Can Meaning Create Team Engagement?

One of the biggest drivers for employee engagement and performance is that they find meaning in their work.  Yet for some jobs it might be hard to imagine the “meaning” of work for let’s say a Bill Collector.

Yet having spent a couple of decades in that business and working for some of the best firms in that industry I can tell you there is a difference in the firms where the front line staff is connected to a bigger purpose compared to those that are just dialing for dollars to collect a paycheck.

What role does the manager have and how can they support the innate drive for meaning? My observation is there are four thing s:

  1. The ability to progress and use a variety of skills in the performance of their job. In the case of the best bill collectors I saw them use the following:
    1. Deep listening
    2. Problem solving
    3. Creative thinking
    4. Negotiations
    5. Influence
  2. Impact on others
    1. The organizations that shared with collection teams what impact their work was having on specific clients had significantly better results than those that only showed how individuals did. By telling Bob that the work he did, helped the hospital in Iowa improve cash flow by 3 days of AR (A credit rating factor) so they were able to lower their bond ratings. That is meaningful impact.
  3. Accountability
    1. This is counterintuitive as we are conditioned that accountability is blame. There is a distinction. To be accountable means that when something goes wrong (or right) someone is accountable and should account for what happened so that the knowledge can be shared. To be blamed is to censure or punish. If this is the goal then organization will not grow because people will hide. If we are held accountable and we debrief the organization can learn and grow.
  4. Frequency of contact and reinforcement
    1. The highest performing firm I was at, had daily report-ins on performance. What was anticipated versus what posted.
    2. They had weekly status where representative’s performance to goal was shared.
    3. They had twice monthly quotas to keep a sense of urgency on performance
    4. They delivered a monthly organization check in with news of the organization, new clients and team learning.

As you look at your organization and ask “how do I get my team engaged”, ask yourself:

  • “How can I help my team gain mastery”? I know one patient account manager that laid out what she felt were basic competencies for an account representative at the most junior, middle and senior levels. Then as each rep was able to demonstrate that competency they were give a promotion to Account Rep II and Account Rep III and they got a raise. And they felt progression.


  • As leaders we are connected to a picture that the front line often does not see. That is as it should be. And it is incumbent upon us to share that bigger picture. It really does not take that much longer to add into the communication, that we should be having with our team, the effect they are having in the world.


  • Accountability, I watch new managers struggle with this by either letting it roll, or by talking to everyone generically about performance. It is an art to hold each member of the team accountable in a way that inspires them to step up as opposed to deflating them and having them get defensive. It gets really great when team members are able to hold each other accountable.


  • And I would love to tell you that this is one and done so you can go back to work…but it’s not. As my friend Todd Musselman says, there is no “There”. You want to set up a frequency and rhythm to your communication and feedback with your team. There is a resonance that happens. Think about it. The military does not March long distances into battle any more. We have advanced transportation. Yet we still do a lot of marching. Science shows us that if you and I walk in a cadence we will come into alignment. You can get your team into a rhythm as well.

Wishing you and those you care for all the best in the New Year.


If you would like to learn more about how communication can help your teams align, engage and execute please send me an email at [email protected]

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