Four Ways Leaders Ignite Engagement Culture

One of Meghan’s many roles is founder of one of the most popular online communities – #TChat World of Work the first and only chat of it’s kind – which happens live every Wednesday on Twitter from 7-8pmET and 4-5pmPT. So when Meghan explores in her post below the power of community and engaging the people for a common purpose, it’s a good idea to see what she has to say. We’re honored to have Meghan share her wisdom with us again. Read more of her writing on engagement on her Forbes column here and here.

There are leaders who engage naturally with people, and leaders who are simply uncomfortable with engagement at a human level. The former have an advantage over the latter, clearly. Engaged leaders work with employees; those who shun engagement have employees who work for them, not necessarily with them. It’s a distinction with a difference. The engaged leader brings people together to serve a common cause; the disengaged leader hires people and tells them what to do, but never really gives them the reason ‘why’.


If you’re not an engaged leader, leave community building to others who enjoy interacting with people


Employee engagement has many benefits which have been discussed here at length. I’d like to talk about a unique engagement focus: social community building as an extension of an engaged workplace. Engaged leaders naturally and organically build communities of workers who share purpose and motivation. Disengaged leaders may ‘create’ communities, but these are more likely to be PR or marketing constructs, planned communities with an agenda in place of a mission.

So does it matter? Is an organic community inherently better than a planned community? Am I making a distinction without a difference?

Absolutely not. Organic communities win every time, because they have an energy of their own. Planned communities need committees to run them; there’s no energy, only a to-do list.

So how do leaders create energetic communities? Here are four signs that you are igniting an engaged leadership culture.

Organic communities grow when companies have taken the time to humanize their brands

Brand humanization sounds like yet another marketing project but it’s much more nuanced and tied to being a human both in the workplace and in the social/digital world in which we now live. Its roots are in workplace culture and now extend out into the world of blogging, social branding and digital 3.0. Leaders who understand the value of social culture will get this immediately.

Communities grow where there is trust.

Trust is also critical to workplace culture, so a leader can use trust as the foundation of both brand humanization and community-building. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: trust comes before interaction with (or creation of) communities of employees.


The engaged leader brings people together to serve a common cause; the disengaged leader hires people and tells them what to do


Leaders can create the culture for a community; then they have to step back and let the community form, with their support.

Don’t think, if you’re the leader, that you’ll also lead the community. Find a talented social community manager to handle that for you. Your job is to stay open to possibility, to allow the community to grow with your support and a light touch of guidance. You can be a leader and follow in this instance.


Engaged leaders naturally and organically build communities of workers who share purpose and motivation

Leaders create a sense of purpose, which is the energy that informs strong communities.

People unite around shared goals, interests and purpose. This is the why I mentioned earlier. Without understanding why, communities will fail to coalesce.

Of course, none of this is possible if a leader is not engaged with people. Without engagement community-building becomes a marketing exercise, not a spontaneous and organic movement to support the company’s and employees’ shared goals.

Can you engage as a leader? If you’re concerned, seek out a trusted advisor or coach and dig into why you’re worried. Trace uncertainty to its roots and rip it out, or change how you think about communities. If you’re not an engaged leader, leave community building to others who enjoy interacting with people.


Connect with Meghan

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized leader in talent strategy and a pioneer in building the business case for brand humanization. Founder of TalentCulture and a serial entrepreneur, Meghan creates successful ventures by navigating the complexities of career and workplace branding. In her practice as a social recruiter and strategist, Meghan has placed hundreds of individuals with clients ranging from Fortune 500s to the most innovative software start-up companies in the world, including Google, Microsoft and emerging companies in the social technology and media marketplace.

Meghan is a regular columnist at Forbes and Glassdoor and her ideas are often quoted, featured on top publications such as CBS Moneywatch, Monster, Dice and various other HR, Social Media and Leadershiphubs of your choice.


Art  by The Fantastical Mister Mike

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized HR + technology analyst, brand strategist, author, speaker and social media champion. She is founder of TalentCulture and hosts #WorkTrends a popular Twitter Chat and podcast every Wednesday. Her storied career spans across recruiting, HR technology and brand management for hundreds of companies, from startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows and has been a featured speaker at global HR and technology conferences. Meghan co-authored The Character-Based Leader: Instigating a Revolution of Leadership One Person at a Time. Meghan regularly serves on advisory boards and committees for leading HR and technology brands.

