By Therese M. Heeg

Gallup just released their State of the American Workplace report. The report highlights findings from Gallup’s ongoing study of the American workplace from 2010 through 2012. This latest report provides insights into what leaders can do to improve employee engagement and performance in their companies.

Magic Happens

In my work as an executive coach, I partner with leaders to help them use this research to improve trust and teamwork in their work units. I believe there is a magic formula to employee engagement and commitment. It starts with the leader.

When my clients intentionally and consistently follow the following three steps, they see improved morale, increased retention, and better results:

  1. Communicate expectations and follow through with timely feedback – both positive and constructive.
  2. Hold regular meetings and huddles while also connecting one-on-one via brief conversations with each employee.
  3. Look for the good, recognize individuals and celebrate successes.

When these steps are taken, Magic Happens – Trust and collaboration improve, employees and leaders enjoy coming to work, and turnover is reduced.

One technique that can bring all of this together to create major impact on employee engagement is called Focused Rounding.

Focused Rounding to Build Trust, Engagement and Commitment

“Rounding for Outcomes” was introduced as a leadership best practice to the Healthcare Industry by the Studer Group in the book Hardwiring Excellence, by Quint Studer. Some might say that the precursor to this more structured approach was described as Management by Walking Around (MBWA) which dates back to the 1970s and is discussed in the book In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. Today, rounding is becoming an approach that is used across industries.

Definition of Focused Rounding

Focused rounding is an intentional approach to building employee commitment through one-on-one communication between leaders and individual employees. It is a proven technique to help leader’s take meaningful action in response to 360 surveys and employee engagement data as well as to help drive culture change. Focused Rounding takes just a few minutes, yet its impact is profound.

Why does it matter?

  • One of the biggest risks of conducting surveys is the lack of meaningful follow up.
  • Focused Rounding shows employees their voice matters; it builds trust in the survey process and it creates a bridge between the survey data and daily work.
  • Focused Rounding can also be used to engage employees in co-creating a culture of recognition, trust, or safety – whichever aligns with your organization.

The LifeWorks Focused Rounding Model

Step 1 Gathering Feedback and Drafting Goals

The leader receives feedback from an employee engagement survey or a 360 survey. S/he then works with the next level leader and/or a coach to write a leadership development goal. The coach helps the leader become familiar with the process of Feedforward. The leader emails the team and thanks them for their input and lets them know he or she will share themes at an upcoming meeting. Here is a video of Marshall Goldsmith explaining this great approach.

Step 2 Engaging the Team

At the team meeting, the leader thanks the team for the input, shares themes and then states one or two goals that he or she will focus on improving. This may be something like “I want to be a better listener.” Then, the team is introduced to the concept of Focused Rounding as a next step. After the meeting, the leader sends the description of the Feedforward process.

Step 3 The Rounding Sessions

  • As the leader prepares to meet 1-1 with team members, it is important to give them a heads up about timing to reduce uncertainty and to ensure they are ready to participate.
  • During these rounding sessions, the leader should not sit across a desk. It is best to find a quiet place where both parties can be comfortable.
  • It is important for leaders to listen to employees without interrupting or responding. This is not the time to engage in a conversation about the employee input.
  • Instead, leaders can use the rounding time as an opportunity to take notes and say thank you.

Step 5 Follow Up 

Once notes are compiled and the leader has identified some new strategies to try, it is important to share with the team. It is also important for the leader to gather input on a regular basis to ensure the new behaviors stick and to show commitment to his/her development. (Tips for this can be found in the article and video called Leadership is a contact sport by Marshall Goldsmith.)

Aligning Rounding with Your Goals to Grow Leaders and Teams

Focused Rounding can be used to grow leaders as well as teams. When considering which questions to ask during rounding, leaders should align the conversations with key drivers that they are working on either individually or as a team or organization.

Besides working well as a follow up strategy to 360 surveys or employee engagement surveys, it can also be used to firm up employee commitment to key strategic priorities.

For example, one of the areas that most organizations fall short on is regular recognition. There are questions that can be used to not only help the leader get input on what he or she can do to create a culture of recognition, but also to engage employees in sharing ownership of this effort. This takes focused rounding to the next level as a lever to shift culture.

Please contact me for more information on how to shift culture or to get sample questions to use with your team or organization at

LifeWorks stands with all of those working toward racial justice and equity.

We vow to listen and learn in order to be agents of change both through the work we do and how we live.

We stand in solidarity with the BIPOC communities in Milwaukee and across the country.