart leader knows there is still more to learn and a wise leader is humble enough to acknowledge it.

Am I still passionate?

A good team player is passionate about the mission and vision of the organization. Do you still have that ‘fire in the belly” that inspires you to be your best, give your best, and bring out the best in your teammates? That type of passion is what championship teams are made of and is what will see you through adversity and lead you to victory.

Baseball great babe Ruth said, “The way the team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” That is the secret to the success of your team and it’s the secret to your success as a team player. As you commit yourself to your teammates the possibilities of great success can’t be overstated.

Becoming a better team player is about intentionally looking inward from time to time and making adjustments where needed.

Are you a team player?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson





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Three Difficulties Every Leader Should Embrace


When we long for life without difficulties remind us that oaks grow in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. – Peter Marshall

An old woodsman gives this advice for catching a porcupine: “Watch for the slapping tail as you dash in and drop a large washboard over him. The washboard will give you something to sit on as you ponder your next move.”

As a leader dealing with difficulties is not a new phenomenon to you. Workplaces are an ever present source of stress in people’s lives. The American Institute of Stress ( identified workload as the number one cause of stress by employees followed by people issues, juggling work and personal issues, and lack of job security.

Because you are surrounded by so many people who are stressed it’s important to keep your leadership skills sharp. Difficulties will come to you as a leader. But here are three you should always welcome because in doing so you will be a stronger and more effective leader.

The difficulty of personal growth

You have to take ownership of your personal growth as a leader. Your effectiveness in leading your team hinges on your ability to lead yourself. It’s all too easy to put personal growth on the back-burner; after all, we are stressed ourselves. We have meetings to attend, clients to meet, personnel issues to resolve, deadlines that are looming, and the list goes on.

But no amount of busyness will ever replace your need for a personal growth plan. How can you grow leaders around you if there is no growth in you? Regardless of how busy your life is you need to find the time to read, join a mastermind group, attend workshops, listen to audio CD’s during your morning commute, etc. Conquering the difficulty of personal growth can be a challenge but it’s a non-negotiable if you want to be effective.

The difficulty of forward thinking

The bedrock principles of leadership such as trust, loyalty, ethics, values, communication, etc. are your foundations. They are the principles you stand upon that keep you grounded as a leader. They are timeless. But your effectiveness as a leader also rests with your ability to adapt to your present circumstances with forward thinking.

This can be difficult for a leader because it’s all too easy and much too predictable to stay in our comfort zones. But the comfort zones of yesterday will not always serve you well tomorrow. The challenges are new and different. Business is not just local; it’s global, and the way we communicate is ever evolving. Forward thinking combined with timeless values can position you for the future and the challenges you face. Let your values be your guide but keep an open mind.

The difficulty of building community

Building community is an emotional investment and challenge that many leaders are just not up for. It can be a thankless job. It’s difficult. I get it. But your success as a leader and the successes of your organization are directly tied to a strong sense of community and relationships. And it begins at the top.

John Maxwell says, “Don’t ever underestimate the importance of building relational bridges between yourself and the people you lead. There’s an old saying: To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart. Always touch a person’s heart before you ask him for a hand.” When you embrace what is difficult about building relationships it will revolutionize your leadership and your results.

The simple truth is this: people are your most appreciable asset. People are more important than your brick and mortar, product or location. When you get community and relationships right then everything else will fall into place.

Being a leader is not always easy but it’s very rewarding when you embrace what’s difficult. When you do it changes everything.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson




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Take Your Leader Down From The Pedestal

Holding Up Person On Pedestal

Contrary to what you may think, good executives don’t want to be worshipped. – Howard Behar

Everyone has leaders they respect and admire. I know I do. Along my journey I’ve been privileged to meet some rather interesting people. Included on the list are four U.S. Presidents and other political figures, famous athletes, actors, musicians, and authors. Some had large egos while others came across as more grounded and down to earth. While the trajectory of each person’s career path took them to differing places of fame and work they each embraced their talents and made the most of it.

Within your business or organization are leaders who are striving to make a difference. Some may be succeeding on a grand scale while others are struggling to find their way. So what can you do to help your leader, and yourself, in the process? One of the first things I’d suggest you do is this: take your leader down his or her pedestal. Here’s why.

It’s all about perspective. Let’s examine this from your leader’s perspective. If you are worshipping your leader then he or she has two primary concerns they wrestle with, (1) your motives and (2) your loyalty. If you are worshipping your leader and are always kissing-up to them they will always wonder why. In addition, they tie your loyalty to their tenure and not much more.

Now let’s examine things from a different perspective and look inward. So long as you keep your leader on a pedestal you will have two primary conflicts to wrestle with, (1) freely speaking the truth out of fear of repercussion, and (2) the appearance of misplaced priorities. Each struggle has ramifications and if they are holding you back then your pedestal is your greatest obstacle moving forward.

When you take your leader(s) down from the pedestal it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. Here’s how you can do it and why it matters.

Embrace their humanity

What most leaders want you to know is that they are surprisingly human. They have the same struggles, concerns, hopes and dreams as everyone else in the office. Just like you, your leader is not perfect and makes mistakes. Instead of being overly critical perhaps you can be a little more forgiving. So long as you idolize your leader because of their position and not as a person then you fail to see what is most important to them. At the end of the day they’d rather not be above you, they would prefer to be beside you.

Welcome authenticity

Once you take your leader(s) down from the pedestal then authenticity and transparency can begin. So long as you look at your leader through rose-colored glasses then it’s hard to move forward in a meaningful way. Open and honest working relationships include the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s a natural by-product of being human. What makes you an adult is the way you work through the difficult times and come out on the other side with something to celebrate. An authentic leader will respect you more if you idolize them less.

Build community

Once you embrace the humanity of your leader(s) and welcome authenticity then building community is the reward. Most leaders want to build a team of committed and like-minded people who share the same vision and will work passionately to get there. So long as your leader is on a pedestal being idolized, or in a worse-case scenario – feared, then community will suffer. Your collective strengths and weaknesses form a powerful combination of all the skills you need to do great things. But it won’t happen until shoulder to shoulder you are working together in community as a team.

Taking your leader down from the pedestal is not about abolishing lines of authority or diminishing your respect. Ultimately, it’s about how to move out of an “idol” status with your leader to something more beneficial.

What do you say?


©2015 Doug Dickerson

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