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Employee Expectations: Building a Foundation for Engagement

Employee Expectations: Building a Foundation for Engagement

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Episode 22
  • Mike McDonald shares how crucial it is for employees to know what's expected of them at work in this Q12 for Coaches podcast on item Q01.

On this special edition of Called to Coach, we will spend time investigating the experiential, emotional and empirical aspects of each element of Gallup's Q12 engagement instrument and learning how it increases the power of our coaching as a primary driver of success. This series will be hosted by Dr. Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup, who started at Gallup in 1990 as a manager/team leader and has had a variety of roles but has always led a team. One of his primary concerns for managers is one that he's experienced himself: How many well-intentioned team leaders are there who are working really hard but don't have any coaching or context about engagement and how do they lead to engagement through their strengths?


In this session, Mike talks about Q01 -- "I know what is expected of me at work." Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.

Jim Collison: We are going to cover Q01 today, which is "I know what is expected of me at work," and we have some standard expectations to cover. Where are we going to go and what are we going to do?

Mike McDonald: Well, Jim, as we've established in the first call, we want to continue this outline of empirical -- emotional -- experiential. Empirical involves helping you stand on Gallup research so you know what is true. We want to make sure we don't miss the heart and soul of engagement, which is the emotional. And the experiential -- we want to share stories and case studies and examples that give us a personal connection. We want to keep those three in front of us.

We also want give you resources that are available to you as a coach, to drive performance. The first is First, Break All the Rules -- the more recent edition that you want to make sure you get (from 2016), for two reasons: 1) embedded within that book is a CliftonStrengths code; 2) there is also a code that allows up to 10 people to take the Q12, and the leader gets a report for those 10.

Just imagine, through the book you can present someone you're coaching with self-awareness (about their Top 5 strengths) but targeted toward the engagement of the group they're representing.

Also, Gallup has just released its Born to Build book. When you think about a "business-builder bundle," think about the coaching span available to you as you have a client take the entrepreneurial assessment in Born to Build and then bring that down another level to how they drive their entrepreneurial ability through their own strengths. But then always with the context of creating and driving and building a business through a culture of engagement. So some real opportunities and resources to get broad and powerful in how you aim your own capacities as a coach.

Another book I'll reference today is 12: The Elements of Great Managing, a follow-up to First, Break All the Rules. 12 has a global and exhaustive qualitative study of the world's greatest leaders as they act on each of the Q12. So you'll hear stories from the field from around the world on driving engagement.

The other (resource) is our State of the American Workplace report. A few teasers for our conversation: Gallup's Millennials report (millennials will represent 70% of the U.S. workforce in the 2020s) and our Performance Management paper (traditional performance management is not keeping up).

JC: You can find all of the books on or Amazon, and the reports are on Let's dig in to Q01. When you don't get this one right, it's hard to get the other 11 to work, so this is really foundational.

MM: It's a trick because it appears straightforward, but half of the planet fails to deliver a "strongly agree" (from its workers). Imagine a day, a year or a career in a job where you don't know what you're supposed to do. The motivational center of this is: Focus me. Help me make sense of my world. "Missing the mark" on this involves not being clear on, or not liking, the direction in which the organization is headed. Part of it also involves our day-to-day responsibilities -- including receiving multiple or different instructions from different managers.

Think about matrixed teams (84% say they are part of a matrixed team to some extent), remote teams (43% of the workplace is remote), onboarding and the almost assault of information inside of an organization, and how many disconnects there can be in the dissemination of information. Or perhaps we get hired to do one thing, but then get recognized or rewarded for doing something else. Just 41% of employees strongly agree that their job description aligns with the work they're asked to do. And only 43% (strongly) agree that they have a clear job description. Only 12% say their company does a great job of onboarding new employees. So there is a ton of opportunity there.

JC: You talked about onboarding. We produce a lot of activity around hiring and wooing new employees. Knowing what's expected starts on Day 1, but you would be surprised that six months later, our data show, how many are still struggling in that area. This is the power in this (item). Sometimes you can't tell where everyone is unless you get everyone to take this (Q12) assessment at the same time. It opens up the dialogue on knowing what is expected when you sit in a group and find out how everyone is feeling.

