How To...

How to engage and motivate people by leadership

Engage and motivate people by leadership to align their needs and values with their work and their organisation, writes Saide Mansur.

Few issues are more important to the success of a safety process, than having leaders, supervisors and employees, who are actively engaged and committed to the safety process.

Since we know were engagement comes from, we have to communicate the role and the message of our leaders to employees.

During a recent presentation I had asked how many leaders were in the audience, who were all senior managers, engineers, and other professionals. Among 150, only eight raised their hands.

Everything a leader does impacts on employees (including our contractors). Their deeds and words increase or diminish engagement.

You either increase engagement or decrease it, there is no middle ground.

During our current economic downturn, how are leaders motivating our teams and ensuring full engagement?

Five leadership skills

Leaders focus is on developing the leadership potential of each team member, and ultimately implementing a shared leadership approach to continuously improve performance that is owned by the team.

Building trust

Trust is an essential ingredient in increasing engagement. The first thing leaders need to know about building trust is that it does not happen just because you are trustworthy.

People do not know how trustworthy you are until you demonstrate it, by using trust building behaviors.

The most important of these behaviors is to trust others. We build trust by trusting others.

This requires a basic belief in people, a belief that people are essentially trustworthy. If you have untrustworthy employees, why did you hire them and why are they still there?


The relationship between employees and their immediate managers, is a critical factor in how engaged employees would be. Employees need feedback.

They need to know how they are performing; not just once a year at review time. They need to feel enabled to discuss their needs for growth and development.

This is a must-have skill for effective leaders; to give and receive feedback, and to coach and counsel employees in ways that increases engagement and commitment.


Whether employees feel like insiders or outsiders, also impacts on their level of engagement.

Effective leaders use strengths that the team needs to be successful. They find out how to get the best out of each person, regardless of their ethnic background, gender, age or sexual orientation.

They understand that people with different personal values can work together effectively when they commit to the same values about trustworthiness and standards of work performance.


Engaged employees feel aligned with their organisations’ purpose, values and vision. Their work is meaningful to them because their leaders help them see the connection between what they do and the success of the organisations.

Effective leaders find out how to gain their team’s commitment to the company’s values, and thus increase the team’s performance standards, as well as their engagement.

Team-building includes formal programmes such as training, toolbox talks, and Sheq days; as well as informal events such as personal and social contact.
Team-building includes formal programmes such as training, toolbox talks, and Sheq days; as well as informal events such as personal and social contact.

Team development

Effective leaders understand the potential for significant increases in performance.

They make sure that all team members understand the strengths that they and other team members bring to the team, and work at developing a process that capitalises on all of these strengths.

Leaders focus is on developing the leadership potential of each team member, and ultimately implementing a shared leadership approach to continuously improving performance that is owned by the team.

All of these skills are needed to fully engage employees. If any of them are missing, engagement will be diminished. The challenge in developing these skills is that they are dependent on each other.

You have to build trust before you can be effective at mentoring, and you will need your mentoring skills to be effective at inclusion and alignment.

You won’t have much success at getting employees aligned, unless they feel they are insiders.

To build a high performing team, leaders need all of the above skills, and work together as a leadership team.

These skills do not come naturally to most managers (supervisors, engineers, foremen, charge hands), but they can be learned.

However, leadership is not learned during a single training event. Developing these skills usually requires unlearning of old habits, often habits of a lifetime.

It takes time, reinforcement, and practice, and a serious commitment from the employer and each manager.

Take the first step. Assess yourself, your team, and your organisation. It becomes easier to motivate people by leadership when everyone activates and buys in to common values.

  • Saide Mansur is a health and safety consultant in the oil industry.
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