3 Ways to Step Up Your Personal Leadership and Engagement

by Alli Polin on April 2, 2013

Step up your personal leadership and be responsible for your employee engaged

I’m helping my brother plan his honeymoon because I love travel and actually enjoy doing the digging to find exotic places for great prices.  Maybe I missed my calling as a travel agent, but I vicariously feed my passion for travel every time I plan a trip for family members.

Here’s what I’m running into:

  • Where I would go and stay in Europe on my honeymoon does not necessarily match up with their travel philosophy
  • Limited budget
  • Moving target of the exact time that they will go on their trip
  • They have focused on Spain and I see the whole world as possibilities
  • Everyone, and their grandmother, has ideas about what’s the best choice

I feel like I’ve run into similar circumstances at work time and again over the years.

Sound familiar?

  • Your idea falls on deaf ears because minds are already made up on the one and only path to success
  • Time and money are shorter than your creativity and innovative solutions
  • Go-live is a target that moves over and over due to organizational “happenings” that are often out of your control
  • Opinions are everywhere with few real solutions behind them

Faced with challenge after challenge, it’s tempting to disengage, go through the motions, get through the work at hand, and move on to the next big thing.  Personally, I have to admit that at times, instead of stepping up as a leader, I’ve been tempted to step out and disengage, but then I remember, it’s not about me.

Leadership is more than being skilled at driving outcomes, it requires leaders at all levels to engage and bring the team with them on the journey. 

Leading for the sake of “getting it done” and “achieving the vision” are far different experiences for both the individual leaders and their team.  Pushing actions and solutions, without concern for employee engagement, reduces work to a series of soulless checklists.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the formal leader, as long as you have a desire to collaborate and create exceptional outcomes, you are a leader right where you are.  The key is to never forget that you’re a part of the team (just one member, one voice!) and your personal leadership and engagement should move things forward, not cause apathy, riffs or setbacks. 

Three ways to positively step up your personal leadership & engagement:

Do Your Homework

Instead of rushing to chime in with your great blue-sky ideas, do a little homework to see if they are remotely viable.  Talk to some other people to get their input and suggestion and do a little digging on resources that can potentially help turn your idea into reality.  A little homework will give you, and your idea, some credibility beyond the initial flash of brilliance.

Speak Up

Share your thoughts and ideas instead of simply complaining to others that you disagree with the approach.  Grumbling never eases the way to positive outcomes.  More importantly, your idea will never move forward if you never speak it aloud.  Speak up to give the team a chance to hear and see possibilities that they may otherwise miss.

Let Go

So, you did your homework, shared your ideas and they’re still a no-go?  Let it go.  The goal is not to have it be your way all the time, but instead for you to be an engaged player, in the game, instead of a bystander.  Instead of wishing for what could have been, commit to move forward with the team, reconnect with the vision, and be a leader down the chosen path.  The letting go actually frees you up to fully invest yourself ~ it’s like a deep breath.  Try it.

For my brother, I need to remember why I want to help instead of focusing on the minutia of location, hotel, transportation and sites.  His “why” is to celebrate their marriage and that can be done many different ways.  At work, you also need to remember that the “why” is the bigger desired outcome and to focus on the vision as much as the path.

Remember a time that you wanted to help but instead, unintentionally, ended up being the bully because you could not let go?  What did you learn from that experience?  Tell us about it in the comments below. 

(Photo credit)

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Blair April 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hi Alli!
Great metaphor. I am sure glad you are not a travel agent, but the experience speaks exactly to many a team / client discrepancy. All three tactics are extremely important, but to me, LETTING GO is the hardest part and is an art in itself. I want to hear more about it . . .perhaps another post?!


Alli Polin April 2, 2013 at 10:21 am

Thanks, Blair! I’m glad I’m not a travel agent too 🙂 Hummm… a whole post on letting go. Definitely food for thought! It’s is absolutely the hardest part.


Jennifer Olney April 2, 2013 at 10:15 am

It’s not about you – that’s a big point. Too many leaders forget this one. They may the decisions about how it affect them and not others. We have to see the bigger picture – provide solutions that benefit and provide the best outcome – even if someone is not happy – you have to do what is right for all.


Alli Polin April 2, 2013 at 10:26 am

Too true, Jen. It’s definitely not about the leader’s ego, it’s all about how they support people to achieve the bigger picture and successful outcomes. Despite our best efforts, it’s impossible to make everyone happy all of the time and that should not be the goal. Thanks so much for adding this important point.


Terri Klass April 2, 2013 at 11:25 am

Enjoyed your terrific post, Alli! I find it frustrating sometimes when people can’t or won’t speak up and share their ideas. Then those same people are unhappy with the outcome. Maybe people that can’t assert themselves are merely insecure. But a team can really benefit from every person’s input. Thanks again! And good luck booking the trip!


