Self Engaging Teams

I keep trying to find ways to engage the team and I’m running out of ideas.  What do you suggest?  As a coach we frequently get asked this.  However, imbedded in this question is the notion that it is always the leaders job to be the sole engager of the team.  My question back to people is usually, what if the team engaged itself without you, then what would your role be?

This begs the fundamental question, is it the leaders job to do things that engage the team, or is it the leaders job to do things that gets the team to engage itself?  What would a football game look like if the coach handed the playbook to a player who ran it out to the huddle and let them pick their own plays that they as a team thought would be effective instead of being told what play to run?  What if the defense self-corrected to the offensive play without the defensive coach moving people around?  Defensive players just did it on their own.  Here is the problem.  When a coach keeps the playbook and calls the plays, people learn how to do, they don’t know the “reason” for that play right now so they never learn critical thinking.  When a defensive player waits for the coach to make the call, there is no reason to read the offense and adjust accordingly without being told.  Teams that critically think self-engage.  So the way to get teams to self-engage is to get people to think critically by knowing the reason why they are where they are and why they have to do what they do.

Picture this; it early morning and you are driving out of your neighborhood to go to work.  Immediately you encounter a DETOUR sign.  What do you think?  Maybe turn left, what’s going on, where else can I get a chai.  Then add these elements – you have to drop the kids off at school and you are doing the introduction for your 8:00am meeting.  Now what do you think?

  • I better call the school and tell them the kids will be late.
  • Should I go in or just write a quick note while I’m driving.
  • Is there a faster way to go.
  • I better make sure the kids have their books ready for the drop and go.
  • Does little Cindy have her lunch money?
  • Remind Joey to tell his teacher that he has a orthodontist appointment.
  • I should drop them off in the teacher parking because it’s closer.
  • I better call (The Boss) and tell her my problem.
  • I better have somebody prep the slide deck.
  • I better have my entry badge ready to go so I don’t have to search for it.
  • I better ask Sally Sample if she can do the intro for me and where to find the art work.
  • Who else do I need to call?
  • What am I going to tell them?

What makes a person flash think of this vast list without being told?  Why are they thinking critically and engaged?  Perhaps it is because they personally endure the consequences or somebody they care about does.  Then, if a person can think this way, can a collective group of people (a team) think this way without being told?  Perhaps this equation is helpful.

Care – Own – Think – Do

People own what they care about.  They think about what they own.  They do what they think about.  So if you want to get a team to self-engage, don’t just define the goal and tell them what to do, give them a reason to care about it.  As the team leader, that is on you.  That is if you care about it.