  • Meghan,

    Your view of engagement is quite different from mine. You seem to see it as the leader engaging employees while for me engagement is a feeling the employee has or does not have. Employees feeling fully engaged are highly motivated, highly committed and at least 300% more productive than if poorly engaged.

    You wrote – ” …trust comes before interaction with (or creation of) communities of employees.”

    Again, we seem to disagree since I think trust comes from interactions that reflect the highest standards of all values. Without interactions, there will not be trust.

    My beliefs do not come from books but from having created disengaged employees and then changed in such a way that I was able to create several fully engaged workforces.

    Best regards, Ben

  • Hi Ben. I appreciate you taking time to share thoughts with me. Congratulations on your success story – your teams realized they needed to change and took the necessary action steps with your guidance. The ability of leaders to communicate effectively with employees plays a key role in any organization’s overall success.

    I don’t think we disagree as much on substance as we do on form and methods. Employee engagement, as I think about it in this case, goes hand-in-hand with social community. This is a unique case. From this specific POV, yes, engagement is something the employee experiences and something a leader enables by behaving in a trustworthy manner.

    My perspective arrives from experience leading online communities and consulting with leaders who are perplexed by rapid social innovation. They seek to engage the very best tools and behaviors needed to remain competitive in today’s “digital and social” leadership landscape. Tech-savvy leaders are seeking ways to utilize HR technology to further talent attraction/recruiting and employee engagement and retention. These are innovative and exciting times for those of us seeking new channels to facilitate employee engagement. It’s the intersection of behavior and social tools for connection. In this instance, we likely need both to be successful.

  • To the subject of trust and interactions, I think it is not a point of which comes first, interactions or trust. I think the interactions are influenced directly by the level of trust within the community and company as a whole. Trust can be a very powerful community accelerant.

    As to engaged community leaders, clearly those who have natural affinity to influence and drive others to engage will have quicker success. BUT, and I have seen this firsthand many times, a Community Leader with weak engagement or personal skills can be trained and learn how to become a highly engaged leader.

    In fact from my experience, those Community Leaders who have to work to become “Engagers” become extremely dedicated as they take nothing for granted. Natural Talent without continued improvemnet will never overcome determined, dedicated, learned skills.

    Very Good Post

  • Thanks so much for sharing thoughts Richard. I’m glad you enjoyed my post.

    I find breaking it down in terms of “macro social perspective” regarding which occurs first helps me to explain the layers of behavioral complexity. You are absolutely right! If you have no trust you essentially have no sense of genuine community – it’s essential for leaders to strive for engagement at this level when forming a social community beyond just the “in person” workplace. I would go as far as to say community accelerant is helpful but this momentum will not produce long term, sustainable trust without consistent and thoughtful measures.

    As you know, the reality is many people are not yet engaging at this level. The only way to truly understand these core social engagement concepts is by taking the leap into the vast workplace meets digital, social landscape and ENGAGE first. Careful social listening also helps. It can be a lot of fun; being social creates invaluable rewards and opportunities for innovative leadership, improved team morale and new business growth.

  • Love this thread. Macro and micro “people engagement” dimensions are key culture drivers. There are several layers we have yet to even explore on a deeper level. As companies scale it becomes a race to reach different verticals with the message and action steps. Often this is where the leadership challenge begins. Change is difficult for employees and leaders alike; important points to highlight in this equation.

    The “ME” effect is very interesting! Thanks for sharing your insightful post. Change management is essential for scale. It’s that “lift” or “amplification” that encourages community growth and innovation.

  • Hi Meghan,

    Always good to read others’ thoughts on engagement. Our work at Culturology is largely based on research conducted by our colleague Dr. Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School. Her book “The Progress Principle” details the results of the most in-depth study ever done on workplace engagement and performance. Perhaps you are familiar with her work, but in case you weren’t I wanted to bring it to your attention:


    Mike Brenner

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  • Akash Mohindra

    Hi Meghan,
    I think this post is extremely insightful. We in India are slowly but surely understanding the importance of enterprise communities. I am entrusted with the responsibility of promoting the community my team has. We are global team with members at U.S, Europe and Asia Pacific. We have a community but there is not too much of an activity there. I wanted some help regrding how we can encourage members to participate.

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