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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Jun 25, 2021

In this episode, Dan Neumann is joined by a return guest and AgileThought colleague, Michael Guiler. Mike has been an agile coach for over 15 years and has experience helping geographically dispersed organizations (in both the business and technology fields) to transform and better achieve their goals. For the last year and a half, Mike has been with AgileThought as an Agile Consultant.


Together, Dan and Mike are discussing employee engagement and what organizations and leadership can do to improve it. Mike shares 2020 employee engagement statistics, what creates engagement, the differences between managers and leaders (and why this is important), and the key tips on what we can all do to drive employee engagement forward.


Key Takeaways

2020 employee engagement statistics:

Only 36% of the people in an organization are actively engaged

50% of the people are “going along for the ride”/are ambivalent

14% of people are actively looking to “get off the train”/actively disengaged

That adds up to 64% of the people in an organization are not giving the best they can give

The good: the actively engaged employee percentage has been consistently going up year after year since 2009

What can we do to improve these statistics? What would make employees more engaged?

People want to do know why they are doing what they’re doing, have autonomy over it, understand what the goal is, and have a purpose

Don’t micromanage people as a manager or leader in an organization

Transition managers into leadership roles

Managers in an organization need to make sure employees understand autonomy, mastery, and purpose if they really want to help motivate and engage their people (Daniel Pink’s book, Drive)

Managers need to make sure that the organization’s vision is very clear to everyone

Ask, “Where are we headed? What are we trying to achieve?” Becoming self-managing and engaging will lead to employee motivation but the goal first needs to be understood

If the vision is too big or too far out, employees can’t visualize it (as a leader, you need to break this vision down into smaller, shorter-term goals so that getting from A-Z is understood)

The product goal should be tied to the organizational vision

If something isn’t fulfilling the goal, end it/throw it away

The goal should be shared early, often, and everywhere

Share examples of things that were accomplished in the organization that fulfill said goal

Managers vs. Leaders (and how leaders can improve employee engagement):

A manager is somebody that is task-oriented, activity tracking, and only concerned about their own actions

A leader is focused on the “us”/what “we” achieved, improving the environment for those who work within it, and enabling their team to succeed

An organization’s duty is to develop its managers into leaders, hire leaders, and foster an environment for leaders

Keep in mind the recent shift to the Scrum Guide from “Servant-leader” to “leading by serving”

It is important for managers/leaders to create a safe environment for people to engage without punishment/ridicule for making mistakes

As a leader, it is important to understand that sometimes good decisions can lead to bad outcomes and bad decisions can lead to good outcomes (so don’t punish, but rather explore this concept and create safety for employees)

Leadership is not proportional to the time spent talking in meetings

You have to give people the space to talk, explore, and share

A tip for giving others space in conversation: Ask yourself before speaking, “Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? And does it need to be said right now?”

Tips for leaders for improving engagement:

Provide clarity on what the problems are that employees are expected to take on

There are many different ways to solve any given problem — as a leader, it is your job to point out the problem and give space to your people to explore the options and solve it their way

Create a safe environment and boost engagement in meetings by asking questions, inviting people to speak, sharing the spotlight, resisting the urge to provide answers

Emphasize “we” language, not “you” or “I” (i.e. if the team experiences “failure,” don’t place the blame on a single individual)

Own your own mistakes as a leader


Mentioned in this Episode:

Michael Guiler’s LinkedIn

Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 121: “Self-Managing vs. Self-Organizing with Michael Guiler”

Agile Coaches’ Corner Ep. 87: “Intent-Based Leadership with Michael Guiler”

“What is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It?” Gallup

“Historic Drop in Employee Engagement Follows Record Rise” Gallup

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, by Annie Duke

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization, by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright

Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale, by Jez Humble, Joanne Molesky, and Barry O’Reilly


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