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Jan 09, 2020 Sarah Goodall

Michael Brenner: Leaders Hold The Key To Employee Advocacy Activation

Campfire Chat With Michael Brenner-1




Michael Brenner: Leaders Hold The Key To Employee Advocacy Activation


I’ve long been on a mission to explore the connection between employee happiness, which turns into advocacy, which ultimately stimulates growth and profit. However, not many people are truly happy in their jobs – I checked out Gallup’s latest research on this – only a third of US workers are engaged and two thirds are “not engaged” which basically means they’re not emotionally connected to their jobs. So, what’s going on?  I asked Michael, an old friend of mine from SAP to shed some light on the subject.

Michael is a globally recognised keynote speaker on leadership, culture and marketing. The CEO of Marketing Insider Group founded on the belief that strong leaders who champion their teams are the key to unlocking massive growth. He’s written three books including the recently released book titled Mean People Suck. He’s got four kids, an amazing wife and honestly, I don’t know how he has time to keep it all together.

Michael tells us that following conversations, with former colleagues, HR professionals, and sales teams, the resounding answer uncovered was unhappiness and unrest have become rife within the workplace, resulting in a significant amount of finger pointing and blame displacement. Where employees blame bosses and companies, and at the same time take no responsibility for their own workplace happiness. An answering theory to this is by accepting our role in our own happiness at work, we can start to talk about empathy and work on improving our work experience. Ownership can begin with looking at how employees can help each other, causing them to ultimately help themselves.


Engaged Employees: Fact or Fiction?

17%, almost 1 in 5 employees, are actively disengaged and that means they are sabotaging the company’s objectives.

Only a third of US workers are currently engaged, meaning employees are not emotionally connecting to their jobs. And, some research suggests the bigger picture is even bleaker than this. Michael says that the number of CEOs that believe their organisations have empathy for their customers and employees is 90%. The number of employees who agree is less than half. Leaders are struggling to recognise this as a problem, and therefore unwilling to do anything about a problem they can’t see.

This disconnect can be seen particularly within Social Media. A technology which was designed to bring us together, but has in fact, pulled us further apart from our empathy and humanity. Allowing users to be meaner without consequence; causing consumerists to stop caring about brands, residents of countries to stop caring about politicians and employees to start disengaging with their employers.

“Taking a step of acceptance starts with looking outside of yourself and trying to figure out how can I help other people. The ones that do that are the ones who find the most meaning, the most impact and the most satisfaction in their own careers.”


Supporting Employees

Mean People Suck is a book about focusing on people taking accountability for themselves, essentially becoming the opposite of a mean person. Happiness is a choice and empathy means looking outside of yourself and thinking about how you can help the people in your life. Your spouse, your kids, even your boss. By taking that step to start looking out of yourself, that’s when you start to find the most meaning and satisfaction in your career.

What can leaders do to support their employees to become engaged with their role? In truth, any employee can spark change within a company. However, when a CEO gets onboard, that’s when tides start to turn on a deeper level. Leaders such as, Alicia Tillman, the CMO at SAP, recently discussed the importance of empathy in company culture.


Showing You Care

As a manager, Michael has tried to do things differently. By holding informal check-ins; where his employees are not only asked how they are, but whether their manager has been delivering the right type of support to them and what can be done better to help them. This is where things can really start to change. CEOs who ask these types of questions of their teams show employees they care and have the power to transform their working relationships.

Perhaps, one of the best answers as to why employee engagement is so essential for a modern day CEO, lies in the book The Service Profit Chain. Where the work suggests, the most successful companies are created by happy employees who serve customers in a way that those customers want to spend more money and stay longer. A win all around.


Building the Brand by Building the Culture

“Companies have to start thinking, how do I take the passions and expertise inside of our organisations and let them nurture and flow out to the world.”

When Heads of seemingly unconnected departments gather to talk about creating a culture which allows the passion and expertise of employees to flow naturally outside of the company, this is when companies become “Activated”.

Jason Miller, previously of LinkedIn, is a great example of this activation. His method, asking the question: “What’s in it for the rest of my team in order to start participating in what we’re doing here at LinkedIn?” And there are many more examples, such as when Steve Lucas, former SAP colleague, arrived at Marketo. His very first initiative was to build an employee activation program called Marketo Life.


Final Thoughts

Leaders focusing on the culture change that supports employees becoming engaged and made aware that their company understands and cares for them get great results.

One of the compelling points here is that any company can do this. Companies must start thinking “how do I take the passions and expertise inside of our organisations and let them nurture and flow out to the world”. That’s what starts to build culture, helps connect buyers with what they want to connect with and builds communities.

It creates employees who want to engage.


Outline of This Episode

[00:28] Michael Brenner Intro & what he’s been up to!
[03:00] Why Mean People Suck? Michael’s new book
[05:09] How Engaged are Employees really?
[08:41] Using empathy to create a happier life
[12:10] What can leaders do to support employees?
[15:20] Activating a Company

Resources Mentioned


About Tribal Impact

Tribal Impact is a B2B Social Selling and Employee Branding Agency.

We're a team of social media strategists, trainers, coaches, content creators and data analysts who are passionate about helping our B2B customers develop and scale their social selling and employee advocacy programs.

Learn more about us here.

Published by Sarah Goodall January 9, 2020
Sarah Goodall