080. Idea – Keys to Building an Engaged Team Transcript
Whether you’re a manager, whether you’re an individual, pro or executive, the more engaged you have, everyone’s working together, then the higher probability is you can get to whatever you’re looking for to bring together at the end, the team working together is the core part of how that’s going to start to begin with. It’s gotta be the foundation. Otherwise you can bet that you’re not going to be successful.
Welcome to EECO Ask Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics spotlights the heroes that keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger, and on this time we do not cover the latest features of benefits on products that come to market. Instead, we focused on advice and insight from the top of minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have an idea episode, and we’re going to be talking about keys to building an engaged team and to help us walk through that I have Nirpal Sihota who is the Director of Industry Sales at Rockwell Automation. So welcome, Nirpal.
Thank you very much, Chris, looking forward to the conversation.
Absolutely. I’m very excited to sit and talk to you about this. When we were brainstorming about it, the topic came up about engagement and that was a passion of yours around building engaged teams. I’m very excited. So maybe start us off by just painting a picture what that engaged team looks like for our listeners.
Yeah, a great question. That picture of what an engaged team look like to me is when someone is able to bring their best self, to work on an everything they do. And probably do that without worrying about the results immediately.
So if you can think through and picture your own teams that are out there and how invested are they into the work that they’re doing? Are they waking up every day trying to worry about reading emails and calendars to be reactive to what they’re doing, or are they looking to what is it that we really need to get done and really focused on developing and being ready to go after it?
So when I painted that picture, I look for that team that’s just, superly engaged in trying to help drive the bigger picture of where Rockwell’s trying to go, or just any teams trying to go versus the small, reactive, tactical things that we all know need to get done and will get done. That will help me understand Hey, do I feel this team is engaged? And that goes for not only the work team, but any team that I’m part of. They’re always indicators on how energized they are and how ready they are to be involved into this discussion.
I guess sometimes it’s easy as a team member, if I’m reacting to something, I feel like I’m doing my job versus like you say, you’re not focused on really what needs to be done and what we committed to there’s a gap and misalignment, correct?
Correct. And don’t get me wrong. The tactical things need to get done. And this isn’t a delegation, make others do the work, but everyone should know what are the key things that their team, their company, whoever it may be, is trying to get done. And if every day people working to try to help move the needle on that, then that’s when you know, you’ve got a fully engaged team. Because then they’ll probably bring the creative juices to the table.
They’ll try to go try something that they haven’t tried before. They’ll learn something on their own to be ready for that conversation. When it’s there. And that will tell you’ve got the team that’s thinking broader and wider and bigger because we’re all going to be getting tactical things done on a daily basis. And getting all that stuff done. And so those are usually good telltale signs when you’ve got a picture of what an engaged team looks like.
No doubt. Absolutely. To those signs, what would be some headwinds though, when it’s not engaged to that level?
One of the headwinds that I find is the manager themselves. I think we all get sucked into the whirlwind and we all get sucked into the daily tactical things and what you’ll end up finding it is oftentimes one of the reasons is the manager themselves as pulling them into the tactical daily things that need to get done.
Now, again, those things need to get done, but a good manager would actually help get the fire issue resolved and then pull that person’s head back up and said, okay, now let’s get above those forest trees again. What are you doing on the larger strategy? What are you doing on the bigger picture? How are we leveraging this?
So for instance, if someone’s automation system goes down, let’s jump into it and let’s fix it and let’s take care of it. But the second it’s over, it’s okay, now where are we with our driving X, Y, and Z with this customer or this engagement. So that person stays a little bit above board and getting that bigger picture stuff done. So that’s usually one headwind that I see.
The second headwind I see is people aren’t in alignment or an agreement to where the company’s philosophy and strategy is. And it’s okay that if you have a differing opinion on something or don’t see something the same way as someone else. But you’re going to also have to recognize, Hey maybe that’s not the right company for you, or maybe this isn’t the right team for you right now because you don’t agree or don’t align.