MM: You're right on point. As coaches, we get to reposition those items as questions. The first thing we do as a coach is to establish a relationship and sort through our expectations of each other. I love that modeling effect (about expectations) as we connect with team leaders, to enable them to have these conversations with (their teams). And we could ask this question about engagement (Q01) almost daily. Think about how much confidence and certainty there is if we can strongly agree with this (Q12 item). When we can answer it well for ourselves, we can help others add clarity to what they're doing.

When we look at those who are newer to the workplace, only 54% of millennials say they know how to prioritize their responsibilities at work (vs. 71% of older generations). So priorities/knowing what's expected is different at different stages. For millennials who ARE engaged, almost 70% say their manager helps them establish priorities. So for managers, a call to action is, Get with your people.

JC: This first question speaks to the leader more than anybody else. As coaches, when we reach those leaders/managers, we can have an amazing impact. The exponential growth and the financial growth happens at the manager level. When a manager is getting it right and setting the tone, it can really change an organization. And that is littered throughout that case study [of a hotel manager].

MM: When leaders are categorically engaged, their managers (those who report to them) are 39% more likely to be engaged. And teams that have engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged.

JC: It's an enormous impact, and coaches have a great opportunity as they're coaching leaders to make a difference. And the great thing is that organizations can measure and manage that on their own; they can sort their teams, find where (engagement) is done really well and celebrate successes -- what's going right? That's an important discussion, and it's a lot easier when everyone is taking the same assessment.

When we think about the challenges managers face, what kind of hope or tips can you give in that area?

MM: First, Break All the Rules is a great starting place. There are best practices to help us navigate this. By focusing on outcomes, not steps, we have space to operate within our strengths, not prescriptively. And it works; we see this in our research. We create the space for a person to be themselves and let their raw talent convert itself to performance, so when we think back to our definition of engagement -- involved, enthusiastic and committed -- that commitment (helps) people follow through.

Trap doors to avoid: "perfect people" -- we presume that if it worked for us, it will work for everyone. And if our teams lack talent (that is, they're not like us), we'll make up for it with more rules. So the focus on outcomes helps us avoid that trap door -- there are many roads to success.

Another (trap door) is that trust takes a while to arrive at, and that can produce a reliance on rules (to reach an outcome) as well. The relational proximity that the team leader as a coach can create can close these gaps and accelerate trust.

Final trap door: Sometimes outcomes aren't as easy to reach, so we resort to steps. Don't give in to this. A few rules of thumb:

  1. Don't break the bank (some rules/protocol may be necessary in some industries to protect people, resources, finances).
  2. If there is a regulation or protocol that is part of your law, at the government level, make sure we position ourselves around that.
  3. Don't let the "creed" overshadow the message/the outcome.

The best managers:

  1. Are resilient and tenacious about defining and discussing expectations. They don't ever assume.
  2. Are clear, collaborative and aligned -- making sure that they constantly engage in these coaching conversations to recalibrate. Invite team members into conversations about expectations. Frequency matters; the team leader should express accountability and availability.
  3. Keep going back to the drawing board. How clear are we on expectations?

JC: We have to remember, selection is a really important part of this -- picking the right talent for the right job. That's another part of the equation. Talent needs to align with role.

MM: If we can squarely address that expectations piece, then we have the opportunity to see where talent is sorting or not.

JC: If you're not measuring anything today (about engagement), this is a great place to start. 35 million people have gotten this measured; you don't have to work hard to get it done. Ask a few questions, compare them to the global (Q12) database. Mike, let's wrap this up with some additional resources.

MM: One course that stands out is our Engagement Champions, a 2-day course. It helps you as a subject matter expert, along with a team leader, to deliver best practices for their teams. The second one is our Leading High-Performance Teams, also a 2-day course, which will help you understand team leading through the power of strengths, plus using engagement to drive performance. We also have a Performance Management paper (available on for download).

Mike McDonald's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever and Focus.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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