How to engage employees? Get out of your office!

Our friend and CEO Peter Aceto knows first hand about engagement. AT ING Direct Canada, Peter has helped guide the company to many awards, including Best Employer in Canada and one of Canada’s 19 best companies to work for. Such awards cannot be accomplished without the engagement of committed employees. Read on to learn a crucial element for such outcomes.

Think about personal relationships between family and friends. How do you think they grow & flourish? I hope you said trust! Because that is precisely where engagement begins. Relationships strengthen when we learn to trust each other.

The same applies in business. A leader’s success strongly depends on his or her ability to earn and maintain the trust of employees.


It’s time to shift from a distant leadership to a more personal and engaged leadership


So how do you build trust? You invest time in your team. You show who you really are. You get out of your office!

I spend, what some may consider, an inordinate amount of time personally connecting with team members. I believe in the concept of ROR (Return On Relationships). Enabling dialogue, being open and real are what I’ve learned make the most difference in engagement.

The benefits of this concept are evident in social media and through our internal communications channels, but what I want to stress here is the value of old-fashioned in-person interactions. You know, when you step out from behind your desk, you go see for yourself, and interact with the people who work with you.


I believe in the concept of ROR (Return On Relationships)


Business strategy is one thing. But at the end of the day it is people who drive business forward – human beings who each have their own personal “why” for how they give their effort and energy on a daily basis. And they want to be acknowledged, heard, and valued. It’s important for leaders to do that, and to genuinely care. It is that inclusiveness that forms trust and generates immeasurable commitment towards the collective “why” of a business.

Leaders, CEOs, Presidents, we are not typically known to share lunches in the office cafeteria, sit in with call centre associates, or play weekly hockey games with the team. The general expectation is that we are far removed in our corner offices and not easily accessible – It’s time to shift from a distant leadership to a more personal and engaged leadership.


I urge leaders – leave your desks and get to know your teams. And if you have a chance to show your personality, do it


I can tell you from personal experience that the more genuine interest that leaders show their teams, the stronger the culture becomes. The impact is powerful and difficult to quantify.

When you let your guard down, understand what makes individuals tick, ask about their families, truly care about their wellbeing – that is what makes leaders relatable, leaves great impressions and builds great team environments. The kind of environments that foster trust and personal connections and allow for discussion, debate and even arguments at times. And the environments where leaders and their teams feel comfortable to show emotion, and reveal who they truly are.

I had a mentor who once said to me “you can’t be a leader if you’re not fallible. You need to be authentic. No one will follow you if you’re too perfect.”


What I want to stress here is the value of old-fashioned in-person interactions


Connecting with people at all levels of the business in person, is fundamental. There’s plenty of strength in being real. It’s a powerful tool. And it starts at the top. I urge leaders – leave your desks and get to know your teams. And if you have a chance to show your personality, do it.

Engagement is an automatic result. Once the momentum is at your back it is unstoppable!

Connect with Peter

Peter Aceto is the President and CEO of ING DIRECT Canada. Peter publishes a bi-monthly blog called Direct Talk with Peter Aceto He writes about Leadership, Management, Corporate Culture, Innovation and Customer Service. Follow Peter on Twitter @CEO_INGDIRECT


Photo  courtesy of Bassseloped

Peter Aceto

Peter Aceto is a Globally recognized and respected business leader. He is the president and CEO of Tangerine and a change agent for leadership. Peter is the author of the bestseller book Weology: How everybody wins when WE comes before ME. Connect with Peter on Twitter or LinkedIn. For more information on Weology, visit

  • Thanks Peter. I couldn’t agree more. So many good things here.

    “Connecting” and “old-fashioned in-person interactions”

    My favorite; “Leave your desks and get to know your teams”

    Excellent advice. It’s all about CARE.

    thanks again,


  • Thank you Al for your comment. glad that we are on the same page.

  • Thanks for sharing Peter. I not only agree but have done what you have done. Stephen Covey said that the possible performance gain is 500% and my experience corroborates that. What I did was devote much of my time to listening face-to-face to employee complaints, suggestions, and questions and responding to them to the satisfaction or better of employees. The more I did this, the better they performed. And the more they trusted me, the more they told me exactly why and how they reacted to managerial actions and inactions. They taught me what leadership really is and how to convert conformists/followers into being non-conformists/non-followers who were able to apply 100% of their brainpower on their work instead of wasting so much on conforming. It was a blast, almost too amazing for words.

    Best regards, Ben
    Leadership is a science and so is engagement

  • Good stuff, great advice. The reality is we will stick our necks out, go the extra mile for and follow those we trust and are connected to – no one else. Leadership, engagement, experiences are personal, and genuine connections are critical to moving people toward mutually beneficial outcomes.

  • Mark

    Great stuff here Peter, and timely for me as I take my team out for a day of fun together soon. Thanks for reinforcing the idea to get out of the office.

  • Fear of failure. No one wants to look bad. “No one will follow you if you’re too perfect.” sums it up nicely. Managers are no different from anyone else. They make just as many mistakes as anyone else and probably more than most given the demands on their time.

    They need to ask for help, listen carefully, and be willing to fail.

  • Great post Peter. So great to see a CEO embracing ROR, Return on Relationship!

  • Peter, I really enjoyed this post. I agree with your points on ROR (Return on Relationships) and building trust. I also like your points about leaders engaging and “letting their guard down”. This is a critical step in developing trust. Too many people wrongfully think they will be seen as weak by their staff if they show any vulnerability. This is simply not true.

    Wonderful post! Thanks for this one,

  • I love the concept of ROR – Return on Relationships. Whether inside or outside of the office, this is a critical component of creating a strong, positive company culture

  • Outstanding piece, Peter. Thanks for sharing your insights which – may seem simply and necessary – but clearly not executed by most leaders. Keep up the great work on helping your people grow.

  • I concur with your suggestions based on the following assumptions. The CEO is trustworthy, the leader wants to be “authentic” and the leader truly cares about the employees. The breakthrough comes with the effort to communicate and clarify those qualities exist in the leadership.
    But what about the businesses with CEO’s and leaders that don’t really care, aren’t trustworthy and are more interested in power, personal gain and don’t really respect their lowly employees?

  • Rachel007

    Interesting how the little things we all did before getting the corner office, we tend to shed those very habits once we have some “title”. Humanity is all about connections, expressing emotions, being imperfect and self-awareness. The difference between a great and phenomenal leader is their Heart!

  • Pingback: Can Employees Really Walk Through Your Open-door Policy? | Switch and Shift()

  • Pingback: Can Employees Really Walk Through Your Open-Door Policy?()

  • Pingback: The Not-So-Surprising Lessons from Top-Down Employee Engagement | Switch and Shift()

  • Pingback: The Not-So-Surprising Lessons from Top-Down Employee Engagement()

  • footer-logo

    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Connect

    email: connect@switch&
    1133 Ferreto Parkway
    Dayton, NV 89403

    Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy

    Newsletter Subscription

    Do you like our posts? If so, you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receiveThe Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
  • Contact Us

    Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.