And so your willingness to reflect on that and being able to say that is usually a good opportunity, because otherwise it becomes a head wind because you don’t have someone really willing to engage and being involved into it. Those are usually the top two indicators for me are common headwinds. It’s usually that manager and a person just not buying into the overall vision and where we’re trying to get to.
Right. What if that person is you and you’re having that trouble with misalignment? What would you say to them? Or what guidance would you offer?
It goes back to a little bit of that first point, right? We want you to bring your best self to work. We want you to enjoy what you’re doing. We want you to have fun while you’re doing it.
If you’re not doing that, Hey, it’s okay that we go find something else to do that more aligns to that for that person. And so people do have to self-reflect a little bit and just acknowledge and understand that they have to be able to wake up every day feeling this is what I want to be doing.
And if it’s not, that’s okay. I think people would help people move them into a different team in the same organization, or even help them go do something else if that’s just not where they want to be and what they want to be doing.
Now from the leader standpoint or the manager standpoint, when you see that how could they address that? Either positively or negatively, to have that impact on the team or on that specific team members who struggling with that?
Yeah. I think the manager would know that because again, they’re going to see first and foremost as the best effort being put in by that individual of getting that work done. And they’re going to have to be willing to have that conversation with the person. Manager is the closest person to the team and they’re gonna need to know, Hey, do I believe this person is or is not?
And then they should have a real important sit down discussion and then be empathetic and understand the other person’s point of view, but also just make sure that if this isn’t what they really want to be doing and what they don’t enjoy, be honest with them that will help them find something else in doing so. This isn’t a firing situation.
This is not a we’re going to let you go. This is an opportunity to really make sure those alignments and those conversations are together and positive and not just Verbiage on a PowerPoint that everyone just stares at. And so for a manager, they have to make the real things. But again, I think they have to be willing to have that conversation with people.
Oftentimes managers won’t be willing to have conversations with those people. And because of that, they just kick the can down the road with that person and then find out when that person offers to lead themselves or when they do their surveys and give input about how unhappy they are, it’s because they didn’t want to have that conversation.
Why do you think that is? Because it’s simply an uncomfortable conversation?
Yeah. It’s exactly that. We’re all people, right? People are complex and so some people will fear the unknown of that conversation. What if this person doesn’t like that conversation? What if they’d yell at me? What if I just make them even more dis engaged? And so I think people will sometimes even talk themselves into the worst case scenario. Worst case scenario oftentimes or, worrying oftentimes is just planning for the worst, right? You’re assuming the worst.
I think it’d be surprising on how often, if you have those conversations that once people share their true feelings and really let go on what’s on their mind, how more engaged they may be after that conversation than ever before. But it takes a manager to be courageous to go have that conversation.
I love that. Worrying is planning for the worst, versus just embracing it. There’s a book, I’m sure you’re familiar with fierce conversations. That just really, it’s about getting out from behind yourself and comfort zone and hitting those areas directly but professionally. Because it’s good to have fierce conversations at work, but you can’t shy away from it, particularly if you’re in a leadership role.
They always talk about how sometimes we look at the results and really put people managers in that are based on the results. And I can tell you more and more when we’re hiring people, we expect that their experience as an education are all going to be coming similar or going to be even enough between all the different people that it’s not going to be the difference maker.
It’s going to be their ability for their emotional intelligence, their ability to really engage people and these other softer skills that are becoming more and more important on a daily basis. We’re trying to find those on a daily basis when we hire our managers, because we know it’s going to become more and more important.
And if they’re not willing to have those courageous conversations or drive that engagement with their team, they’re not going to be successful as we move forward. Everyone can point to some results they’ve always done, but it’s harder to point to when you make someone feel better and engage them. It’s just a different way of looking at things.
Right, no doubt. This is been very insightful information here and speak to maybe the people that are working in industrial environments. And a lot of time in those environments, there are multiple teams, working within. So any advice you’d offer up around engaging with those other teams in a proactive manner?
Yeah. Number one, just be willing to meet someone new and talk to someone new. You never know if the person you walked by today might not be someone you work with tomorrow. Whether that’s in a manager role or just a peer role. And so in the industrial environment with so many teams, it’s always good to network and go learn about what others do.
