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Tap Into Staff's Emotional Intelligence

Acknowledge high performers to drive employee engagement.

While most employees are willing to give more effort than ever, the methods to engage your staff's hearts, minds, and energy have changed, says training and development consultant Crystal Jonas, president of Tap Your Genius, Inc.

Employees look for on-the-job autonomy, mastery, and a defining purpose from their leaders, she says. Outstanding service organizations tap into employees' "emotional intelligence" and use consistent, clear communication to fully engage staff in their defining missions.

But only 41% of employees understand what distinguishes their company from the competition.

"Hard work is not the goal," says Jonas. Using the example of Sisyphus from Greek mythology, who was cursed with pushing a giant rock up a mountain for eternity, only to watch it roll back down, Jonas says the best leaders "connect boulder-pushing with community-building."

It's important to recognize team members, but leaders must practice discernment, Jonas says. That means leaders should recognize all employees for their unique contributions to the team, yet only reward the high performers.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey of senior business executives, public acknowledgement of high performers is the No. 1 driver of employee engagement.

Jonas echoed hockey great Wayne Gretzky, who said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been," in the context of understanding that people's needs and interests change over time.

A strong leader will recognize this evolution and stay one step ahead to ensure employees maintain their long-term engagement, enthusiasm, and a clear understanding of the organization's mission and goals, according to Jonas.

Above all, a company's internal culture is driven from the top, Jonas says. At world-class service organizations like The Walt Disney Co., managers are expected to recognize their employees.

This creates a team of "brand ambassadors"—employees so excited about their organization, they continue to share that enthusiasm even after they leave the workplace.