“A fish rots from the head down” as the ancient proverb goes. What it means is that when an organisation fails it is the leadership that is the root cause. I tend to agree.

As leaders, it is ultimately our responsibility. We are responsible for the culture in our business. We are responsible for the level of engagement of our team. Or the ongoing employment of totally disengaged staff members.

If the team are not engaged we, as leaders need to address and rectify the situation. Why aren’t they engaged? How do we fix the problem? Can we fix the problem?

Yes, we can, and we should.

I have learned from experience that there are usually three reasons staff members are not engaged. They are not satisfied, they do not feel empowered or they are not interested.

The first two can and should be addressed, the latter will continue to be a problem and needs to be removed. When employees are not engaged they are not only impacting productivity, they are also affecting other team members. Attitude is contagious whether it’s positive or negative.

We now make sure engagement is discussed at interview level and if we see a problem it is dealt with promptly. This has served us well and we now have a fully engaged team. It has made an enormous difference to our business, and my leadership.

If you have staff engagement problems you can feel better knowing you have plenty of company. Research tells us that less than 25% of staff are engaged, the others are either not engaged or actively disengaged.

Imagine the increase in productivity and profits in your business if you turn these figures around? Imagine how much better the culture in your workplace will be? Imagine the impact on staff retention and reduction in sick leave?

As a leader it is your responsibility to engage your staff.

How do you do that?

Communication, training and assessment. If that doesn’t work and you have staff members who are actively disengaged, you need to let them go. It really is as simple as that.

Be open with your team and let them know what you want to achieve. Let them know what a fully engaged team looks like.

Most importantly, lead by example.

  • Are you fully engaged?
  • Do you set high standards for your team?
  • Do they clearly understand what you want them to do?
  • Do you share the vision and purpose with them?
  • Do you challenge and empower your staff members?
  • Do you acknowledge them for their achievements?

How your team is performing is a reflection on you as a leader. It is your job to develop and empower other leaders. Show them first-hand what excellence looks like. The fish rots from the head down, and excellence thrives from the head down.

Whether you have uninterested, apathetic staff or an amazing, fully engaged team, you are responsible.