Whether it’s in your own organization or organizations you’re talking to. The more you learn, the more information you understand, the more opportunities you’re going to have around really understanding people even more and understanding things even more.
Two. I always think about, you’ve got certain people that you trust, ask them who else they should be talking to within that organization or company to really spend some time and learning from. You’d be surprised that your mentor, your trusted advisor, your ally, champion, whatever that term may be on one, whether it’s your own company or other companies.
They probably could tell you the three, four other people that you should probably go get to know and get to meet and get to engage with, to really learn more about the company and learn more about the people as well. I think we all walk away from having those great one-on-one conversations and never asked the followup question of hey, who else has maybe dealing with this issue or what else is out there that might be talking about this?
And I think everyone would be surprised that if they asked that one or two more questions, they could probably go learn a lot more and engage with others that they just never thought about engaging with.
Yeah, no doubt. In one thing, you’ve mentioned that a couple of times through that answer the importance of mentors and being able to go out and ask for that. Solicit that feedback. We hear that a lot on the EECO Asks Why. Particularly hero conversations. We talk a lot about mentors and importance of that, but it really sounds like for you, that’s a key component that from building that engaged team, the ability to recognize the importance of mentors and seeking them out.
One of the key things that I think a lot of people have is obviously their experiences and education, and it is plentiful that’s out there. It’s just abundant whether the person’s been around for many years in the industry, or even recently. But everyone has them. The only way someone can learn it or more importantly, that someone can offer it to others is that they have a conversation with others.
And so when you’re an early career person in Rockwell and they asked me a question around, Hey, what’s one of the success factors here in Rockwell? I always talk about networking. Go and meet more people in this organization, especially when it’s early on. Eventually you’ll find a mentor along the way.
Cause you’ll find a kinship with someone that really vibes correctly. But the more people you meet, the more people you talk to, the more that they can use their education and experience to really help that person as well. And I feel like most people are willing to offer that.
They just don’t get to ask that question. And so people have to be willing to go ask that question and say, can I learn from you? Can you help me on this? Because I think most people are genuinely wanting to help them.
Yeah. Maybe it’s just a shyness or, a reason that we don’t just naturally go out and ask for that help more naturally. I’m not sure.
I think people get very hung up on looking at people’s titles. And assuming that, Oh, that person’s really important which they are. At the end of the day, they’re all people. And the willingness to have that conversation again, you’d be surprised on how down to earth most people are in an organization when you go spend some time with them and really get to know them.
And if you’re willing to be curious and ask questions and ask the why, most people are willing to have that conversation. And going back to our point, Chris, that’s when you know you’ve got an engaged team, right? When you’ve got people that are willing to go learn from others and understand it and then bring it back to their day in and day out stuff that they’re trying to do.
That’s when you know, you’ve got people that are really highly engaged and really feeling that this is where they want to be, and this is what they want to be doing.
No doubt. Absolutely. And through so many guests we’ve had on the show, Nirpal, from high executive level through we spoke to people who just graduating college entering industry, I’m just amazed constantly about how humble, the higher the level the more humble they are and the more willing they are to share and help and ask. And I think they like to be asked for their feedback and to try to really guide people on their paths.
Good discussion, great stuff. And, speaking to the teams themselves, what are you measuring or what are you looking back or in that rear view, from a result standpoint, to know that a team is engaged in and moving in the right direction?
This is one of those soft ones. Cause you can always do the metrics and you can look at the performance. And I do believe that if you’ve got a highly engaged team, the engagement, at least in our field from a sales perspective, does lead to more conversations with customers and eventually leads to some kind of scorecard and wins that we can get to.
Generally speaking, I just see lots of questions. I see people pinging me directly that say, Hey, I’m thinking about this. I’m thinking about that. A what if we did it this way? What if we did it that way? When I start seeing those kinds of indicators, when I start seeing conversations, when we have as a team on pushing back on some ideas and maybe raising some awareness around it, when people are speaking their mind and offering their thoughts without feeling that there’s any repercussions coming. Those are usually those indicators that really tell you, at least tells me, that things are going in the right direction and that they’re headed towards the right way.
