Moving into a new year can be a daunting time for team leaders. In theory, it’s a time of renewed energy and purpose, but in practice, teams may be feeling sluggish from the holidays, or struggling to get back into the rhythm of work.

However, you can use this as an opportunity to connect with your team. We know that having regular conversations can improve engagement—check out this infographic of 8 types of conversations you should be having with your team to help get you started. Ask sincerely about their holidays, what goals they have for the new year, and how you can support them moving forward—all questions that can help strengthen your culture and align team members to organizational goals.

Here are three of our favorite recent episodes of The 21st Century Workplace podcast for helping team leaders improve engagement and culture.

More Like Yoda, Less Like Superman

Team leaders can easily fall into the trap of solving problems for their teams, instead of learning to coach team members to solve problems for themselves. The result is a disempowered team, who constantly defers to leadership instead of seeking out solutions on their own. Jonathan Raymond, author of Good Authority, calls this tendency being a “superman.” In this discussion, Raymond advocates being more like yoda—guiding and coaching without providing the solution—and less like superman, swooping in to save the day. A lot has been said about employee engagement, but Raymond focuses on manager engagement as the key to happy, productive, empowered teams.

Who’s Responsible for Employee Engagement?

When employees are engaged in their work, we know that great results follow. Dan Pontefract joined Chris to discuss his book The Purpose Effect, and who is ultimately responsible for engagement. We know that the two major factors for feeling connected to work are culture and purpose. The best thing you can do for your team is talk openly and frequently with them about how their role fits into organizational objectives and culture. Prioritizing purpose will help your team members find engagement in their roles, and empower them to take on more responsibility.

Hiring Ideal Team Players

I must admit that I have a soft spot for this episode of the podcast—it was the first I listened to when I learned I would be interviewing with Actionable, and it got me fired up to join a team that embraces the values of being humble, hungry, and smart. Patrick Lencioni discusses his book, The Ideal Team Player, and the need to make interviews meaningful conversations. If you are still approaching hiring with a rigid list of questions and little room for variation, it’s time to rethink your approach. Organizational culture should be apparent at every stage of the interview process, so that candidates can truly evaluate if they will be the right fit for the team.


As your team gears up for a productive new year, take the time to think about the best way to support them. Empower them by giving them the tools they need to solve their own problems, and have frequent conversations about how their role contributes to the overall purpose of the organization. And if your team will be expanding this year, think about revamping your hiring process to ensure that new team members are a perfect fit.