Three Steps to Increase Employee Engagement

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By: David Novak, Co-Founder & CEO of David Novak Leadership

It’s impossible. I can’t do that. The reason I missed my deadline is because… As a leader, do you get these types of excuses from those on your team? I know it can be frustrating to hear excuses because I’ve heard lots of excuses while leading teams at KFC and Yum! Brands. And while you might be tempted to blame your team for their excuses, I’d like to challenge you to adopt a different mindset when it comes to excuses. Could it be that excuses are rooted in barriers your team needs you, as the leader, to eliminate?
The Power of Eliminating Barriers
When I came into KFC, my goal was to shift the culture to empower our Restaurant General Managers. We knew that having the tools and equipment to do your job increases engagement. We also knew that it was important to equip your team by:
  • Aligning the team with common goals rather than providing no direction
  • Noticing the needs of the team and providing resources rather than ignoring needs or assuming all needs are met
  • Helping the team by eliminating barriers rather than requiring members to fend for themselves
We were passionate about learning how to better equip our managers, so we took action.
Step One: Solicit Feedback from Managers
The first step we took was to solicit feedback from our managers. We wanted to know what resources they needed to be successful and what barriers they faced so we could make changes.
I quickly discovered we were holding the managers accountable for things that were undoable because they didn’t have the tools to do their jobs. The managers described a number of barriers that directly and indirectly hindered their performance, things like:
  • Too much paperwork
  • Not enough drive-thru jackets
  • Not enough labor dollars, which prevented them from covering their shifts
This feedback was eye-opening to the Executive Team and helped us understand that our managers really didn’t have the tools they needed to be successful.
Step Two: Communicate
removing barriers and excusesStep two involved communicating with our managers. We shared our research findings and let them know we not only heard what they said, but we also took action by eliminating barriers. Based on their feedback, we reduced paperwork, provided more drive-thru jackets and increased labor dollars. We also let them know these changes put accountability back in their court and we expected them to achieve better results since the barriers were eliminated.
Step Three: Hold Your Team Accountable
Our decision to give the managers what they needed to do their jobs catapulted performance and morale for those who wanted to be empowered. Our decision was celebrated by some and they embraced receiving resources with accountability.
Not all managers were excited about this change. In fact, the decision to equip the managers exposed those who relied on the barriers to mask their poor performance. We initially experienced substantially higher Restaurant General Manager turnover because those managers who didn’t like the higher goals and accountability quit.
However, long term, the payoff for removing barriers made a positive impact at KFC. We experienced:
  • Overall higher levels of performance
  • More engaged and empowered managers
  • Reduced manager turnover after the initial fallout
Do You Need to Eliminate Barriers?
How often do you hear excuses at work? How often do you make excuses at work? Could it be that you and/or your co-workers don’t have the tools to be successful?
You can uncover barriers to success by taking action. Do your research like I did. Ask questions. Find out what resources are needed and what barriers are keeping your team from achieving results. Then provide the resources and eliminate the barriers while holding your team to higher expectations. Download this guide to learn more about equipping your team by removing barriers.
removing barriers at work and excuses
When you eliminate barriers, you might experience some turnover like we did at KFC, but don’t let that stop you from taking action. As Ben Carson said, “So after a while, if people won’t accept your excuses, you stop looking for them.” You can help your team stop looking for excuses by removing barriers. You can help your team learn to embrace accountability. Are you willing?
Do you know someone who could use help eliminating barriers? If so, pay it forward today and share this blog and guide with them. By sharing this blog and guide, you are equipping them to become a better leader.

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