Those are soft, you might not be able to capture every one of those on a daily basis and you might not be able to measure it when I say put it on a scorecard. That usually for a manager is a good way to know, Hey, is the team really wanting to be involved and engaged in this conversation. And do they believe in what we’re talking about? And I could usually tell by that because no one’s talking that I’m like, okay, either this agenda point didn’t resonate with anyone or everyone’s checked out at this point, and those are good ways to self-reflect and say, Hey, is this really in the mark or not?
And if not, then let’s move on to the next thing, our next topic, or maybe we just need to restart the strategy because we need to think about it and really be able to do it. So it’s a little bit soft from a measurement standpoint, but I think every manager will know when their team is trying something new, trying something creative, really pushing the boundaries to feel like, Hey, this is working or not working.
And I guess the team member too, has to feel safe and they have to feel like for one, that they have a voice, first of all, then I will be heard when I speak, as well as, Hey, I’m not going to get ripped apart if I challenge this or if I go through that. So that creating that culture to be able to engage at a high level. You’re all over it.
Absolutely. And you said something very important, like they gotta be willing to speak their mind, but they also gotta be willing to understand that if they’d been given a direction that the company, the team, the organization, whatever it may be going, that their voices heard.
But we still got to go get some work done. That’s always the Nirvana point because then everyone understands, Hey, I can speak my mind. I can talk freely, but I realize, Hey, there might be things that we just need to get done. Let’s go get them done though.
Exactly great stuff. What about, your traditional management structures? The way we have them right now? And working with teams. Any common mistakes being made or being overlooked?
Number one, I think when people hire managers that they’re trying to hire people similar to themselves. I think that’s one of the main problems that I see out there is instead of trying to hire people like that are yourselves, really spend time on what is the team needs? What direction, or what type of support do they need? One team may need someone that’s more discipline than the other team may need someone that’s a little bit more caring and loving.
So you really have to look at your team and really make sure you’re not just putting in managers that all look and feel and sound the same because then they all sound like parrots. And then no one really believes in what they’re talking about. I also think that as you build out these management structures and things, you as a person still have to be willing to have conversations with everyone in your organization.
So I make it a proactive point that I call every one of my managers, account managers, and I just personally call them to see how they’re doing and see how things are going. And so the point there is I’ve always open my phone up and availability to have any conversations that are on people’s minds.
That’s not to go over, but one of my managers, but that’s to make it clear, like we’re all on the same team, we’re all working together. There should be no title worries. There should be no hierarchy of thoughts. This is one organization at the end of the day and that’s the way we should be treating it.
So I think as long as you’re able to break that thought process out of people that, that they can’t just pick up the phone and talk to someone that they need to worry about that everyone looks and sounds the same in the organization and it just feels like we’re all marching and looking the same.
I think if you can work on those structures and how you represent your management team, there’s a higher probability that your team will feel more engaged into where we’re trying to get to and why we’re trying to get there.
And know a lot of that to you have to be intentional. You’re talking about being proactive and being available, but if you’re not intentional about being proactive and making yourself available, your team’s not going to recognize that.
Very fair point. It’s easy to say, Hey, my phone is always available. That’s an easy button. Picking up the phone yourself and making that phone call to show it. It is different. And it feels different too. There’s more than one time that you hear from an individual. Hey, thank you for reaching out.
That was really nice of you then usually those are the little indicators when we’re talking where I feel like, Hey that shows that personal touch was more important than just saying my phone is always available. My Skype’s always available. My team is always available. It’s just offering yourself and then being real, if they’re going to do it right.
Its that old action speaks louder than words, right?
We’re in a COVID world now and things that really changed and impacted the way teams engage and interact together. So any ideas or what have you seen work the best to strengthen relationships in the way that we’re having to engage as teams now?
Yeah, there’s been some good examples that I’ve seen out there. I think a lot of companies have encouraged people to do happy hours for instance. Where they’re still encouraging teams to get together and really spend time together. And I think that the biggest thing with that is you can’t bring it back to work during that time for that one hour or for that 30 minutes, whatever it may be.
