Q: I am frustrated. I have someone experienced on my team who I know has the potential to develop and contribute a great deal more. But despite all my best efforts it’s just not happening.  It’s not a performance management issue but I know they are giving me only ‘just enough’.  And this year I need everyone firing on all cylinders.  I’m looking for new ideas!

A: A good first step is to think about whether it’s a “can’t cook”, “won’t cook” or “used to cook well but doesn’t now” situation. And consider whether it’s a problem of knowledge, attitude or skills.  Does that narrow it down?

However, I sense that you may need to go back to foundations here. It sounds like your person is not currently engaged in their job.  By that I mean they are not really paying attention, passionate about it or ready to go the extra mile.  So you can try to build their knowledge and skills but without a different mindset nothing much is going to happen.  But you can use some practical nudge strategies from brain science to help.

Here are 3 big ways of building brain engagement. Explore if any of these could work for you.

  1. Coherence. Is the work environment coherent? – How could you make what’s happening or needed clearer, more consistent and easy to understand? Brains engage when there aren’t conflicting messages.
  2. Contribution. Knowing you are contributing gives your brain a big dopamine hit, a great reward. So consider how you enable them to contribute, how you appreciate them properly, what suits their personality type and critically how you systematise how you talk to them so it happens regularly. Remember you’re looking to build on any bright spot of behaviour. It’s much easier to get them going by doing more of something they do already and then flexing.
  3. Interpersonal Connection. We are wired for human connection, even if we are introverts. It’s how early humans survived and good connections boost the oxytocin in our brains, which reduces our stress. Another reward. This is a delicate one because again you need to work out how this individual likes to connect to others. But ask yourself, how can I build trust, how should the contact levels be, how can I increase inclusiveness or build a sense of tribe and how could I encourage collaboration in different ways?

Only you know the practical things that will work for you. Let us know how you get on.

If you would like coaching to tackle this type of challenge or a problem you think stems from a lack of team engagement, do give us a call. We develop practical programmes to suit you.

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