Alli Polin April 2, 2013 at 11:37 am

Terri – I have no idea why some people would rather complain than share their ideas. Makes no sense to me. If you’re on the team, speak up, get in the mix, collaborate & engage ~ the team benefits from the voices of all, not just a few. Many thanks for your comment. Gets me thinking about the resistance to speaking up.


AJ Borowsky April 2, 2013 at 11:26 am

I’m a disengager – I admit it. I’m able to rebound but often my reaction is to check out. It usually takes some time as I’m also patient (and stubborn) but eventually I will check out – for a short period of time.

For me disengaging is letting go, stepping back to see the bigger picture. It’s what I do after I’ve had time that makes the difference – do I stay away or come back re-energized? Usually it’s re-energized but sometimes you just have to move on.


Alli Polin April 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

I’m crazy stubborn too, AJ. Love how you put it – letting go is stepping back to see the bigger picture. You’ve said exactly what I was trying to express… refocusing on “why” and finding a new way to re-energize and engage can be powerful. It’s also possible that the step back will tell us that it is absolutely time to step out when we’re really honest. Thanks for bringing your real experience to this post! Totally resonates with me.


Dan Forbes April 2, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Focusing on the WHY, gives us great perspective as you note. Your brother is lucky to have your help.


Alli Polin April 3, 2013 at 12:14 am

Not sure my brother would agree 😉 I do think that by reframing my support, I can take on a different role and perspective. Thanks for your comment, Dan!


Alice Chan April 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Great reminder, Alli, to not lose sight of the real reason for wanting to do something. Sometimes we get so wedded to our ideas or what we think may solve or improve things that we fail to see that others aren’t on board. When they aren’t on the same page, we can’t really bully our way in, like you said. If they don’t see the value of our proposed ideas/solutions, they won’t do any good, even if they are objectively really great. Thank you for reminding us to focus on the real issues and not our ego’s insistence on what’s right.


Alli Polin April 3, 2013 at 12:13 am

Alice, Thank you for sharing this. You’ve really hit on what I was trying to express: “focus on the real issues and not our ego’s insistence on what’s right.” Many thanks!


Amber-Lee Dibble April 2, 2013 at 11:41 pm

How about the bully with the ego the size of Alaska?
Been there too.
Too bad I wasn’t right…

THAT is what I learned from that wonderful lesson. (Wonderful, because this lesson didn’t break any bones!) What I learned was to remember, even IF I think my idea is the better one, the right one…

#1. I better be right.
#2. Listen and think HARD…not about how I can change someone’s mind… but about what was said, try to actually SEE it, understand it.
#3. Do NOT allow myself to be the BULLY. Be the Leader. Make the right choice.


Alli Polin April 3, 2013 at 12:16 am

Ahhh… Bully with the ego the size of Alaska… meet the bully with the ego the size of Australia… but it’s shrinking by the minute. Thank goodness that we can learn from our experiences instead of simply moving through them without a thought. Love your three points ~ each one rings true. Many thanks, Amber-Lee!


Jon Mertz April 3, 2013 at 7:31 am

Alli, Thanks for sharing your experiences and how they relate to sound leadership practices. Letting go is a key one. For me, it is very frustrating when someone presents an idea and we agree it is not the right thing to do. Yet, a few weeks pass and the idea is presented again…. and again. There may be a “right” time to bring an idea back, but continuously doing it gets very stale and, well, frustrating. We need to release and move forward. Appreciate all your great leadership insights! Jon


Alli Polin April 4, 2013 at 12:32 am

Jon – I’ve been there too! Excellent example of how letting go of an idea and embracing the direction the team is heading is leadership. There is definitely an impact on the team when an individual says that they’re moving forward but in reality they are still stuck.

Many thanks for sharing this example!


House of stamina April 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm

You are totally right but it takes an understanding to realise that we must not always force our way when it is not taken. I agree with you and will like to hear more from you. Thanks


Alli Polin April 7, 2013 at 9:15 am

Thanks for your comment! Too often we’re unwilling to let go of our way. Beging stubborn has rarely gotten anyone where they want to go in the end


Dr. Christi Hegstad April 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

Wonderful perspective, Alli! The suggestion to “let go” is important – and often difficult. A mantra that we’ve adopted in one of the leadership groups I facilitate is “high intention, low attachment” – in other words, envision your ideal outcome but don’t become stuck by/in the details. I so agree with your comment that letting go leads to freedom! Thanks for sharing. [Great photo supporting this article, too ;-)]


Alli Polin April 23, 2013 at 3:37 am

Christi – Thanks so much for your comment! I absolutely love that mantra and am so glad that you shared it here: “High intention, low attachment” It’s our intentions that matter, now how we get to our desired outcomes. Too often leaders get stuck on the how instead of the why.


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