The conversation should stay personal as much as possible, and really trying to ensure that people are getting to know each other and getting to see how people are dealing with being home. That they might be dealing with the fact that they’ve got kids working at home as well, and just getting to know them and talk about them. I think the very important piece that’s going on right now.
I heard from a peer of mine who talked about that they have personal calls for an hour and they purposely do not talk about work and they didn’t call it a happy hour, but they just called it an hour on the schedule where all they do is just check in with each other and then offer, Hey, how are things going from a personal perspective, just to be able to have those conversations.
And sometimes even if you’re a manager, just starting that call, whatever it may be, even if it’s a staff call to say, Hey, Anyone got any things fun or new that they want to share that they want to bring up. That’s a personal or professional thing. Just giving that personal, that positive vibe right now, I think goes very well in dialogues right now.
There’s enough negativity that we can all fall back into. Any positivity that someone can bring in, especially anyone on the team would probably continue to help make people feel a little bit better about what’s going on.
Yeah, in speaking to the leaders out there who have tried to, you mentioned the virtual happy hours and I’ve been a part of a couple and I’ve noticed it’s easy for it to drift back to work. And it, and then it becomes like a virtual hour of just work talk.
And we don’t talk about anything about the weekend or what’s going on with kids or family, or, just fun stuff. You’re right. You have to have somewhat of a moderator to, Hey, that’s cool. But let’s talk about work later. Really, what’s going on outside?
And I’ve seen some really good examples where people have purposely designated someone to lead the call, or they can actually put a theme behind it. I’ve seen bring your kid to the event or we’re going to talk about your favorite food or whatever it may be just to start that conversation and get it going. Because like you said, Chris, like a hundred percent agree, how easy is it for any of us to bring up something that came up at work and started lamenting about it five seconds into it versus staying focused on something positive.
And really just saying, Hey, this is just to get to know each other. This is not meant to be anything else. It’s an easy button, right? It’s easy to say hey, everyone else feel this way versus, Hey, what about if we look at it from this way?
Absolutely good, great stuff. I definitely loved the virtual happy hours. But done the correct way I think really makes an impact. And I know when we were talking, getting ready for the show and making notes together in Nirpal, you’re a big sports guy. You made that clear. You like your sports man. So how does sports and success of teams and business, how do they relate? Can you talk to that?
Yeah, very much for me, yeah, I am a big sports guy. I’ve always leaned on some of the terminology and some of the way people work as a team, as an organization from top down and seeing their success and always look into that and some envy a little bit, and just being able to say we can duplicate.
I absolutely think the team aspect is the same, right? My favorite sport is basketball. It’s something I still like to play and do on my own, with people down at indoors or outdoors or whatever it may be. And so I watch how they talk about people development or player development. I look to see how much the people are engaging and wanting to participate with eachother.
You can tell when you look at a bench or a team as they’re playing, do they like each other? Do they enjoy what they’re doing or are they just out there running through the motions, right? Just collecting a paycheck. You can tell when they’re coming off to a basketball coming off in time out, whether or not they’re engaging with their manager and talking and saying, Hey, what if we did this?
What if we did that? And you could tell what a managers kind of made a team that can voice those opinions and do some of those things and how engaging it looks at what it looks like. And again, it’s easy to look at the scores at the end of it, to see hey, did that stuff work? Did it just make everyone feel good, but they still lost or did they win on top of everything else?
And so there’s so many parallels in regards to how sports teams are run. How they engage. How the coaches are important and how they all line up. It’s to me I stare at it all the time and just laughed to myself man, that looks like exactly what I’m doing, except for I’m not having to wear a suit and tie and I’m not on national TV while I get to do it. But there’s so many parallels there that it’s amazing.
No doubt, so I am curious of what’s your team for a basketball standpoint?
It is the golden state warriors. I’ve been a fan of theirs for many years and this last 10 years from when they started their journey to be a champion was one of the most fun things I’ve ever gotten a chance to see. My son and I got to actually experience a couple of their big major wins and successes together and got to see it.
