Leadership AND Engagement A conversation with James Garriock, Executive Director, Insync Surveys

You probably talk about employee engagement. How often do you think about how your leadership style impacts on the engagement of people you work with, and how this influences organisational performance?

Employee engagement surveys are a major part of Insync Surveys’ business and James Garriock, the firm’s Executive Director, has a strong interest in the theory and practice of leadership. James was an obvious choice to interview on Leadership AND Engagement.

James’ definition of leadership implies a high level of awareness and constant choice: Leadership is choosing to be what the people, the task and the situation need you to be. As we spoke he drew connections between leadership and employee engagement, and outlined the levers available to influence engagement.

James explained the three elements making up engagement:

  • Cognitive engagement: When an employee thinks positively of their employer or an idea and has a rational justification for their engagement.
  • Emotional engagement: When an employee feels good about their employer or an idea.
  • Behavioral engagement: The employee is willing to put in positive effort for their employer or will do something to progress an idea.

So is employee engagement the responsibility of the CEO and senior team? Ultimately it is. My conversation with James also emphasised the importance of front line leaders in engagement.

Team leadership is the lens through which people understand the actions of the organisation. Team leader scores in an employee survey moderate the scores of the team members and will, to an extent, predict the scores of the rest of the staff.

For example, consider a large organisation that’s had a big implementation for a new IT system. Everybody is affected in the same way. And yet in the staff engagement survey, we see that some parts of the organisation are more positive in the IT project than others.

One team leader who’s positive about the system change leads a positive and engaged team. Another team leader who ischange resistant and still grumbling about implementation leads an unhappy team. These varying levels of employee engagement will show in their staff survey engagement.

James’ take on this? The second team leader did not think about what the situation, the problem and the people needed them to be. By being positive about new initiatives or ideas every leader can directly influence their colleagues’ level of engagement, and ultimately the success of their organisation.

What could you do to be the type of leader that the people, the task and the situation need you to be right now?