Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Why Employers Need To Engage With A Purpose


Employee engagement is certainly a hot-button issue these days, and with good reason. With businesses struggling to gain a stronger foothold on an increasingly global market, companies are starting to look beyond their current practises in order to find that magic bullet which will give them a competitive edge.

However, some leaders still resist the idea that we need to foster a sense of engagement in the workforce as a possible means of gaining traction in their market, mainly because they don’t see this assomething businesses need to focus on. After all, shouldn’t we expect employees to do the job we’re paying them to do? On the surface, it certainly sounds like a fair and reasonable statement. So why, then, do we need to concern ourselves with engaging our employees? Well, it all comes down to whether we want a group of subordinates as opposed to a team of partners.

It’s a common reality of the business world for companies to view their employees as subordinates – as workers who follow the orders and report to those who lead them. And yet, in the pursuit of developing new approaches to be more competitive and innovative in today’s market, one of the most beneficial changes leaders can make in their business is to view their employees as partners.

The reason for this is simple –treating employees as partners in the process creates an understanding that you have a shared purpose. This means that the leader and their employees have a common goal which they not only collaborate on, but which both parties know they have a tangible role and responsibility to. By shifting our view into seeing our employees as a team of partners, we can developthe following in our workforce:

1. Sense of ownership
By creating this environment where your employees are treated as partners working toward a shared purpose, you will foster in your employees a sense of ownership not simply to their job, but to the whole process. This will encourage not only collaboration between the company’s divisions/teams, but it will also help nurture innovation as employees are motivated to look beyond what they usually work on or how they approach their job.

2.Stronger drive to push ahead
In having this shared purpose with their leader, employees will be driven to get more involved in looking for solutions and helping to improve processes. From this vantage point, your team will see such efforts as not simply being of benefit to one division or another. Instead, their participation in these measures will be done because they have an vested interest as partners to push harder, to make the companies’ products or services better because it’s their objective as much as it’s yours.

3.Leaders have their employees’ best interests in mind
When employees are seen as partners, they will understand that their leaders don’t simply see them as the means to achieve their own personal targets. Instead, there’s an understanding that leaders have a vested interest in helping their employees succeed as they’re both equally impacted by the outcome. As such, leaders recognize that their job is to provide their team with the necessary support and resources, both for reaching the company’s objectives, as well as their employees’ professional goals.

Of course, we have to remember that the objective here is not to create a “happy” work environment, since the last thing that employees want is for their leaders to tell them how they should feel while they are at work. As Eleanor Roosevelt said:

Happiness is not a goal;
it is a by-product.”

In this case, the goal here is to demonstrate to your employees that their work is vital to the success of the company by treating them as partners with a shared purpose, instead of mere cogs in the corporate wheel. Doing this will on its own improve your employees’ sense of happiness at work as a by-product of your efforts to engage them through a shared purpose.

In writing this piece, I found myself recalling a comment we’ve all probably heard from a boss we had at one time or another – ‘my employees don’t need me to tell them they’re doing a good job; they already know that’. Of course, your employees know they’re doing a good job. Part of the job of being a leader, though, is to make sure your team members also know that you are aware of this fact and appreciate the significance of their contribution to your shared goal.

Be sure to check out the next part of this discussion on employee engagement where I look at this answering the question – What can employees do if their company leadership refuses to see the value in creating an engaged workforce? As I’ll show in that post, employees have more power to affect a positive change in their environment than they might otherwise think.

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  1. On February 1st, 2010 at 12:10 PM Sharon Eden said:

    Absolutely concur with everything you’ve written in this thoughtful blog.

    Genuinely respecting and valuing those with whom you work, at all levels, is the starting point here I think. Leaders implementing the above as a ‘strategy’ without developing their own inner leadership, acting as they speak, living the strategy, will easily be identified as fake by the work force.

    Here’s to all the genuine ones!

  2. On February 1st, 2010 at 12:30 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Sharon, I’m glad you enjoyed this piece and I agree with you that for leaders to be able to implement this change, they have to first start with themselves. This approach is not simply another variation of a carrot to dangle in front of your employees, but a fundamental shift in how a leader perceives their role and relationship with their team.

    That in itself can make this a big challenge for some leaders. However, those who lead engaged teams know only too well how valuable the end payoff for this effort is for both their employees and the company.

    Thanks Sharon for sharing your thoughts on this piece. 🙂

  3. On February 1st, 2010 at 2:46 PM ava diamond (@feistywoman) said:

    Wonderful and thought provoking piece, Tanveer. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Getting employees committed to a shared vision and purpose, and helping them see their role in making it happen breeds excitement and commitment.