If anyone on this call has got a chance to look at, like the way Steve Kerr, the coach works that team. And develops them. How he engage them. All the things we talked about, Chris. He preaches and the way he works in and does things is just amazing on he’s transparent, he’s blunt and honest, but he’s also very much the first person that will stand behind them when things are going good or bad.
More specifically when it’s good, he’s willing to sly off into the background and let them enjoy the accomplishments and what got done. And it’s just amazing to watch how that organization from him all the way through just engages in everyone wants to win and doesn’t in a very positive way.
But you also got to see when it got to a level that someone on the team or multiple people on the team didn’t want to be there, how that kind of manifested itself out too. And what that looked like and made the opportunity that when the opportunity came for them to go somewhere else they were complimentary and helpful and positive about it and said time for us to move on
No doubt. Great analogy. Thank you for opening that up for our listeners and for the people that are listening to Nirpal and they want to learn more or they want to learn how to be a better team member or to better engage their teams, any resources you recommend?
There’s some great books. There’s an author called Patrick Lynn Sunni who’s he’s a consultant and as he worked in multiple industries, he’s decided to build out books on effective company teaming, effective company communication, and just how those things manifest themselves in the organization.
I enjoy his books. He’s the one that came up with the five dysfunctions of a team. Silos, politics and turf wars. And the other things of death by meeting and the ideal team player. I’ve always enjoyed his book. Only from the anecdotal perspective of really being able to self reflect as some of the examples and stories comes about and say, Oh yeah, I do that.
Or, Oh yeah. I’ve seen that too. And being able to use that to really then do that self reflection of what things could look to be better. And how they can look to be better that are out there. That’s one area that I usually point people to, if they’re, whether they’re a team or a management, just to be able to really spend time and reflect first and foremost on are we together? Are we engaged or not?
Okay, thank you for that. And we’ll put a link in our show notes for the listeners. They can check out that resource and learn more. And this has been just a fun, a wonderful conversation. I’ve learned a lot and we call it EECO Asks Why. Wrap up at the end of the conversations with the why.
So for the listener out there, that may be wondering, why it’s focusing on building these engaged teams to the level that you’ve talked about in Nirpal. Why is that so important to the success of industry in the future?
Great question. You’re only as good as your team. Everyone can try to be an individual and try to do their best. But when they’re all working as part of a team, then things can really move and things can really progress and things can really happen that lead to the results that you want to get to at some point. And you can’t get to those results if you have a team that’s disengaged and not wanting to be there, you’ll just have a bunch of individuals and another sports analogy there’s a terminology of the disease of me.
It gets to a point where people are more worried about themselves and more worried about what recognition they should be getting. And they’re more worried about why am I not getting that recognition? Why am I not getting paid more? Becomes an I think. And when you have that built out into your team, that’s the way you create your team to be an individual, as opposed to an engaged team.
Those people are not going to be around. They’re not going to be driving people to want to work together. They’re not going to be enjoying what they do. And that inevitably leads to turnover. People start leaving. People don’t enjoy what they’re doing. People are not going to bring their best self to work.
And those things just lead to a disorganization and unsuccessful company quite honestly. And so whether you’re a manager, whether you’re an individual, pro, or executive, the more engaged you have, everyone’s working together, then the higher probability is you can get to that trophy at the end. You can get to that value you’re trying to bring to your shareholders. You can get to whatever you’re looking for to bring together at the end, but the team working together as a core part of how that’s going to start to begin with, it’s gotta be the foundation. Otherwise you can bet that you’re not going to be successful.
You’ll just continue to build a team that always seems to be in a sports term, always in that lottery are always drafting high. Cause they’re never moving the needle to be an organization that’s considered a top organization.
No doubt. This has been just a wonderful conversation, lots of insight and wisdom for the listeners out there. And you gave some tips on what to look for, what to be aware of and how to potentially move forward to make those positive improvements. So thank you so much for being a guest and all for everything that you provided on this episode of EECO Asks Why.
Thank you, Chris, for this podcast and what you’re doing and putting people together out there that can help others. And I’ve really enjoyed the conversation.