There are a lot of managers and leaders who suck at leading and connecting.  A leader’s poor leadership behavior keeps me in business.  I do what I do because I hate that there are a lot of people who work in a toxic environment, created by destructive leadership practices.  I was reminded of how much we still have left to do when I ran across a story of a fired coach from St. Gregory’s University.

If you haven’t heard this story, a track and cross-country coach was fired from his job for participating in the Boston Marathon.  The administration claims that the coach supported his own personal goals and was not keeping the university’s goals and needs in mind.  You can read the whole story here.

The story above is an attempt by “leadership” to own and control the people who work for them through rules that are irrelevant to end results.  I hate to break this to you but employees aren’t robots.  They are living, breathing human beings.  They also have things like hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations.  So of these are work related and some of them are not.  It’s crazy, I know.  A great leader finds ways to support an employees personal and professional goals.  What great leaders don’t do is control their employees and micro manage.  Great leaders engage.

How does a leader do engagement right?

1.Get to know your team.  Track coaches get fired for running the Boston Marathon when their leaders haven’t connected with them.  If you don’t know someone really well, it’s easy to get offended by actions that you don’t agree with or wouldn’t do.  If I know someone’s true nature, then I can give someone the benefit of the doubt.  This is known, in some circles, as empathy.

2. Look at results.  If your business or team is moving in the right direction and getting the results that you are looking for, isn’t that what’s most valuable? Results don’t always trump everything else.  You can have an employee that performs well but is a cancer to the team.  However, in most cases, you should give people space if they are getting the job done.  The administration at St Gregory’s was worried that the coach was leaving during the season and that this was disruptive.  I used to run in college, no offense to track and cross-country coaches but, a cross-country practice is pretty damn easy to run.  If our coach took a day off from practice, we still knew how to run.

3. Find Out Personal and Professional Goals. Leaders need to get out in front of the goals conversation sooner than later. Sometimes personal goals do get in the way of someone’s work performance.  Sometimes they don’t.  Don’t be afraid to have a candid conversation about your employees goals and what they want to accomplish.  This is about showing concern for your employee while protecting the goals and culture of the company.

Stories like St Gregory’s only happen when leadership is not engaged with the team that they are leading.  As a company or institution grows, it’s easy to let bureaucracy, rules, policies, etc.  get in the way of employee engagement.  My challenge to you is, how can you create an environment where employees are inspired by the companies’ goals as well as personal goals?  How can you be the leadership catalyst that supports both?