    The paradigm shift to “partners in making the mission happen and moving toward the vision” is huge…and yields great rewards.

  4. On February 1st, 2010 at 2:52 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Ava. After the enthusiastic response to my previous piece on how easy it is for companies to engage their workforce, I wanted to look at this issue from the viewpoint of why companies would benefit from such an approach to being with. Hopefully the combination of these two pieces – of understanding the why and the ease of committing to doing such today – will compel businesses to see the value and benefit of employee engagement to their company’s future growth and development.

    Thanks again, Ava, for sharing your thoughts in this discussion. 🙂

  5. On February 1st, 2010 at 3:03 PM Dorothy Dalton said:

    Excellent post Tanveer! There is a tendency by many leaders and managers to assume employees are on board, when in fact it’s not a given. The very act of enaging them, leads to commitment and success.

  6. On February 1st, 2010 at 3:39 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Dorothy. One thing a leader should never do is assume that their employees are on-board since, as you said, it’s never a sure thing. But I’d add it’s also disrespectful to your team because you’re only thinking about your own perspective and not that of those around you. With leaders looking at their employees as partners, though, it’s only natural that you’d seek their input to make sure something critical is not being overlooked, or perhaps a way to refine the idea to make it more effective.

    Thanks for contributing your thoughts to this discussion, Dorothy. 🙂

  7. On February 1st, 2010 at 3:50 PM Elad Sherf said:

    Wow! Again a great post Tanveer!
    I really liked this quote:
    “Of course, we have to remember that the objective here is not to create a ‘happy’ work environment, since the last thing that employees want is for their leaders to tell them how they should feel while they are at work” – we tend to assume many things about other people’s feelings and from my experience, people are sometimes get really offended by that.
    I also agree with your points about purpose and partnership. I have written before that part of a manager’s job is to create a sense of purpose for every employee because each and everyone of the employees matters.
    Regarding partnership, I think this a great lesson we can learn from conductors about treating your employees as part of a shared process and not as means to an end.

  8. On February 1st, 2010 at 8:09 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Elad. I think it’s very important that businesses not confuse “happiness” with employee engagement because, honestly, how people express happiness varies from individual to individual.

    And again, the goal here is not to tell your employees how to feel, but to acknowledge and show appreciation for their contribution, something that’s very easy to do when leaders understand they have a shared purpose with their team members.

    Leaders need to think of it this way – if you have a problem, would you prefer being stuck to figure it out alone, or would you rather have a team of partners who would share the problem as part of their job as well? Not a hard choice to be made there.

    Thanks again Elad for adding your comments to this discussion. 🙂

  9. On February 1st, 2010 at 4:50 PM Meredith Bell said:

    Excellent and important points, Tanveer. Those in charge who ignore your message miss out on huge opportunities to meet the deep needs that every human being has – to be recognized, appreciated and engaged in something meaningful. Once a leader does realize the importance of these aspects of building a truly dedicated and motivated team member, everything changes. You can see it in the way people interact with each other not just that boss. And I’ve always hated the term “subordinate” for the very reasons you point out! I appreciate your keen insights and your ability to articulate them so well.

  10. On February 1st, 2010 at 8:27 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Meredith for the nice compliment. 🙂

    I agree with you that there’s a palpable change in a work environment when people feel respected and appreciated by those around them. Granted, fostering this change won’t happen overnight, especially if leaders have been negligent in nurturing it in the first place. But by starting this process of shifting our understanding that our employees are not subordinates, but partners in the process, companies will reap those huge opportunities you refer to in your comment.

    Thanks Meredith for sharing your thoughts on this and I appreciate the kind words. 🙂

  11. On February 2nd, 2010 at 8:12 PM Arafat Hossain Piyada said:

    It’s my first time here and I’m quite impressed with your writing. You are right, a company leader has to engage with employees if they want to maximize benefit, this method is also helpful to stop any annoying situation which may effect company’s productivity in future.

  12. On February 2nd, 2010 at 6:49 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Arafat,

    Welcome to my blog; I'm glad you enjoyed this piece and my writing. One of the key roles a leader has to play is to develop and nurture their team. A key factor to accomplishing that is to ensure you offer recognition and appreciation for your team members; that they see their leader is motivated to guide them and not simply invested in their own personal gains.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this piece. 🙂

  13. On September 11th, 2010 at 10:37 PM Jorge Juan said:

    My first time here Tanveer, congratulations on your post.

  14. On September 12th, 2010 at 2:01 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Jorge. Glad you enjoyed this piece.

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